Articles Posted in Legal

The Wayne County Jail has seen a dramatic decline in inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napolean stated that the only people left that are currently in custody at Wayne County Jail are those who are charged with felonies and those who pose some sort of public safety threat. The jail population has been reduced by over 400 inmates since early March. As of March 10, the Wayne County Jail population was almost 1,400 inmates. Now the current jail population at Wayne County is approximately 950 inmates. Currently, if someone is in custody on a misdemeanor charge, it is likely that they are charged with domestic violence or some other sort of assaultive or dangerous crime. The County Jail and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office are doing regular checkups on every individual case to determine who needs to be in custody and who doesn’t. The final determination of this, as always, resides with a judge or magistrate who can set bond and bond conditions. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Reduced Arrests And Police Activity

Fewer arrests are being made due to the state shelter in place order, along with a reduction in overall police activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is all part of an initiative from Wayne County to reduce the jail population and steer people away from this virus which spreads from close, person to person contact. These releases have been ordered administratively, without the need for a typical bond hearing in front of a judge or magistrate. For the remaining inmates, the County expects that massive push in emergency bond motions will be filed to address each remaining case in terms of bond and release. If you have a loved one who is currently in custody at Wayne County or any other jail, they might be eligible to be released due to the health and safety concerns of the current pandemic. It is imperative to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to file any relevant motions and get in front of a judge or magistrate to see if a release is possible. The danger inside a jail currently can far outweigh the risk of an inmate being out of custody because of COVID-19. Those who need a bondsman can also find out more information here.

A Circuit Court judge out of Genesee County has reinstated criminal charges against former Thetford Township police chief Robert Kenny. This ruling overrules the District Court judge’s decision dismissing the case at preliminary exam. Genesee County Circuit Judge David J. Newblatt overturned 67th District Court Judge Vikki Bayeh Haley’s decision to dismiss embezzlement and obstruction of justice charges against Kenny. iStock_000013714975_Double-2-300x217

Original Case Details

Now former Thetford Township police chief Robert Kenny was alleged to have pocketed more than $5,000 after scrapping surplus military equipment that was owned by the city. This surplus equipment was said to have been obtained by the Thetford Police Department through the federal Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) program. This program would give excess military equipment that might otherwise be destroyed to law enforcement agencies across the country. All of this equipment is simply given, not sold, to law enforcement agencies. The military equipment would include clothing, office supplies, tools, vehicles, and guns etc. Since the beginning of the program, LESO has transferred more than $7 billion worth of military gear to law enforcement agencies nationwide. Items that are obtained through LESO can be sold off after one year as long as the money is then put back into the police department for improvements. Genesee County Prosecutors allege that Kenny sold off some of this surplus equipment and pocketed the money, over $5,000 worth. 67th District Court Judge Bayeh Haley said that the case “may be bad bookkeeping, but not probable cause for embezzlement.” She also found that there was no evidence of any obstruction of justice charges due to his cooperation with officers.

There are approximately 4000 people in the state of Michigan that are on parole and wear an electronic tether. The Michigan Department of Correction first made an order to have electronic tethers taken off 3000 of these parolees to only change their minds a short time afterwards. On Monday April 6, 2020 Michigan parole agents were given a verbal order to remove the electronic tethers from their parolees. The following day, this order came in writing and ordered tethers removed for offenders for a whole variety of crimes which included things like home invasion and possibly even homicide. Offenders who had sexual assault and stalking related cases were not affected. This order was short lived however, as the order was retracted on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. While some people had already removed their electronic tethers, many had not done so yet, so the effects of the original order were not strongly felt. Michigan Department of Correction spokesman Chris Gautz said that the original order was made in an effort to try to maximize the department’s resources. Due to the current stay at home order, parole officers are literally watching parolees walk circles inside their own homes. Gautz said that the department deems this time spent by parole agents to not be the best use of their time. 979960_prison-300x225

Important Facts About Electronic Tethers

Electronic tethers have been in use with the Michigan Department of Corrections since 1987. Offenders supervised by electronic tethers are watched more closely than other offenders. The technology in these electronic tethers uses both GPS tracking and cellular service to monitor offenders in real time. Those who are on “Curfew Monitoring” have an approved schedule of where they are physically expected to be at different times of the day around their residence. Parole agents have the ability to track and verify if their parolee actually went to required treatment, along with work or school. The Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) tether is a 24-hour alcohol monitor tether that takes hourly readings of an offenders sweat to determine if he or she had ingested alcohol.

Wayne and Oakland Counties are two of Michigan’s most populous counties. They are also two of the hardest hit counties when it comes to infections of COVID-19. The Wayne County Jail has already reduced population due to the outbreak of the virus. The jail population has been reduced by over 400 inmates since early March. As of March 10, the Wayne County Jail population was almost 1,400 inmates. Now the current jail population at Wayne County is approximately 950 inmates. Two members of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office have died so far due to COVID-19. Due to these numbers, the police have looked to relax enforcement on the more minor traffic offenses like speeding or even expired plates. The police department realizes that people are unable to go to government offices and are generally locked in anyways due to the governor’s shelter in place order. Traffic stops also increase the risk of infection for police as they can come into close contact with people who may be carriers of COVID-19. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Police Departments Hit By Pandemic

In Ingham County, MI the Lansing Police Chief has sent a memo to his officers entitled “Coronavirus Exposure Mitigation.” In this memo he details how the Lansing police is to not respond in person to any reports of fraud, larceny or malicious destruction of property of less than $1,000. Any of these cases are to be handled over the phone in taking reports and talking to witnesses etc. The memo also covered breaking and entering cases of vacant homes and buildings. These and other measures are meant to try to limit the potential exposure of police as so many people in various government jobs have been infected during this pandemic.

In the wake of COVID-19, the Michigan criminal justice system is in a state of disarray. While it has always been understood if every case went to trial under normal circumstances, our courts would be in jeopardy; we are now in an area that has never been seen before. One of the ways to combat this backlog is for courts to run preliminary exams using Zoom technology. This is a concept that is being entertained by different counties in the state of Michigan. index2-300x129

The preliminary exam is a proceeding after a criminal complaint has been filed by the prosecutor, to determine whether there is enough evidence to require a trial. Hearsay is typically allowed. Should the court decide that there is probable cause, a formal charging instrument (called the information in some jurisdictions) will issue; and the prosecution will continue. If the court should find that there is no probable cause, then typically the trial will cease. Many jurisdictions, however, allow the lawyer to seek a new preliminary hearing, or even seek a bill of an indictment from a grand jury. The critical questions that a preliminary hearing addresses typically are:

1. Is there probable cause to believe the alleged crime occurred and did it happen within the court’s jurisdiction?

Current Stay At Home Order

Order 2020-21 is the executive order that was put in place by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. This order has limited gatherings, travel, and required “non-essential” workers to stay home to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. Facemasks, gloves, and social distancing have become a symbol for the year 2020. This incredible sudden change of life has left many people confused, scared, and looking for answers. Michiganders have shown mixed feelings over the stay-at-home orders and their provisions, which has contributed to the fear and hysteria we are all facing. Adding to many Michiganders anxiety levels is that you can be charged criminally for violating the governor’s stay-at-home order. A willful violation of this stay at home order is now considered a misdemeanor offense that carries a fine of up to $1,000 per offense. Does that mean that you can get pulled over for “willfully violating the state order?” The answer is no. This offense is what police are considering a “secondary offense.” A secondary offense is an offense that isn’t the reason for the stop, but they can inquire about your plans, route, etc. if you are stopped for another reason. Police can also speak to and question passengers in a vehicle freely as there is no constitutional provision that prevents them from doing so. If you are pulled over and the officers are given different stories about where you are going from the different passengers in a vehicle, then you may encounter some issues with the police at that stop. index2-300x129

Requirement Of Probable Cause

Macomb County Circuit Court judges plan to meet in May to appoint an interim prosecutor to fill the role vacated by now-former prosecutor Eric Smith. These judges plan to meet on May 20 remotely to alleviate any current health and safety concerns due to the ongoing pandemic. 15 judges plan to take part in the decision to appoint a new prosecutor. There will be a 12-day application period for those interested in the position that ends on May 15. This interim position will end with the November election, where a prosecutor will then be elected to serve for the next four years. Any sitting prosecutor, however, will get a leg up on the competition in the general election whether interim or not. Having any experience in the position will be helpful to any of the prospective hopefuls to fill the newly-vacated role. iStock_000013714975_Double-2-300x217

Former Prosecutor Eric Smith Facing Charges

Former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith has been charged with 10 separate criminal corruption offenses relating to the alleged misuse of money forfeited to Macomb County. This money comes from the forfeiture of funds and property of criminal defendants, most typically people accused of drug trafficking. He is charged with conducting a criminal enterprise, five separate counts of embezzlement by a public official, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit forgery, accessory to a crime after the fact, and public office misconduct. There are three other defendants in this case for their alleged acts that contributed to these crimes. Smith has been arraigned on the ten charges and a $100,000 personal bond has been set. His passport has been seized by the court and he is not allowed to leave the state of Michigan during the pendency of his case. He was arraigned at 41B District Court in Mount Clemens. He has since resigned from his position at Macomb County Prosecutor amid these charges, opening the way for a new prosecutor. Jean Cloud who was Smith’s lead trial attorney has been serving as the active prosecutor until an interim is named.

In a story that has gone viral on both Facebook and YouTube, there are accusations that inmates at the Wayne County Jail are not being treated for COVID-19. A Wayne County Jail spokesperson provided this comment that was posted on WXYZ: “Yes. We have five inmates in quarantine right now. Those who are showing symptoms we have a protocol where they are isolated for 72 hours. From there, they are sent to jail medical for further evaluation. All masks have been distributed to every inmate as of the day before yesterday.” The videos contradict what the spokesperson has said. Here are links to the Facebook video and to the news story that broke this morning. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

We are left to ask if inmates in the Wayne County Jail are adequately tested, and what effect this could have on the state of Michigan? To gain a reaction to how this story and others like it could impact the criminal justice community, we spoke to several of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state of Michigan. Scott Grabel, William Amadeo, and Nancy Eaton-Gordon provided insight.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is located in Lansing, Washtenaw, and Kent County, Michigan. Grabel and Associates are known as the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan and have many active cases in Wayne County. Scott Grabel responded to the story by saying, “Safety first. That has to be our priority right now. Wayne County is a tough place for our jailers, inmates, and our courts. The volume of cases in Wayne County rival any county in the country. We need to work together during this chaotic time.”

The state of Michigan (and for that matter every other state across our country) is faced with a concern over the “Speedy Trial” rule, which is likely to be compromised during COVID-19. According to the Michigan Court Rules (MCR 6.004) in a felony case in which the defendant has been incarcerated for a period of 180 days or more to answer for the same crime or crime based on the same conduct or arising from the same criminal episode, or in a misdemeanor case in which the defendant has been incarcerated for a period of 28 days or more to answer for the same crime or crime based on the same conduct or arising from the same criminal episode, the defendant must be released on personal recognizance, unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is likely either to fail to appear for future proceedings or to present a danger to any other person or the community. There are exceptions to this rule: index2-300x129

(1) periods of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, including but not limited to competency and criminal responsibility proceedings, pretrial motions, interlocutory appeals, and the trial of other charges,

(2) the period of delay during which the defendant is not competent to stand trial,

In a move that surprised very few, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan’s stay at home order through the end of April. She made the announcement Thursday, just four days before the original order was set to expire on Monday, April 13. With this order in place, many in the criminal law community are left with many questions. To gain insight into this issue, we spoke to three of the top criminal defense lawyers in our state. index2-300x129

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is known as the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the extension of the stay at home order, Grabel said, “Safety of the community is the first concern for all involved. There is no question that our dockets are going to compromise, but we have no choice at the moment.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as the top criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County and has one of the heaviest trial dockets in the state of Michigan. When asked about Governor Whitmer’s extension, Amadeo stated, “Most of my trials have been moved. I have one scheduled on May 26 in Washtenaw that is extremely personal to me, but we are in limbo. Across the board, both sides need to be reasonable right now, or our court system will be in severe danger.”

Contact Information