Judge Disqualifies Muskegon Prosecutor from Murder Case

Original Case Details

Paul Gabriel stands charged with open murder for the shooting death of AJ Federighe, a neighbor and fellow resident of Balcom’s Cove condominiums located on Muskegon Lake. Federighe was 22 years old at the time of the shooting. Gabriel was subject to an ongoing feud with Federighe’s father, Tony Federighe, and Gabriel had previously called and spoken to the Muskegon Prosecutor’s office about threats from the Federighe family. The day before the shooting, Gabriel had two conversations over the phone with a Muskegon County assistant prosecutor about the ongoing threats. One of these conversations lasted almost 15 minutes. Gabriel’s attorney contends that Gabriel had received information about his right to self-defense in these phone calls, as well as background information about the Federighe family. Gabriel’s attorney filed a motion to disqualify the prosecutor’s office, stating that since members of the prosecutor’s office are likely to be witnesses at trial, an awkward situation would arise where it could be viewed as if the staff would testify in a certain way to keep their jobs.

The Judge’s Decision

The closeness and contact the Muskegon County prosecutor’s office had with Gabriel prior to the shooting is at the heart of the defense’s motion to disqualify. Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge Annette Smedley affirmed her previous decision to disqualify the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office from the case. While the Prosecutor’s office has maintained the position that their staff will testify truthfully and in the same manner if they are on the case or not, it looks as if the Judge simply disagreed and has now removed this as a possible legal issue for potential appeal. In most cases, the prosecutor’s office will recognize a conflict of interest on their own and withdraw from a particular case. The Attorney General’s Office at that point will appoint a different prosecutor’s office, typically from a neighboring county, to handle the prosecution of that case moving forward. The Muskegon County Prosecutor’s office had previously withdrawn from the case of Federighe’s father, Tony Federighe, who was tried and convicted of home invasion of Gabriel’s house by the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office.

What’s Next?

This case will now be turned over to another prosecutor’s office who does not have any potential conflicts of interest in this case. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office may tap the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office to take this case as well as they are familiar with Federighe’s father, Tony Federighe, and his related home invasion case. The Attorney General could also look elsewhere if it feels that the Ottawa County Prosecutor may have their own conflict arising from the prosecution of Tony Federighe. The arguments about which prosecutor’s office should try the case all stems from Gabriel’s constitutional right to have a fair trial. It is likely that a trial will be scheduled in the not too distant future once the new prosecutor (whoever that is) is appointed and given time to get up to speed with the case. That prosecutor will have to prove Gabriel’s guilt for the murder of AJ Federighe without any legal justification, such as self-defense. If Gabriel claims self-defense at trial, then the prosecutor will not only have to prove that Gabriel is guilty of the murder beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor will also have to prove that Gabriel was not acting in self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt as well.

Any Further Questions?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.

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