Social Justice Group Study

A social justice group known as Citizens for Racial Equity in Washtenaw (CREW) County has found that black defendants in Washtenaw County are more likely to get harsher punishments and more likely to see additional criminal charges than similarly situated white defendants. CREW examined case data from the Washtenaw County Circuit Court relating to criminal felony cases and released its findings on August 27th. The data examined spanned a 6-year period from 2013-2019 and found that black defendants were exponentially more likely than whites to be charged with felonies such as: iStock_000025943007_XXXLarge-2-300x200

• Resisting or obstructing an officer,

Original Case Details

Former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith’s fall from grace continues. Smith resigned from his post as Macomb County Prosecutor six months ago amid 10 state felony corruption charges. He is the highest-ranking Macomb County official to have been involved in the criminal crackdown on corruption that has been the story of the county this past year. 22 different people have been convicted since 2016 for their varying roles in local corruption. On the state level, Smith 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. Smith’s home was also raided by federal investigators in connection with Smith’s suspected illegal use of campaign funds. He is alleged to have tried two subordinate assistant prosecutors and a friend to lie to a federal grand jury and investigators from the FBI about fraud schemes he allegedly used to illegally take $75,000 from his political election fund and convert it for his own personal use. This allegation has led to a federal criminal charge, which Smith has agreed to pled guilty to. iStock_000000687101_Large-2-300x200

Former Macomb Prosecutor Pleads to Federal Charge

Allegan County Prosecutor Candidates

On the western side of the state of Michigan in Allegan County a Republican primary was so close that it needed a recount to determine a winner. Two candidates vying for election as the Allegan County Prosecutor found themselves waiting for the results of a recount which ended on September 4th, 2020. The two Republican candidates involved were incumbent and current Allegan County Prosecutor Myrene Koch, and challenger Michael Villar. Koch was recently elected to the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan Board of Directors and was appointed to role of Allegan County Prosecutor in early 2018 when the previous prosecutor left mid-term to be appointed to an Allegan County judicial position. The Allegan County Circuit Court has two Circuit Court judges who hear criminal cases, Judge Roberts Kengis and Chief Judge Margaret Bakker. Challenger Michael Villar is a criminal defense attorney who practices primarily on the west side of the state. These same two candidates faced off in the 2018 Republican primary soon after Koch was appointed. Koch was declared the winner of which became the first time these two squared off in an election, but not the last. Jumping to the current 2020 election, Koch won this primary before the recount by a total of 17 votes. The winner of this primary would be declared the winner on election day in November as there is no democratic candidate who is running for the seat. 68916_law_education_series_2-300x225

Recount Results

Original Case Details

Back in January of this year, 46-year-old David Michael Barber was sentenced to up to 15 years in Michigan state prison for his conviction of involuntary manslaughter, felony firearm, and trespassing. He was given a minimum sentence of three years in prison by 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power. Barber must serve these three years before he is eligible for parole. Investigators found that Barber had entered onto land owned by the victim while hunting on the first day of deer season. Barber thought he saw a buck about 60 yards away and fired a shot, killing the owner of the land. The victim was found lying over a deer that he was apparently field dressing. Field dressing is a process in which the animal’s internal organs are removed in order to preserve the meat. The big issue in Barber’s case was whether his actions constituted the amount of negligence needed in order to convict Barber of involuntary manslaughter. It doesn’t appear that Barber ever took the position that he did not shoot the gun. The facts that Barber entered onto another’s land and ended up accidentally killing the owner of the land were simply too much for Barber to overcome at trial. Grabel04a-2-300x146

Court of Appeals Decision

COVID-19 Court Closures

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously had its effects on pretty much everything in society today. Michigan courtrooms are no different; the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the operation of Michigan courtrooms. Most courtroom business is now conducted over Zoom, changing a historic tradition of requiring defendants in appear in court, and in person for criminal matters. Along with these closures came significant reductions in the jail and prison populations in an effort to keep inmates safe from COVID-19. Michigan courts are now looking to continue the process of reopening safely under guidance from the state. Courts have been reopening different departments as they follow social distancing guidelines. Courts will not truly be open, however, until they are able to conduct in-person jury trials. Once this occurs, then it can be said that Michigan courts are really back to work as they were before the pandemic. Jury trials have been backed up in all courts across the state as they are the last thing on the list that courts will be able to do once open. If your case has been delayed due to a court closure, or you do not have information about your case, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can best help guide you.index2-300x129

Phased Reopening Plan

Original Case Details

In a previous blog, we detailed the case of Michael Thompson of Flint. Thompson was sentenced to a maximum of 60 years in state prison for his convictions of delivery of marijuana, felony firearm, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, with a minimum sentence of 42 years before he is eligible for parole. He has since served nearly 25 years of that sentence and will not be eligible for parole until he is 87 years old if his current sentence stands. Thompson is currently 69 years old. Briefly, Thompson was arrested in 1994 for selling three pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant. He was charged with the additional gun charges when police searched his home and found various firearms, mostly antiques. Due to the habitual offender law at the time, it allowed the judge to sentence Thompson to any term of years up to life in prison. This 42-60-year sentence isn’t even possible in today’s time for Thompson’s crimes. This issue has resulted in strong support for Thompson from various people, including the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. index2-300x129

Support from Attorney General

Original Case Details

A Pontiac man in his early 30s is facing multiple felony charges including three counts of first-degree murder for a triple homicide that appears to have been in response to a neighborly dispute that has continued over a period of years. The man, Kenneth Clay, turned himself into police the same night of the shooting. Police say that a total of four people were shot at Clay’s home on his front porch. They allege Clay came outside of his home armed and proceeded to open fire and shoot all four victims before leaving the scene. Three of the four that were shot died, one survived, and is listed in serious condition at a local hospital. Clay was arraigned in Pontiac’s 50th District Court by Judge Michael Martinez and was denied bond by Judge Martinez. He is currently lodged at the Oakland County Jail.iStock_000008551433_Large-2-300x200

Criminal Charges and Potential Penalties

Original Case Details

Two men, Barry Cadden and Glenn Chin were charged with second-degree murder for deaths of 11 Livingston County residents because of a meningitis outbreak caused by tainted steroids. The case originated from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts where Cadden was a co-founder and Chin was a pharmacist. Lax standards and safety conditions resulted in steroids that were produced there being infected before they were distributed to clinics across the country. 11 Livingston County residents died allegedly due to the tainted steroids which caused a meningitis outbreak. Investigators connected the New England Compounding Center to various Michigan pain clinics, which included Michigan Pain Specialists, a clinic in Genoa Township. 53rd District Court Judge Shauna Murphy bound the case over to Livingston County Circuit Court for further proceedings after finding enough probable cause during the preliminary examination to continue the case forward. Judge Murphy heard testimony from former employees who spoke of the consistent violations in the New England Compounding Center’s clean room, along with how cleaning logs were falsified and how equipment was left to rust. Witnesses also testified about drugs which had not been tested for safety but were sent out anyways to clinics. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

Previous Related Case

Original Case Details

Former Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger was accused of stealing money from a bank account of a 78-year-old woman that she was supposed to be taking care of. Spranger was alleged to have taken money from the woman’s account on eight separate occasions in January of 2019 without proper permission. It was alleged that she took a total of $1,660 from the woman by accessing her bank account and making withdrawals. Spranger was originally charged with felony larceny, as well as disturbing the peace for allegedly pulling the alleged victim from Spranger’s car, causing them both to fall. Spranger has since pled no contest to the disturbing the peace charge. Spranger was first accused of these charges in February of 2019, it took authorities until May of 2019 to catch up to Spranger and formally arraign her on the charges. Previously, Spranger was elected as the Macomb County Clerk in 2016 but was removed from the post in March of 2018 after St. Clair County Circuit Court judge ruled that Spranger lied about her actual residency which required her to be a Macomb County resident. iStock_000009283153_Large-2-300x201

Criminal Charges and Potential Penalties

Original Case Details

The federal government continues to pursue legal action against Larry Inman, a Michigan state representative representing Michigan’s 104th District. Inman is accused of putting his vote out for sale relating to a 2018 Michigan wage law issue. He is alleged to have asked for a $30,000 campaign contribution to vote “no” on the wage law issue in a set of text messages. Inman faced a jury trial in December 2019 where he was charged with three separate federal offenses: iStock_000006818663_Full-1-300x200

Attempted Extortion: This is a federal felony that carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction and a fine of up to $250,000.

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