Original Case Details

A Detroit man was convicted back in 2008 of second-degree murder after he paid someone $20 to burn down an abandoned house which resulted in the death of a firefighter who went to attempt to extinguish the fire. The man who actually set the fire cut a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to second degree murder and testify against the Detroit man. Due to his cooperation, the man was sentenced to 17 to 30 years as part of his plea agreement. He testified that the man wanted the house burned down to collect insurance money and escape from a mortgage that he was behind on.

The man was later sentenced by Wayne County Circuit Judge Margaret Van Houten to a minimum sentence of 37 years, which far exceeded the minimum sentence set by the Michigan Criminal Sentencing Guidelines manual. The man’s sentencing guidelines were from 19 to 31 years for the conviction. The sentencing guidelines are meant to ensure that people are sentenced consistently across the state no matter if the case happened in a small town or a big city. If a judge wants to exceed or go below the sentencing guidelines, then the judge has to state on the record why he or she is doing so. If the judge goes outside the sentencing guidelines and does not give a proper explanation and finding on the record as to why he or she is going outside the guidelines, then that case can be ripe for an appeal. That is exactly what has happened in this case. The Michigan Court of Appeals has acknowledged the tragic nature of this case, but also stated that the Wayne County judge did not properly explain why the man deserved such a significant sentence that exceeded his guidelines. iStock_000009369669_Full-2-300x247

Original Case Details

A man from Marquette County in the Upper Peninsula was recently tried in a bench trial that was streamed live online. He was charged with one count of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder, and one count of a third offense of domestic violence. During the trial, the alleged victim testified that the Marquette man seriously injured her, breaking bones in both her left and right feet. 25th Circuit Court Judge Jennifer A. Mazzuchi presided over the unintentionally historic case and found the man guilty on both charged counts. An assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder carries a maximum punishment of up to ten years in prison, while the third offense domestic violence charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. Because the man has at least three prior felony convictions, he is also deemed a habitual offender which multiplies the maximum sentence on his felony charges. In this case, both charges now have life maximums due to the habitual offender status. Prosecutors who have the option to add a habitual offender multiplier typically do and use that in their plea negotiations to try to force a plea out of the defendant in order to dismiss the habitual offender addition. The man will remain in custody until he is sentenced at a later date. iStock_000013709005_Medium-300x210

Current Court Order Regarding Operations

Original Case Details

A Farmington Hills, MI teenager stands charged with killing his mother back in 2017 while he was only 16 years old. He was bound over for trial back in December of 2017 on a charge of open murder. His 35-year-old mother was found dead on a lower patio of their home on August 21, 2017. The victim had been separated from the teen’s father when this incident occurred. Police and prosecutors believe that the teen actually staged the scene to make it look like she died from an accidental fall from the upper story window. An autopsy showed that the cause of death was not the fall, but from being suffocated beforehand. Investigators believe the evidence shows that she was smothered to death and pushed out of the window by the teen. Investigators also pointed to the fact that there was little blood underneath the woman’s body, which indicated that she was dead prior to the fall. A home surveillance DVR supposedly shows shadows that make it look like the woman was pushed out the window. The DVR was turned over to the police by the teen’s father, but defense attorneys argue that the evidence was not obtained properly and that the teen was not properly read his Miranda rights when police talked to him while investigating the woman’s death. iStock_000000687101_Large-2-300x200

Evidence Issues In Case

A 24-year-old Muskegon, MI man is now facing federal charges for offering to sell N95 masks that either were not authentic or never sent at all. An N95 respirator mask is a mask that covers the users nose and mouth and filters at least 95% of airborne particles. It is the medical standard when it comes to face masks. He is accused of scamming people online who were looking to buy the protective face masks during the current COVID-19 pandemic. He has been charged with federal mail fraud by the United States government in the Northern District Court of California. The Michigan State Attorney General has also recently announced an investigation into the man and his company EM General for price-gouging, and misleading customers into purchases that were never going to be filled nor refunded. index2-300x129

Original Case Details

The federal complaint which is the basis for the federal mail fraud charge alleges that customers of EM General paid as much as $40 per mask, but many never received them. Others who bought masks were sent cheaply made knockoffs that did not comply with the standards of real N95 masks. The man is also accused of attempting to make EM General appear more legitimate by using stock photos of people from the internet to make a page of the “employees” of EM General. He is also accused of naming a fake CEO for his “company.” Customers of EM General included paramedics and other hospital workers who were trying to do their best to protect themselves during this pandemic, but ultimately most never received their masks. In response to complaints from customers, EM General claimed that the delay in shipping was due to the masks being shipped from Turkey. It is not clear how many alleged victims there are in this case as the complaint simply states that EM General scammed “several” people into buying N95 face masks that they never received. This case is still being investigated jointly by FBI and federal postal inspection services in both San Francisco and Detroit.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left countless people worldwide vulnerable and afraid. The Office of the Attorney General has urged Michiganders to stay vigilant and aware of possible scams looking to exploit people during the pandemic. Federal stimulus checks have been stolen by thieves in phone scams on unsuspecting people for example. A Shelby Township medical and spa facility has now been the first federally charged in Metro Detroit for selling fake COVID-19 treatments and preventative measures to exploit the pandemic for monetary gain.index2-300x129

Case Details

The main doctor at Allure Medical Spa in Shelby Township is accused of health care fraud for offering vitamin C infusions as COVID-19 treatments. This doctor has touted many of his treatments on YouTube and during appearances on local TV shows. Federal prosecutors allege that he was using the pandemic to fraudulently administer unapproved treatments and fraudulently bill those treatments to Medicare, labeling them as varicose vein treatments. A cooperating witness has allegedly turned over records to investigators that the doctor had submitted at least 98 claims to insurance companies related to these fraudulent treatments. The doctor proclaimed that the vitamin C treatments reduced the length and severity of COVID-19 symptoms, while also allegedly recognizing that vitamin C treatments are not approved by any medical agency, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He is also accused in the complaint of seeking to steal competitors’ clients due to his defiance of the state order against non-essential businesses. While his competitors closed in accordance with Governor Whitmer’s order, Allure treated 950 patients in the three weeks after the order took effect on March 24. Proper protocols related to cleanliness and hygiene were also a major problem at Allure as five clinic employees continued to work despite testing positive for COVID-19. These employees directly treated patients even though the majority of the clinic’s patients are over 50 years old with underlying health conditions.

Original Case Details

Kevin Harrington and George Clark are two men who have been recently released from prison after their convictions as co-defendants for the murder of Michael Martin have been overturned due to newly discovered evidence and the cooperation of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. The University of Michigan Law School Innocence Clinic was the main driving force behind Harrington from the beginning of his appeals. The assistant director of the clinic actually first worked on Harrington’s case as a law student back in 2009, and now gets to finally see his release. Harrington had to endure four jury trials before he was convicted and sent to prison. His first trial resulted in a verdict that was overturned, his next two trials resulted in hung juries, and the fourth resulted in the murder conviction that he has spent over 17 years in prison for. Clark was convicted by a jury at his first trial back in 2003 and has been imprisoned since. Both men were originally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the shooting death of victim. Now that these men have been let out, they find themselves in the middle of a COVID-19 affected society. Because of the current pandemic, they have to spend 14 days in quarantine until they can be cleared to return to normal society. Harrington checked into a Canton hotel, while Clark is staying with family in Washtenaw County. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Newly Discovered Evidence

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along with lawyers from the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and By Any Means Necessary Detroit have all joined the call for the release of the most vulnerable immigrant detainees currently held in ICE lockups. The lawyers have all focused their efforts on helping immigrants housed in four specific ICE lockups in Monroe, St. Clair, Chippewa, and Calhoun Counties. They argue that detainees are simply unable to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, leaving the vulnerable detainees even more vulnerable to sickness and death. A senior ACLU staff attorney stated simply, “civil immigration detention should not be a death sentence.” As of this writing, 38 inmates have died due to COVID-19 in the state prison system run by the Michigan Department of Corrections. 979960_prison-300x225

Current State Of Ice Detention Centers

Currently only one of the four jails have had positive COVID-19 tests so far. St. Clair County Jail has seen positive tests for COVID-19 for both inmates and staff. The other three county jails listed have not had any positive tests for COVID-19 yet. The argument from immigration attorneys is that the question is not if an outbreak it going to occur, the question is when will an outbreak occur. When an outbreak does occur, what will the jails have done to protect the most vulnerable and prevent the further spread of the disease. More than 700 ICE detainees have already been released due to the pandemic, but immigration attorneys argue that there are still many more that are being left behind.

Bond reform is an issue that was at the center of controversy before COVID-19. With the coronavirus causing deaths and stealing headlines, the effect of protecting the community with bond has become a significant issue of division between prosecutors and defense lawyers across the United States. In the state of Michigan, we are known to have higher bonds than most of our sister states. This leads to a debate of whether COVID-19 plays a role in the issuance of a bond or should the defendant be forced to swipe their credit card to stay out of jail pending their criminal case. More importantly, what happens if the defendant cannot afford to pay for their bond. To review this issue, we spoke to several criminal defense lawyers and a prosecutor to gain their insight. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is known as the top criminal defense firm across the state of Michigan. When asked about the issue of bond during COVID-19, Grabel said, “District Court judges and Magistrates need to understand what we are dealing with. If the defendant turned themselves in and has retained counsel, that should be enough to show that the defendant is cooperating and should be given a Personal Recognizance Bond. These are tough times, and placing somebody in jail with the presumption of innocence is dangerous to society.”

A prosecutor in Michigan that would not give her name added her point of view when she said, “Our job is to protect the community. The reason for a bond is to make sure that somebody cannot flee the state. I must protect society, and that is what I plan to do.”

COVID-19 has affected many across the United States and has created what many have phrased as the “new normal.” Governor Gretchen Whitmer has extended the “stay at home” order until May 15, and the Michigan Supreme Court has adjourned all trials until at least June 22, 2020. Administrative Order 2020-10 has mentioned that a “Pilot Program” made be put in place for jury trials where our circuit courts may allow jury trials via Zoom. We spoke to some of the top criminal lawyers in our state to get their perspective on this issue. 12736626-300x199

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates. Grabel’s firm is known as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. When asked about Zoom trials, Grabel said, “We need to fight this. We are risking the freedom of others if we move to remote trials. The concept of jury trials is embedded in our history. If we move from that, we are asking for a compromise of the United States Constitution.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates covering Wayne and Shiawassee Counties. Amadeo said, “This is a joke. How am I going to conduct Voir Dire? At a place like Frank Murphy, Voir Dire is where the rubber meets the road. What’s next, should I just potential jurors a text? We cannot let any pilot program happen, and if the courts allow it, we all better get into motion practice.”

Original Case Details

Desmond Ricks was convicted of second-degree murder and spent 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He accused of shooting a friend outside a Detroit restaurant and blamed the police for pinning the case on him without the proper evidence. He accuses police of seizing his mother’s gun and switching the bullets in an attempt to frame him for the murder. An analysis of bullets from the victim in the case has shown that they do not match the gun that was presented at trial against Ricks back in 1992. The University of Michigan Innocence Project took the lead on this case and got a judge to reopen the case back in 2016 when they found that the bullets didn’t match. It has never been disputed the Ricks was there at the restaurant when the shooting occurred, but he has always maintained that he was not the shooter who killed the victim in this case. iStock_000068527987_Large-2-300x200

Where The Case Stands Now

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