Friday, June 29, 2012

“Dateline” can’t seem to get enough of Macomb area

A "Dateline NBC" crew was on hand for Wednesday’s Kym Worthy’s press conference and Bob Bashara’s solicitation-of-murder arraignment. Dateline already aired an episode on the case featuring an interview with Bashara, the person of interest in his wife, Jane’s, murder. You can bet another episode will be coming.
On top of that, word is that Dateline reporter Dennis Murphy and his cohorts will be seen from 9 to 11 p.m, July 20, in a new episode on the Michael George “comic book murder” case. The episode had been planned for May.
Dateline already did a high-quality, two-hour show on the Barbara George murder, and husband Michael George’s arrest and first trial. The episode, which featured cool comic-book style graphics, occasionally airs on MSNBC-TV.  I’m expecting the episode will highlight all the drama and legal wrangling that occurred leading up to and encompassing the second trial.
Dateline in recent years also has done shows on Macomb County’s version of murderers’ row, Stephen Grant and Arthur Ream, and accused murderer Ron Jabalee.
I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the county to have all of these horrible murder cases highlighted on national TV. But I think Dateline does a nice job in telling the stories.
What do you think?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Will bullying influence guv's decision?

It will be interesting to see whether Governor Rick Snyder removes, suspends or takes no action in response to Clinton Township officials asking him to remove Clerk George Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is accused of bullying three of his employees.
Snyder by law has the power to kick out Fitzgerald, and was asked to do so earlier this month by the township board. Snyder referred the request AG Bill Schuette for analysis.
Coincidentally, Snyder admitted last December that he was bullied throughout his educational career. He made the surprising comment when he signed anti-bullying legislation.
“I was bullied because I was a nerd,” Snyder said at a press conference, adding he was “beaten up” in elementary and junior high schools and “pushed around” in high school and college.
Whether or not his past comes into play, Snyder’s decision won’t be easy.
It would take a lot for him to remove any elected official, especially one who faces re-election in less than five months. Politically, it might look bad for the GOP guv to remove a Dem and virtually assure that the clerk’s Republican opponent, Kim Meltzer, wins the office.
Granted, the accusations against Fitzgerald are serious. But he has not been charged with a crime and there are no allegations of a physical attack. And the clerk’s office seems to be functioning, albeit dysfunctionally.
My guess is Snyder will take a hard look at it, but a good compromise may be a suspension that includes sensitivity training. That also means Fitzgerald would probably have to agree to it.
Removal seems drastic. But who knows? His empathy for Fitzgerald's alleged targets could play a bigger role than I think. 
Stay tuned. The Macomb Daily will follow it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Schuette backs crux of Supreme Court decision on Arizona law

Here is Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's take on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Arizona illegal-immigration law that was challenged by the Obama Administration:
“I’m pleased the Court upheld some authority of states to exercise a role in border enforcement. However, it’s disappointing the ruling did not uphold the broader authority of state governments to enforce laws intended to ensure the safety of their citizens. I will be reviewing the opinion thoroughly to determine its impact on the State of Michigan.” 
Schuette says in a press release the nation’s highest court upheld the provision of Arizona’s law (SB 1070) permitting law enforcement to make a “reasonable attempt,” “when practicable” to ascertain the immigration status of any person lawfully stopped, detained or arrested “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and unlawfully present in the United States.
Schuette noted Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion on the Court’s decision to uphold this section (§2(B)):
That provision does not authorize or require Arizona law enforcement officers to do anything they are not already allowed to do under existing law.  The United States’ argument that §2(B) is pre-empted, not by any federal statute or regulation, but simply by the Executive’s current enforcement policy is an astounding assertion of federal executive power that the Court rightly rejects.  -(Opinion of Alito, J, p. 2).
Michigan served as the lead state on the amicus brief filed in support of Arizona by state attorneys general with the U.S. Supreme Court, Schuette says. Schuette challenged Obama Administration arguments that states could only enforce federal law if the federal government granted them specific permission to do so. The state coalition argued in favor of the states’ authority to enforce federal immigration laws, especially in light of the selective and even lack of enforcement of those laws by the Obama administration, Schuette says.
States that joined Michigan include: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Van Regenmorter an icon in Michigan criminal justice

Although he didn’t work or live in Macomb County or even metro Detroit, the late Bill Van Regenmorter should be appreciated by anyone in Michigan who is involved in law enforcement, has been a crime victim or cares about crime victims.
Van Regenmorter, a state legislator for more than 24 years, died this week at 73.
Van Regenmoter wrote the Crime Victims Act in 1985 and pushed for many other pieces of crime and punishment legislation, including the Truth in Sentencing Act in the late 1990s and increased penalties for crimes against children.
He is a major reason why crime victims must be allowed to speak at sentencings and have input into their cases. In Macomb County, the victim’s rights unit has four members assigned to work with victims and their loved ones in hundreds of cases a year.
I remember interviewing Van Regenmorter a couple of times about criminal justice legislation over the telephone. He was glad to help and didn't pass it on to a press spokesman even though it didn’t benefit him politically to talk to a Macomb Daily reporter; he served on the west side, in Georgetown Township near Grand Rapids.
The Republican is being heralded by many across the state, by Dems and GOPers alike. Attorney General Bill Schuette said Van Regenmorter was known as the Father of Crime Victim’s Rights in Michigan.
“He worked to make Michigan a safer and better place, and words cannot begin to express the debt of gratitude we all owe him,” Schuette said in a press release.
Well said.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Two young lives lost

The recent felony murder and child abuse convictions of Delniece Williams left me with a couple of reactions:  I'm somewhat uncomfortable that we send someone to prison without parole based on a circumstantial case. But I'm sure of one thing -- Williams was woefully unprepared to be a parent.
A jury concluded that Williams killed her 8-month-old son, George “Little Georgie” Wilbur on Oct. 11, 2010, when he was found unresponsive in the Warren home of a boyfriend.
Georgie died from severe blows to his head.
No one witnessed the beating. Her defense attorneys blamed other adults in the home during a 9-hour period that day. They also noted her other son, 2 at the time, was rough-housing with Georgie, although experts said he could not have caused the fatal blows.
Williams first lied to police and finally admitted to throwing Georgie down on a bed, not enough to kill him.
Without the “smoking gun” or direct evidence, it seems tough to send the 22-year-old Williams to prison for the rest of her life without parole.
But I understand the jury. A child died, and although maybe someone could have contributed to his death, that chance doesn't seem reasonable.
Williams was his mother. She is responsible.
It's clearer that Williams wasn’t ready for the job of parenthood. She was way too immature to be having babies. She looks like a child herself.
She had her first child at 17 or 18 and Georgie at 20. She apparently shared custody of Georgie with the father, a Dearborn man.
We learned during the trial that Georgie suffered prior abuse, evidenced by old wounds in the form of bruises and cracked ribs, presumably at Williams’ hands.
We learned that Delniece was feeding Georgie a bottle per day of liquid ibuprofren to keep him from crying, probably much of it due to the pain inflicted by child abuse.
We learned during proceedings she also abused her other son, beating him one time with a shoe and another time throwing him against a wall.
Still, it'll be hard not to harbor some pity for Williams when she is sentenced Tuesday, June 19. She never should have been in that situation, even though she did it to herself and obviously has some anger issues. Barring the unlikely reversal on appeal, she’ll never see freedom.
Little Georgie never even got a chance at freedom.
Every murder is tragic. But when it involves a young child and a young mother, it seems to be even more of a waste of potential. Two lives never lived.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bringing Hollywood to south end

It’s about time!
A potential first-run movie theater in south Macomb County.
Since the Woods, Beacon East, Shores and Eastland theaters have closed over the years, movie-goers in the Grosse Pointes, St. Clair Shores, Roseville, Eastpointe and Harper Woods have had no nearby options to view the new offerings from Hollywood.
That may change with Emagine possibly opening at 12 Mile and Little Mack in the Shores.
I originally thought the site may not be able to fit the facility. But if Emagine takes over the office building next to the commercial property, it appears there should be plenty of room. I don't think parking issues would thwart the project like it thwarted a plan a few years ago to expand the old Shores Theatre on Greater Mack at 9 Mile a few years ago as well as more recently Emagine's planned theater facility at a Grosse Pointe site.
But hopefully city and Emagine officials work it out. South Macombers deserve the ability to avoid trekking to Warren, Clinton Township or Sterling Heights to catch the latest flick.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Clinton Township officials finally got the hint

The learning curve may not ascend as quickly as Clinton Township taxpayers prefer but at least it arched in the end.
Board of Trustees members finally realized at their June 4 meeting they could face legal ramifications from their decision to ask Clerk George Fitzgerald to resign, and if he didn’t, to ask the governor to remove him. They also banned him from his office, relegating him to other space in the township hall.
Fitzgerald (who cast the lone no vote) is accused of bullying, threatening and harassing two or three of his employees.
Officials listened and discussed the situation for more than two hours before making the moves.
The message sunk in – Do something or get sued.
As audience member Simon Haddad pointed out, “Read between the lines. What do you guys need?”
That was after Robert Palmer, attorney for one of the employees, Deputy Clerk Kim Irvine, all but tweeted, shouted or rapped that he would be visiting the Macomb County courthouse the next day if they didn’t take decisive action against Fitzgerald.
“Your obligation is to immediately send it to the governor,” Palmer said, “If you don’t do that, I think it’s not sufficient action. Your duty is protect these women, and the only way is protect these women is to not have the same work environment as this gentleman.
“The chapter is not done yet. … You have to act tonight. … If something happens to these women, in addition to Mr. Fitzgerald being responsible, the township will be responsible.”
Irvine and another employee, Sue Brooks, also indicated they would not show up for work if Fitzgerald was in their office.
Board members had no choice. They were backed into a corner, and ultimately got the message.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Attached to the podium

Assistant Macomb prosecutor John Paul Hunt not only drew giggles but provided a tip to students participating in a recent Teen Court event at 41B District Court in Clinton Township.
Hunt critiqued the high schoolers for shielding themselves from the view of a dozen jurors of their peers during closing arguments by standing behind and attaching themselves to the podium. The girl who played prosecutor and the boy who played defense attorney were stiff and nervous, and the outgoing Hunt mockingly demonstrated how they appeared.
Hunt, a large-framed man, wrapped his arms and legs around the defenseless, press-board podium, resting  his torso on the top and gripping the sides like a scared child on a roller-coaster ride.
“It’s like you guys were married to it (the podium),” he said, drawing laughter from several people in the courtroom.
He  then walked away from the podium and ad-libbed a closing argument.
Sometimes the best instruction is delivered with humor.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Feds need to catch the big fish

Federal prosecutors’ mediocre batting average in high-profile public corruption cases reared its head again last week with the mistrials in the John Edwards case.
Like the up-and-down seasons of the Detroit Tigers, the feds over the years have had some big wins and losses (and ties, per the Edwards outcome) when it comes to cracking down on public officials and figures, nationally and locally.
It was in the early 2000s that two local public officials, Carl Marlinga and Chuck Busse, were accused of corruption by the feds in Detroit on weak evidence, and both won acquittals. The feds got creamed.
On the other hand, the Detroit FBI and Department of Justice offices were very successful in their probe into corruption into two local school districts that started in 1999 and lasted through the mid 2000’s. It resulted in the superintendents of East Detroit and Clintondale schools and a retired police inspector going to prison, along with more than a dozen others being convicted.
More recently, the Detroit feds are honed in, in their probes into the city of Detroit and Wayne County governments.
Five people have been charged so far in Wayne County, the younger of the two investigations.
In the 5-year-old city of Detroit investigation, the feds have gained guilty pleas from 10 people, as well as two others in a spinoff investigation in Southfield.
A pretty good scorecard for the feds.
But, fairly or unfairly, in many people’s eyes the ultimate success or failure of the Detroit case will lay with the outcome of the trial of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, scheduled to begin in September.
Kwame’s dad, Bernard, and buddy, Bobby Ferguson, also face charges. But the former hip-hop mayor is the scandal's big fish, and the feds have to reel him in.