Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Generosity goes both ways, judge says

Circuit Judge Mary Chrzanowski is known as "Scary Mary" for many criminal defendants and even some attorneys.
But she can be clever scary.
Last week she pointedly teased criminal defense attorney, E. Philip Adamaszek, who at his client's sentencing asked the judge to waive court courts because his client was a senior citizen living on a fixed income. She had pleaded guilty.
"Since you're being so generous with the court's money, do you want to waive your attorney fees?" Chrzanowski rhetorically asked Adamaszek.
Adamaszek, who was court-appointed, requested "extraordinary fees," more than $1,000.
"You were quick to waive the court costs and fines. Maybe you can be quick to waive your attorney fees," she said.
He declined the suggestion.
"I didn't think so," she said.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Guilty pleas should involve actual admission

I thought “guilty” meant guilty. But in two Macomb County cases this week, guilty meant, “I don’t remember,” and, “I still didn’t do anything wrong.”
What happened to pleading “no contest”?
Margaret Fronczak, 59, on Monday pleaded to a hit-and-run accident causing serious injury for driving her car into 17-year-old Kara Duquet on her bike in Harrison Township last June.
But Fronczak told Judge James Biernat that she not only doesn’t recall striking Kara but doesn’t remember much about that night, when she apparently drove waaaaaay out of her way in going from Mason, Mich., to her home in Milford, Mich. She says she drank some wine, and her attorney said she may have suffered a medical condition such as a mini-stroke.
On Tuesday, Helen Gvozdich, 77, was sentenced by Judge Mary Chrzanowski to five years probation and $50,000 restitution after pleading guilty to embezzlement between $50,000 and $100,000 for stealing from her Serbian church in Warren, where she was treasurer and which she helped form more than four decades ago.
Still, Gvozdich maintains the incident was more of a misunderstanding and could have been handled without criminal charges. Her attorney said she is simply too old to fight the allegations.
So two women pleaded to significant felonies they’re not sure they committed.
Both cases cry out for no contest pleas. No contest means the defendant isn’t contesting the charges but either has no memory or doesn’t want to place an admission on the record, for legal protection in civil court.
I understand that the victims in both cases wanted the guilty pleas.
But judges don’t have to accept them. “Guilty” should mean guilty.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Reiner tried to kill himself

And if the Reiner sentencing couldn't get any stranger, I later learned that Joe Reiner attended his  sentencing Wednesday in Macomb Circuit Court wrapped in a winter jacket because he (or perhaps prison officials) wanted to hide his arms. Bandages covered his arms because he tried to commit suicide in prison about a week before by cutting himself many times.
My source said it didn't seem like a serious attempt but rather an effort to attract attention, kind of like getting devil horns tattooed onto your forehead after you've been charged with attempted murder.
On the other hand, his cutting instrument may not have been up to snuff. After all, he is in prison and probably was relegated to using shaved-down comb or a pen or some other object.
And I thought he needed the jacket just because he was cold. Well, he is cold, chillingly, horrifically cold-hearted.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Murder sentencing side-shows

Wednesday’s sentencing of Joseph Reiner for his brutal stabbing murder of JoAnn Eisenhardt of Macomb Township was certainly intense as Howard Eistenhardt confronted Reiner.
It also contained some interesting side lights:

* A probation officer informed Judge Peter J. Maceroni that due to a recent state Supreme Court ruling, he had to take into account Reiner’s prior convictions for which he was given status under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, designed to give a second chance to offenders aged 17 through 20, although it didn’t really matter in this case since Reiner got life without parole.
Maceroni said he disagrees with the ruling because the purpose of HYTA is to erase the offender’s felony record.

* Reiner dared to do the rare thing of interrupting Maceroni during his statement prior to delivering the sentence. Reiner made some vague reference to Maceroni’s friend being the ex-boyfriend of his mother and the friend "should stay away" from her.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” the judge shot back.

* Reiner in maintaining his innocence talked about catching the “real killer” (my quote, like O.J. looked).
Here it is: “I might have been in the area. That’s fine. The person who did this is a coward.  I know because that same person sent two people to try to kill me a year ago. But they didn’t succeed. That’s OK because I’m going to track him. I hope the media is listening because I want him to get this message because I know where he is at. And I’m going to follow him everywhere through the system. And when we cross paths again, you guys can’t possibly give me more any more time than I’m about to get today because I’m getting natural life. So I hope I can bring retribution not only for just myself but for the family of JoAnn Eisenhardt …. I can’t give you the name. This is something that I don’t do.  I wish I would but I’m not going to do it today. I’ve suffered through this for two years. I’m the old lady killer. ‘He’s killed an old lady.’ All this stuff is getting dumped on me. I’ll take that today.”
My take on it is that he made the statement to help his status in prison because he killed “an old lady.” Word is prisoners don’t like prisoners who kill or molest children or senior citizens.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Paper what?

David Viviano, chief judge of Macomb County Circuit Court, is bullish on the electronic filing system at the downtown Mount Clemens courthouse.
Once the county soon seals a deal with a company for computer and filing services, he expects the court will move quickly on expanding e-filing to all the civil judges in his courthouse.
Right now, his cases and those of business court Judge John Foster are the only ones at the courthouse that require e-filing of cases after the case is initially filed.
But that should start changing next year. Viviano predicted it will spread to another half-dozen judges who hear civil cases by the middle of next year. It then will go to family court cases.
Criminal cases will be the last to join on as the county’s entire justice and law enforcement system moves toward electronic documentation and communication.
And why not?  The youngsters today who will be the cops, clerks, lawyers and judges of tomorrow will know nothing different.

Friday, November 2, 2012

LAD announces recipients of second-annual awards

Legal Aid and Defender Association presents second annual 'Laddys' awards

DETROIT - Legal Aid and Defender Association (LAD) honored a judge, a law firm, a
corporate law department and a number of individual attorneys at its second annual
"Laddys" awards ceremony at the College for Creative Studies' A. Albert Taubman
Center for Design Services Oct. 25.

The Hon. Vera Massey-Jones, judge of the Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan, received
the Ed Pokorny Pioneer of Justice award.

Anthony T. Chambers, an attorney in private practice, received the Frank D. Eaman
Warrior of Justice award.

Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn LLP, represented by partner Jennifer Zbytowski
Belveal, was named Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year.

The Office of General Counsel of General Motors Company, represented by attorney
Andy Segovia, received the Kelvin W. Scott Pro Bono Award for Excellence in
Corporate Involvement.

Individual attorneys who received recognition for exceptional volunteer service through
LAD's Private Attorney Involvement Program were:

- Karen L. Piper, an attorney with Bodman PLC  - Pro Bono Attorney of the Year

- Patrick G. Gagniuk, an attorney in private practice - Pro Bono Spirit-Macomb

- Bryan A. Sunisloe, an attorney in private practice - Pro Bono Spirit-Macomb

- Krystal Denise Johnson, an attorney in private practice -  Pro Bono Spirit-
Oakland County

- Andrea D. Cartwright, an attorney in private practice - Pro Bono Spirit-Wayne

- Danielle J. Hessell, an attorney with Butzel Long PC - Pro Bono Spirit-Wayne

- Lynn M. Davidson, director, Macomb County Friend of the Court - Friend of LAD

- Joon H. Sung, assistant professor, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law -
Friend of LAD

Piper and Sung also received Pangborn Pins for exceeding the State Bar of
Michigan's voluntary standard of 30 hours of pro bono service per year, as did
attorneys Daniel Nicholas Adams, Kathryn Arierlla Katz, David Allen Malinowski,
Roger Peters Meyers and James Allen Sheridan.

Ronnie Dahl, a reporter for television station WJBK FOX 2, emceed the awards

LAD is the largest provider of free civil legal services to low-income residents of
Michigan.  It serves metropolitan Detroit through its offices in Macomb, Oakland and
Wayne counties.  It also represents criminal defendants in Wayne County and the U.S.
District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.  Including brief consultations and
comprehensive legal services, the public law firm handles some 15,000 legal matters

"We work with clients in a comprehensive manner, so that as we solve their legal
problems, we help solve other problems as well," Deierdre L. Weir, president and CEO
of LAD, said.  "We help people rebuild their lives and help families stay together."

Anyone seeking legal services can call (877) 964-4700 or visit

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Embezzler steals more than money

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Ed Mancini, the 92-year-old Harrison Township man who was conned out of his life savings of more than $400,000 by Brian Marsack, who also stole similar amounts from Mancini’s sister, Florence, and sister-in-law (wife’s sister), Virginia.
Marsack, 44, pilfered $1.4 million from the trio and pleaded no contest.
It’s hard not to feel anger for Marsack, no matter his excuse, whether it was due to extreme losses from day-trading, as he claims, or something more sinister like a Ponzi scheme or something else.
Because Marsack, a husband and father of four, portrayed himself as a Christian family man. He and his wife often were the picture of perfection in their upscale Chesterfield Township neighborhood. They would be seen holding hands and pulling a wagon carrying kids as they walked down the sidewalk in the subdivision.
“You never would have thought” he could commit such an act, a neighbor said.
He took advantage of a vulnerable, and it turns out, sick old woman. Much of the scamming was done by Marsack through Mancini’s now-deceased wife, who he learned that had been sick with leukemia but didn’t know it until two days before she died at 79 in September 2011. Maybe that affected her judgment.
Fortunately, authorities were able to recover $101,000 that is to be dispersed to the victims.
But still that’s a mere pittance because the damage is extreme. Although he lives independently, Mancini could have used the money for his care if he becomes dependent. He also would have been able to help his daughter, who is afflicted with multiple scelorsis, as well as a grandson who has leukemia.
His sister and sister-in-law are not so lucky and require care. But now they can’t afford it. His sister-in-law pays $4,500 per month to reside in assisted living and may not be able to pay it much longer. Her share of the recovered money will pay for only six months.
As Mancini’s daughter, Sandra Boone, said, her father lost the ability to help his family, not an easy thing for a proud man who worked 37 years in management at Uniroyal,  a lot of the time spent at the now-razed plant on East Jefferson in Detroit. Growing up in the Depression, Mancini scrimped and saved his money. He would have felt good to help family members.
Marsack’s scam also caused a lot of stress for the victims and Boone as they had to gather materials for police and attend court hearings.
The betrayal had to cut deep as Mancini has known Marsack since he was a boy and his large family rented a home from Mancini on 23 Mile Road in Chesterfield. Marsack made it a point to stay friends with Mancini, often visiting the man he called “grandpa” at his driving range that he operates on the 23 Mile Road property, a business that generates a minimal profit.
Premeditated? It appears that way.
But in the face of the ordeal, Mancini has showed strong character. He has spoken out about the case and at Marsack’s sentencing on Tuesday, he delivered an impressive 15-minute statement in court. He broke down most when talking about his daughter with MS.
Macomb Circuit Judge Antonio Viviano was even so impressed with him that after the sentencing, he called over Mancini and Sandra to the bench to compliment him.
Viviano, for his part, minutes earlier gave a nice lecture from the bench about staying positive in the light of bad events that happen in everyone’s life. Focus on the good things, he offered.
Meanwhile, Marsack said nothing. I wanted to give him a tiny bit of credit for at least appearing contrite and listening to Mancini. But Sandra advised me that was his “MO” -- to offer sincere, deferential demeanor that in this case appeared to put his prey at ease. Marsack meekly declined comment and was escorted out of the courtroom without offering an apology, an explanation, a beg for forgiveness. Nothing.
The only good thing about the case is that at least Mancini won’t have to worry about him for at least the next 45 months Marsack spends in prison.