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UM law school's Innocence Clinic helps clear Detroit man who served 25 years on murder charge
DETROIT — Law school students from the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have helped win a new trial for a Detroit man who spent 25 years in prison. Desmond Ricks, 51, claimed Detroit police framed him for a 1992 murder outside a Detroit burger joint, and the students proved that he didn't do it.
New tests ordered by a Detroit judge revealed that bullets taken from the victim's body didn't match a gun Wayne County prosecutors claimed was the murder weapon. They said at trial that a gun belonging to Ricks' mother was used in the shooting, but one bullet didn't match and a second one couldn't be analyzed because it was too mutilated. Judge Richard Skutt reopened the case and ordered the ballistics tests after prosecutors turned over photos in 2015 of two bullets removed from the victim.
Judge Skutt ruled that Ricks should be released on Friday when the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office agreed after findings in the new test.
"Justice prevailed," Rick told the Detroit Free Press after he was released from prison. "I'm not bitter. I'm not angry. I'm just relieved. I want to get a job. I want to pay taxes. I just want to be a normal citizen."
David Moran, director of UM's Innocence Clinic, told the Detroit Free Press: "What he was saying seemed to be outlandish: The Detroit police crime lab would not only make mistakes but switch bullets. It wasn't outlandish — it was true. This outlandish conduct cost Desmond Ricks 25 years."
It's the second high profile murder conviction by the Wayne County Prosectuor's Office that has been overturned in less than a year. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy decided not charge a former deputy police chief with the Detroit Police Department after discovering that James Tolbert had lied under oath during testimony that caused a 14-year-old to be convicted of a quadruple murder he didn't commit. Tolbert, who later became Flint's police chief, came under fire in the Detroit case a few months after he was fired by newly-elected Flint Mayor Dr. Karen Weaver. Worthy opted not to charge Tolbert with perjury before the statute of limitations expired in the case that sent Davontae Sanford to prison.
Prosecutor Worthy has not yet announced if her office will seek a new trial against Ricks.
Pit bull dogs maul two children walking to school in City of Detroit
DETROIT — Two pit bull dogs were shot and killed by Detroit police Friday morning after they attacked two children walking to school. A 10-year-old boy and 12-year-old boy were listed in serious condition and stable condition, respectively, at Children's Hospital in Detroit after the attack, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The story quoted a Detroit Police Department official as saying the two pit bulls were put down after advancing toward officers on four occasions in what was described as a "menacing fashion."
Tuscola County's prosecutor charges Caro man in ax attack
CARO — A Caro man has been charged in an ax attack against his wife, according to a report by WJRT TV 12. The charges were brought Sunday by the Tuscola County Prosecutor's Office against William Williams. He told police his wife had been attacked by someone who broke into their home on Friday.
Teen crashes into bus in Detroit; 5 people transported to hospital
DETROIT — A teen-aged driver crashed into a city bus Sunday in Detroit, sending four people to the hospital. The 18-year-old driver of the SUV was also hospitalized after hitting the bus on the city's west side. The 60-year-old bus driver was among the victims in the hospital, according to what police told the Detroit Free Press.
20-year-old Milford man killed after crashing GMC into Clinton River
WATERFORD TWP. — The Detroit Free Press has reported that a 20-year old Milford man was killed when his vehicle plunged into the Clinton River at 12:48 am on Monday while traveling eastbound on Hatchery Road near the Fish Hatchery.
The Free Press reported that police said the man crossed the center line in his 2007 GMC, lost control rounding a curve and struck a construction solar-powered trailer. The vehicle rolled onto its roof and became partially submerged in the Clinton River. A 22-year-old Waterford man was a passenger in the vehicle and police reported that he was conscious and speaking after being extricated by emergency crews.
Second victim comes forward to file lawsuit with Geoffrey Fieger against attorney Mike Morse
SOUTHFIELD — A second lawsuit has been filed by a woman represented by attorney Geoffrey Fieger against high profile lawyer Mike Morse of Southfield. The latest lawsuit is a $15 million case filed by a former receptionist at Morse's law office.
A Novi woman filed a $10 million lawsuit against Morse after claiming Morse grabbed her breast at a Farmington Hills restaurant. Fieger filed the lawsuit against Morse and the restaurant, contending that the restaurant owner tried to talk her out of calling police.
The Farmington Hills Police Department has not yet filed any criminal charges against Morse, but Fieger told the media that his client had worn a wire to tape record a conversation where it's alleged that Morse confessed.
Livonia firearms instructor pleads no contest to misdemeanor charge of accidentally shooting student
REDFORD — A firearms instructor in Redford has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of accidentally shooting a man during a class on training for a concealed pistol license. Police say instructor Michael Hearn accidentally fired his gun last month through a door and struck a man in the legs in another room.
The Detroit News reported that Hearn appeared in a Livonia court on Thursday, but the judge delayed his sentencing to allow the 39-year-old victim to attend.
Chunk of concrete flies off I-696 overpass, strikes woman in head
WARREN — WDIV TV 4 in Detroit reported that a Grosse Pointe woman who works for the TV station is in the hospital after a football-sized chunk of concrete dislodged from an I-696 Expressway overpass in Warren, flew through her vehicle's windshield, hit her in the head and knocked her unconscious.
TV 4's newcast identified the victim as Theresa Thomas who has undergone reconstructive surgery in her face.
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Click above to hear the last episode for The Daily Gazette Sports Weekend Show with Mike Killbreath. He's an award-winning sports columnist with a long history of championship ways in the local Flint area coaching ranks and with Team USA in roller hockey.
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By Mike Killbreath
Posted on May 29, 2017
Alleged bag man, former lawyer get plea deals in latest cases as part of federal probe into bribes to land trash contracts for Rizzo
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Plea bargain deals have been announced for an alleged bag man for bribes and a former attorney involved in a federal probe into contracts acquired by the Rizzo family trash business in Macomb County.
The two latest men charged in the case were revealed in documents filed Friday with the U.S. District Court. They are Quintin Ramanauskas who served as a commercial manager at Rizzo and Angelo Selva who is a former attorney.
Selva represented the Macomb County company during its negotiations to land a five-year trash hauling contract in the City of Flint, according to Arthur Woodson who is leading a recall against Flint's mayor because of the Rizzo scandal.
"He's the guy who represented Rizzo here," Woodson said. "I have been told by people who know that Chuck Rizzo cut a deal to get only two years in prison by cooperating with the FBI. You have to wonder if Selva got the same deal and you have to wonder why they spent so much time in Flint if they weren't working on bribes because they already knew they were headed to prison."
Woodson would not say who he talked with about the case.
Flint City Councilman Scott Kincaid told The Morning Gazette Radio Show during a Thursday interview that he has been told to "not talk about the case." When asked if he had been told that by the FBI or someone with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Kincaid said, "I can't say on that because it's an on-going investigation."
Councilman Kincaid called the Weaver administration the worst he has witnessed during his more than 30 years as a city council member. "I opposed going with Rizzo and the indictments obviously proved me right to oppose going with them," Councilman Kincaid said. He said he opposed the switch because he felt Republic was "doing a good job of service for the community" and because Rizzo Environmental Services had hired Woodrow Stanley as a consultant.
Stanley is a former mayor in the City of Flint who was removed by recall in 2001. He later won election to the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, was elected county board chairman and served six years in the state legislature before term limits prevented him from running again in 2014.
Stanley has told The Morning Gazette Radio Show he did nothing wrong in negotiating a deal to win support for a Rizzo contract from Mayor Weaver.
Mayor Weaver did not respond to requests for a comment about Councilman Kincaid's comments or the Rizzo public corruption case via her e-mail and Facebook accounts.
Rizzo Environmental Services briefly picked up garbage in the City of Flint when Mayor Weaver tried to switch companies. Trucks from Rizzo and Republic Waste Services spent more than a month sending dueling garbage trucks down the opposite sides of roads throughout the city while the mayor and Flint City Council battled in court over her attempt to replace Republic. Mayor Weaver eventually withdrew her support for Rizzo when the first in a series of federal indictments came last October in Macomb Township.
Seven indictments have now been made by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Michigan's Eastern District and court documents filed as part of the public corruption case show that the FBI's investigation has included telephone wiretaps, consensual audio and video recordings by cooperative individuals, undercover operations, physical surveillance, telephone tracking warrants and subpoenas of financial records and documents.
Chuck Rizzo, the embattled former CEO of the trash hauling empire, has not been charged but Detroit media reports confirm Woodson's comments that Rizzo cooperated with the FBI during an investigation into bribes he used to get contracts in more than 30 Metro Detroit area communities. The Detroit Free also reported earlier this month that the federal government may soon be seeking to seize the $2.5 million luxury home of Rizzo in Bloomfield Township after filing documents with the Oakland County Register of Deeds Office that were signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrianna Dydell. The Free Press said the notice indicated the government is aware of "certain facts, conditions and events proscribed" by federal laws "which may terminate an estate or an interest in real property." The story said the notice listed the legal citations for laws against fraud, wire fraud, bribery and money laundering. Rizzo bought the 7,700-square-foot mansion in 2013, according to online tax records. The luxury home sits on 2.1 acres and online tax records show it includes nine bathrooms and five fireplaces.
The Detroit Free Press has also reported that Rizzo paid $2.4 million for the mansion next door to his luxury home in Bloomfield Township. Online tax records indicate that house is 6,900 square feet with seven bathrooms.
Although Rizzo has not yet been charged, indictment filings with the federal court revealed that an undercover investigation had featured a top company executive who cooperated to tape record suspects targeted in the case. The individual cooperating and the company were not identified but the high dollar amounts of the contracts indicated that Rizzo Environmental Services was the only possible player in the public corruption probe.
The latest indictments against Ramanauskas and Selva didn't mention any specific charges related to them cooperating with the government by tape recording conversations with politicians.
Selva, who had his law license suspended in 2005 by the State Attorney Grievance Commission over the mishandling of client funds, has a plea hearing slated for June 5 before U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland. Slelva is accused of hiding a bribery scheme between Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds and two Rizzo officials — an executive and a lawyer who were not named in the indictment.
Ramanauskas has a June 30 court date before Judge Cleland. He is facing up to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud. Ramanauskas is accused in court documents of delivering a $3,000 cash bribe to Reynolds and former Chesterfield Township Supervisor Michael Lovelock.
Reynolds was indicted in November on charges he helped Rizzo secure an $18-million contract extension in his community in exchange for $50,000 and a free divorce lawyer. The deal was done in no-bid fashion, according to the indictment.
Reynolds has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
All six of the others so far indicted have reached plea bargain agreements with the government.
Lovelock was charged with demanding $30,000 in bribes in exchange for getting a contract extension for Rizzo, promising not to bad-mouth Rizzo to other communities and helping the company get paid for cleanup work. Lovelock has a hearing on June 1 in his plea bargain case.
Chuck Rizzo resigned from the company on the same day that former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas was indicted for allegedly accepting $7,500 in cash to help Rizzo's company get a contract in Macomb Township. Freitas, who also formerly worked for Rizzo, also has a plea hearing scheduled for June 1 before Judge Cleland.
Two others who cut deals — former New Haven Trustees Brett Harris and Christopher Craigmiles — are scheduled to face Judge Cleland on June 8. Both men have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and face between 33 months and 41 months in prison. Harris is accused of taking four bribes totaling more than $11,000 from an undercover agent to vote for Rizzo's to get a trash contract. Craigmiles is accused of taking less money — $5,000 from the same undercover agent. He faces between 18 months and 24 months in prison, but an attorney for Craigmiles has asked Judge Cleland to sentence his client to probation because he has agreed to cooperate with authorities and he's both embarrassed and remorseful about his actions. Craigmiles is a former police officer.
Rizzo Environmental Services was sold to Toronto-based GFL Environmental two weeks before the first indictment was announced in the public corruption probe. The new owner, who has said he had no idea about the FBI investigation, changed the color of Rizzo's red garbage trucks and changed the name of the company after the case became public.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson offers strong support for fired OCC chancelor
ROCHESTER — Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson offered strong support for fired Oakland Community College Chancellor Timothy Meyer in an interview published Monday by the Detroit Free Press. Meyer was fired last week in a surprise move by the board of trustees at the college which celebrated its graduation commencement ceremonies on Sunday.
"It was a lynching and I really feel bad. Tim lived for OCC,” Oakland County Executive Patterson told the Free Press. “I think the blood is on the hands of the chairman of the board of trustees, John McCulloch. He’s been gunning for him for a year and finally got the four votes. There was no reason for it.”
Patterson told the Detroit Free Press that he has had a "good working relationship" with Meyer, including collaborating on economic development issues, and added that Meyer had been looking to add new programs that align with the county’s efforts to attract high-skill jobs.
Detroit judge hears profanity from Redford Twp man after refusing to let him talk about conviction
DETROIT — A Redford Township man pleaded guilty to several sexual assaults and home invasions, got a sentence of 55 to 80 years in prison and promptly let fly with some profanity for the judge as he left a Detroit court room. Ikeie Ranordo Smith, 33, cursed at Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dalton A. Roberson when the judge refused his request to comment before he was led away to prison, saying, (Bleep) you, your honor.”