crime

Prison Blues

Feb 8, 2012

Michigan is one of only a handful of states that spends more on prisons than it does on higher education. This is a disgrace, and isn’t doing very much for either our budget or our future.

The reasons for this are both complex and simple. The societal reasons are complex, of course, and have been addressed at length by people more knowledgeable than I.

The technical reasons are far simpler.  Thirty years ago, there were only about 13,000 inmates in Michigan prisons. Five years ago, the figure had ballooned to more than 51,000.

user silas216 / Flickr

Michigan Radio's Laura Weber has been looking into car theft in the state and she has some good news unless you happen to be the owner of a 10-to-15-year-old truck.

That's because, Weber says, according to a recent report from Michigan's Automobile Theft Prevention Authority, the number of car thefts in the state fell roughly nine percent between 2009 and 2010. But the top ten most-stolen vehicle's in Michigan in 2010 were all older model pickup trucks.

To add some context to these findings Weber spoke with Dan Vartanian from the prevention authority:

He said theft-prevention technology is becoming standard on newer vehicles, which helps bring down the number of break-ins, but he said auto-thieves are shifting tactics to steal cars.

“We’re finding car-jackings are becoming more popular, which is a more dangerous form of theft than a would-be thief coming by and picking up your car in the driveway or on the street," said Vartanian. "So we’re concerned about that, obviously, and we’re making efforts to curb that as well.”

Regarding pickups specifically, Vartanian told Weber:

“Well, they’re not always all pickup trucks. But for the last several years they predominant type of vehicle has been the pickup truck. Reason? Very simply, if you were to ask an auto thief what vehicle is the easiest vehicle to steal on the road, they would say various Chrysler products made up of pickup trucks. The parts are interchangeable with other vehicles, they’re easy to steal...Passenger vehicles become more and more sophisticated with anti-theft locking devices, with GPS devices and so-on that are installed in passenger vehicles. Older trucks lack this type of technology." 

Bellow is a list of the top ten most-stolen models in Michigan according to ATPA, which also found that the most popular color for stolen vehicles in 2010 was black.

  1. 2000 Dodge Ram Pickup
  2. 1999 Dodge Ram Pickup
  3. 2002 Dodge Ram Pickup
  4. 1998 Ford Pickup
  5. 1997 Dodge Ram Pickup
  6. 1998 Dodge Ram Pickup
  7. 2003 Dodge Ram Pickup
  8. 1996 Chevrolet Pickup
  9. 1999 Ford Pickup
  10. 1997 Chevrolet Pickup

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Attorney General Bill Schuette wants Michigan to use part of its expected state government budget surplus to hire at least 1,000 law enforcement officers.

The Republican says that communities across the state need more police staffing. He was holding an event Wednesday in Lansing to promote the idea.

The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards says the state has lost more than 3,000 law enforcement positions since 2001.

State budget officials say there's an unanticipated surplus of $457 million left over from the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

There will be competition for the money. Democrats want the cash to offset some recent cuts to public education funding, while Republicans say much of it should be put in savings or used to pay off long-term financial obligations.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is welcoming the governor’s pledge to help with the city’s violent crime problem.  

Governor Snyder promised in Wednesday’s State of the State address to work with Flint, Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac to address their nationally ranked crime problems. The governor will lay out his plan in March.  

“I’ve asked my police chief and others in our community who are criminal justice professionals to be thinking about how we can best work with the state," says Mike Brown, Flint’s emergency manager.   

Flint’s crime rate has soared as budget deficits have forced city leaders to lay off police officers in recent years.   

Flint police have investigated five murders in the past week. The city set a record for murders in 2010. After peaking at 66 murders in 2010, Flint recorded 55 homicides in 2011, with a sharp decline in the number of murders in the second half of the year.

51-year-old David Smith faces one count of failing to disclose his HIV status to a sexual partner.

The Kent County Health Department issued a press release Thursday afternoon that said it’s treating this as “an extremely serious health concern”:

Police say the suspect, 51 year old David Smith from Kent County, made statements that suggested his activities may have included people from outside of the area, including individuals he met over the internet.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

2010 was a record year for Flint. The city recorded 66 homicides.

But preliminary data from the FBI released today show a drop in crime rates.

More from Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal:

For the first six months of 2011, the city reported 909 instances of violent crime — a 19 percent decrease from the 1,123 instances reported by the same time last year.

There were 22 homicides, compared to 27 last year; 41 forcible rapes, compared to 51 last year; and 229 robberies, compared to 274 last year, according to the data.

Any decrease in crime is welcome news in a city that was recently dubbed "the Most Dangerous City in America."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder held meetings in Flint today about public safety.

Flint has the worst violent crime rate in the nation, according to the FBI. As Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported, gun violence is the main problem.

Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reported on the Governor's meetings today.

The Governor held two roundtable discussions - one with local law enforcement and government officials and another with community leaders from local churches, foundations, schools, and the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Snyder said crime in Michigan has to be addressed. From the Flint Journal:

“If you look at the most violent crime list, or a number of the crime lists, four communities in Michigan are on that list,” Snyder said. “That’s not acceptable.”

The governor pledged to continue the boosted state police patrols in the city. Currently, four squads are doing directed patrols in the evening and early morning hours, seven days a week.

Since patrols were boosted in June, state police have made more than 3,200 traffic stops and arrested 533 fugitives, according to state police data. State police Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue said the agency’s helicopter patrols have been particularly helpful in the local crime-fighting effort.

Snyder said he's planning to deliver a special message on crime in Michigan's cities sometime next year.

Longley reported some people came to the meetings to voice their disapproval of the state's emergency manager laws.

Flint is currently being run by state-appointed emergency manager Michael Brown. The Mayor and Flint City Council members have been stripped of their power.

Flint NAACP President Frances Gilcreast said the recent takeover by an emergency manager was one topic that wasn't brought up:

“That was the elephant in the room,” she said of the meeting, which was by invitation only and was closed to the media. “How can people effect change if the voice of the people is not being honored?”

The state Court of Appeals has upheld the parole of a convicted murderer over the objections of the judge who sent him to prison.

Phillip Paquette was convicted of stabbing a man to death at a party in the summer of 1994. Paquette maintains to this day he is innocent and acted in self defense. While in prison, Paquette committed a string of infractions, but the pattern of misconduct ended in 2004.

Paquette became eligible for parole last year, and the Michigan Parole Board granted his request to be released.

The judge that sentenced Paquette objected, citing Paquette’s record of misconduct and insistence that he’s innocent. Paquette took his case all the way to the state Supreme Court, which returned the case to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals noted Paquette went six years without a violation, and has expressed sorrow for the killing.

The appeals court reversed the judge and said Paquette is to be paroled.

The state Court of Appeals has upheld the firearms and assault convictions of a prominent Detroit political consultant accused of attacking his girlfriend – a former state lawmaker.

Ex-state Representative Mary Waters returned home to the apartment she shared with Sam Riddle and found him in bed with another woman.

The couple fought.

She left andcalled 9-1-1 after he pointed shotgun at her.

Waters later tried to recant her accusation, but the prosecutor went ahead with the trial and Riddle was convicted.

Riddle challenged the convictions on several grounds – including Waters’ statement that she never actually feared being hurt.

The appeals court said that’s not relevant –what matters is whether a rational person might reasonably have feared the situation.

Riddle is currently in a federal prison serving a simultaneous sentence on bribery and extortion convictions.

Waters has tried to retract her guilty plea to corruption charges.

The state Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial in the case of a man charged with murder during a robbery gone awry.

The court says a detective investigating the case did not violate the man’s Fifth Amendment rights by continuing a conversation after the defendant invoked his right to remain silent.

The detective stopped asking questions once Kadeem Dennis White invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, but the detective continued to try to engage White in a conversation.

During that brief conversation, White blurted out that he never intended to shoot the victim.

The prosecution tried to use that admission against White in court, but the judge ordered the statements could not be used. The court of appeals reversed that decision, and said White knowingly waived his right to remain silent when he spoke to the investigator.

It was a two-to-one split decision by the appeals panel.

One dissenting judge argued that continuing to try to engage White in a conversation was the functional equivalent of an interrogation that should have stopped once the defendant said he would remain silent.

The defense could appeal the case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

COTTRELLVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Federal authorities say they caught a suspected marijuana smuggler after a boat from Canada was spotted on video surveillance making a brief stop in Michigan.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement Wednesday that the bust was made Friday.

The agency says the boat was spotted entering U.S. waters on the St. Clair River and landed in St. Clair County's Cottrellville Township, about 40 miles northeast of Detroit. Border Patrol agents then spotted and stopped a van seen leaving the area.

Inside the van they found a hockey bag containing more than 33 pounds of marijuana. One arrest was made.

Federal authorities have video surveillance in operation along the St. Clair River to help monitor water traffic between Canada and the U.S.

U.S. Marshals Service

DETROIT (AP) - One of nine people charged in an investigation of a southern Michigan militia apparently has agreed to plead guilty next week.

Records show Joshua Clough of Lenawee County is due in federal court next Tuesday to change his plea, three months before trial. He's accused of conspiring to rebel against the government among other charges, but it's not clear what's in his deal with prosecutors. No details were filed.

It would be the first guilty plea since charges were filed against nine people in spring 2010. Trial for the others is set for February.

Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday with Clough's attorney and a prosecutor.

The government claims members of Hutaree were scheming to kill a police officer, then attack law enforcement.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The two men running for Flint mayor agree on one thing: Crime is the city’s biggest problem.  

Incumbent Mayor Dayne Walling debated challenger Darryl Buchanan last night.

Flint recently topped the FBI’s violent crime rankings.   Flint has also been called one of the 'Dangerous' cities in America.

Walling says he’s tried to combat Flint’s growing murder and violent crime rates  with federal grants and community involvement.  

“We continue to put officers where they’re most needed.  We’re using new technologies to better respond to the calls that are coming in," says Walling.  

But Buchanan says budget cuts Walling has made to Flint’s police department are to  blame for the rise in violent crime.

"It is statistically significant….that when you reduce the number of police on the streets…that violent crime goes up," says Buchanan. 

During the debate, Buchanan repeatedly referenced comments by Vice President Joe Biden during a visit last week to a Flint fire station.  The vice president talked about how Flint's layoffs of police officers resulted in a rise in violent crime.  

Walling blames the need for deep cuts in flint's budget on poor choices made by previous Flint city leaders, including Darryl Buchanan. 

Last night's debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Urban League.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Snyder wrapping up in Asia, highlights mining in the U.P. as one business opportunity

Governor Rick Snyder is wrapping up his trip in Asia with a visit to Seoul, South Korea. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports the governor is expected to sign an agreement with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the province will work together to establish trade.

Of his visit to China, Snyder said he was surprised by the positive response he received from businesses. "Many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business," Snyder said. He pointed to mining copper or other deposits in the U.P. as one business opportunity for Chinese companies.

Welfare recipients file class action lawsuit against state

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that places tighter limits on cash assistance benefits to the poor. It puts a four-year lifetime cap on cash assistance payments from the state.

For some, that cap starts tomorrow (October 1).

Some recipients facing the cap have filed a class action lawsuit. From the Detroit News:

The lawsuit, filed against Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, said immediate intervention is needed to prevent more than 25,000 parents and children from losing benefits. The welfare recipients from Saginaw, Genesee and Macomb counties asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation Sept. 6 and said the state would offer exemptions to those with disabilities that prevent them from working.

Cost of new cars higher as a result of price fixing? The U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division announced that several Japanese executives have plead guilty in a price-fixing scheme: 

Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd., a supplier of automotive wire harnesses and related products, headquartered in Tokyo, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $200 million fine for its role in a criminal price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy involving the sale of parts to automobile manufacturers...  Three executives, who are Japanese nationals, have also agreed to plead guilty and to serve prison time in the United States ranging from a year and a day to 18 months. 

DOJ officials say these are the first charges "as a result of its ongoing international cartel investigation of price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry."

Dave Matos / Flickr

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted three former executives from a Whirlpool Corporation subsidiary, a Panasonic Corporation, and a Tecumseh Products Company subsidiary for conspiring to fix prices on refrigerant compressors.

The compressors are used in refrigerators and freezers.

From the DOJ's press release:

The indictment, returned today in U.S. District Court in Detroit, charges Ernesto Heinzelmann, former president and chief executive officer of Empresa Brasileira de Compressores S.A. (Embraco), a division of Whirlpool S.A.; Gerson Veríssimo, former president of Tecumseh do Brasil Ltda., a subsidiary of Tecumseh Products Company; and Naoki Adachi, general manager of global sales & SE group, refrigeration devices division at Panasonic Corporation, with conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition by coordinating price increases for refrigerant compressors to customers in the United States and elsewhere.

Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General from the DOJ's Antitrust Division said:

“Cracking down on international price fixing cartels has been and will continue to be among the most significant priorities for the Antitrust Division. Our investigation into the refrigerant compressors industry has already resulted in two companies – Panasonic and Embraco North America – pleading guilty and paying a total of $140.9 million in criminal fines. Our investigation is continuing.”

The three are being charged for price fixing under the Sherman Act. The maximum penalty they each face is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The DOJ reports that their investigation led to guilty pleas in 2010 from Panasonic and Embraco North America Inc:

On Nov. 15, 2010, Panasonic Corporation pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $49.1 million criminal fine, and on Dec.16, 2010, Embraco North America Inc. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $91.8 million criminal fine.

The Story

"I'm not going to stop until Michael is dead."

In the streets of Kalamazoo, Michigan, people were looking for revenge against Michael Wilder for the violence he committed against others.

Michael says his violence was born out of violence against him.

So goes the cycle of hatred and rage that is repeated by people throughout the world.

The public radio program The Story recounted the tale of Michael "Too Short" Wilder and Yafinceio "Big B" Harris: two enemies from the streets of Kalamazoo who make changes and later meet at a community college:

From The Story:

Michael Wilder and Yafinceio Harris were long time rivals.  Several times they came close to an armed confrontation. Five years ago, one almost killed the other in a Kalamazoo street war.

But something always seemed to intervene. Imagine the surprise for both of them when they met, earlier this year, in a community college classroom.

Wilder said their teacher at the community college recognized their incredible story and asked if he could share it with the producers at The Story.

Wilder said he and Harris were excited to share their story:

"We're living proof that [violence] is not always the answer," said Wilder.

"You know what Yafinceio told me one day shortly after we met in school?

It almost made me cry.

He said, 'man, I realized that if I had killed you, I would have killed a good dude.' He told me that!

Can you imagine having a killer, that was going to kill you, turn around and get to know you and tell you something like that?!"

They call the trust they built between one another "Real recognized real."

Listen to Wilder and Harris recount their incredible story of how they broke the cycle of violence between them:

DETROIT (AP) - A robbery of illegal immigrants has exposed sharp differences at the Michigan Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. broke with the court's conservative bloc and joined three liberal justices in letting a minimum five-year prison sentence stand last week.

Jorge Ivan Torres-David pleaded guilty to armed robbery in 2009. A Wayne County judge added points to the sentencing formula after determining that Torres-David targeted illegal immigrants because he believed they would be reluctant to complain to police.

Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly agreed with the trial judge. She says illegal immigrants are "vulnerable victims" when criminals view them as "easy targets."

Justice Stephen Markman calls the decision "remarkable." He and two other Republicans on the court say illegal immigrants now have greater protections as crime victims than law-abiding residents.

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit man charged with ripping off Medicare and selling powerful painkillers has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and health care fraud.

George Williams admitted Thursday that people were paid $220 to get prescriptions filled and then return the drugs to him for sale, including Vicodin and Oxycontin.

The drugs were peddled in southeastern Michigan as well as in Kentucky and Alabama, from January 2007 through December 2008. A big break for investigators occurred in 2007 in Wood County, Ohio, when deputies discovered a doctor's name on 55 bottles of cough syrup with codeine.

People posing as patients were also taken to a Southfield hotel or a Detroit house for a phony exam. Williams admits his business billed Medicare and received $422,000.

A guard at the state prison in Newberry is being held in the Mackinaw City jail awaiting felony charges of trying to smuggle contraband to inmates. John Cordell is with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

"It appears from the investigation that he was trying to introduce contraband – both heroin and contraband tobacco, which is illegal inside facilities – inside the correctional facility."

Cordell says the man faces at least three felony charges. He says the scheme was detected from monitoring phone traffic into the prison and information from a cell phone that was seized from a prisoner.

The guard was stopped and arrested in downtown Mackinaw City. Cordell says the contraband was in the corrections officer’s car.

The guard has also been suspended without pay from his job at the prison in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

DETROIT (AP) - Ten years later, a federal appeals court has overturned a murder conviction in Wayne County because jurors weren't told that the gunman had a history of mental illness.

The court on Friday says Reginald Walker's trial lawyer was ineffective. The court ordered Walker's release from a life sentence unless he's brought to trial again within six months.

There is no dispute that Walker fatally shot a man inside a Detroit liquor store in 2000 and then walked out. The victim was a complete stranger.

The 57-year-old Walker has a history of mental illness, but his defense was based on self-defense. The appeals court says the 2001 trial strategy was greatly contradicted by "every piece" of evidence. The court's decision was 2-1.

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