State Senator Virgil Smith (D-Detroit) is formally charged with felonious assault, malicious destruction of property, domestic violence assault and battery and felony firearm during a video arraignment in 36th District Court. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News
Detroit — As state Sen. Virgil Smith Jr. sat in a holding cell Tuesday awaiting word on charges in a shooting incident involving his ex-wife, his colleagues in Lansing stripped him of committee and caucus duties.
Just before 5 p.m. he was released from police custody at the Detroit Detention Center on Mound Road to calls in Lansing for his resignation from the Legislature.
Smith, 35, was charged with felonious assault, malicious destruction of personal property $20,000 or more, domestic violence assault and battery and felony firearm after he was accused of shooting up the car of his ex-wife, Anistia Thomas, overnight Sunday while naked.
He was arraigned by video before 36th District Magistrate Millicent Sherman and given a $25,000 bond. He paid 10 percent and was released.
The charges prompted Senate Democratic and majority Republican leaders Tuesday afternoon to pressure Smith, D-Detroit, to consider resigning.
"These are serious charges, and Sen. Smith should give serious consideration to whether or not he can still serve his constituents," said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.
It takes a two-thirds majority or 26 of the Senate's 38 members to vote to expel a member and list the reason or reasons in the Senate journal, according to the Michigan Constitution. Republicans control 27 seats.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, stripped Smith of his committee assignments and relieved him of Democratic caucus duties, such as being the assistant Democratic whip.
"We are responsible for ensuring the people of Michigan, and the people of the 4th Senate District, are represented by a senator who can serve them effectively," Ananich said in a statement.
Smith had been the minority vice chairman of the agriculture, economic development and energy committees as well as a member of the banking and financial institutions panel.
The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus urged the public and other lawmakers to withhold judgment on Smith, considering he has served as a state representative and senator "with distinction" since 2003.
"The membership of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus opposes violence and understands the seriousness of these allegations," the caucus said in a statement. "However, we would like to urge due process and equal protection in this matter as outlined in our 14th Amendment.
"Like any other individual, Sen. Smith remains innocent until proven guilty."
If he is convicted of the crimes he's accused of, it wouldn't necessarily lead to removal from office despite a state law meant to give lawmakers an option to remove a colleague who breaches the public's trust.
"I'd caution people to reserve their judgment," fellow Detroit Democrat Bert Johnson said earlier Tuesday.
"There will come a time when there will have to be some decisions made about actions here, when and if this thing takes a turn for the worse, but we're not there yet," he added. "This is a big, big thing, and it's trouble, but it deserves our patience and our due diligence."
Smith is the son of Wayne County Circuit Judge Virgil Smith, who presides over the court's Juvenile Division.
After police Monday sought charges against Smith, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy sent the warrant request back for further investigation. Police re-sent the warrant request Tuesday.
"We asked for further work on the warrant and the information was received this morning," Worthy said in a statement. "We let the facts and evidence guide our charging decision and nothing else."
Besides the charges he faces, Smith was ordered to have no contact with his ex-wife.
Godfrey Dillard, Smith's attorney, called Thomas the "aggressor" in the incident.
Dillard said during the brief arraignment hearing that Thomas "forced her way into (Smith's home)" and attacked him.
"This case is going to come down to the complainant's word versus the defendant's word," Dillard said. He refused comment after the hearing.
Dillard on Monday had asked Chief Wayne Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny to sign a writ authorizing Smith's early release from the Detroit Detention Center, but Kenny refused, three law enforcement sources confirmed.
Kenny declined to comment, because he said the case might be assigned to him. Dillard did not return a phone call seeking comment.
If convicted, Smith faces up to four years in prison on the felonious assault charges; a possible five years and $15,000 in fines for the malicious destruction of property charges. He could spend up to a year behind bars for the domestic violence charge and another two years for the felony firearms charge.
Smith told police that shooting at Thomas' Mercedes-Benz GLA250 with a rifle was "the most stupid thing" in his life.
In a Detroit Police report, Smith said Thomas "was banging on (the) bedroom window" of his home in the 18000 block of Wexford on the city's east side at about 1 a.m. Smith said he opened the front door, and Thomas "kicked the door open and pushed (past) him."
Smith told police Thomas tried to attack a woman who was in his bed. He said he grabbed Thomas, they both fell backwards, knocking over a television. Smith told police he forced Thomas out of the house and she threw a chair at the windows. He then said he shot at her car.
A second police report, containing Thomas' side of the story, said she was invited to stay the night at Smith's house, and, when she arrived a naked Smith and an unknown woman met them at the door.
She told police she and Smith argued, he grabbed her and shoved her face first into the carpet. Smith then hit her four or five times in the face with his fists. Thomas said as she fled the house Smith followed her with a gun and fired at her.
Police said a rifle of undisclosed make and model was recovered from the home, according to the report. They called it an automatic weapon, but that could not be confirmed.
Smith filed for divorce in 2009, 59 days after the two were married. The marriage was annulled, according to court records. The couple has no children, according to the filing.
Smith represents the 4th Senate District, from the city's north side, south to Allen Park, Lincoln Park and Southgate. He was re-elected in 2014 to a second four-year term. He previously served three terms in the Michigan House, following his father into politics.
In 2000, he had an arrest for minor in possession of alcohol, according to Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams. In February 2004, he had an operating while impaired by liquor offense; in August of that year, he faced an operating while intoxicated offense. His license was revoked in 2004, Woodhams said. It was fully reinstated in December 2008.