Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy blamed “substandard” police work and a lack of evidence Tuesday as among the reasons she decided not to criminally charge three men who wrote Facebook posts that threatened or denigrated police officers.
A case against a fourth man arrested last month is still being investigated by police, Worthy said in a statement Tuesday.
Worthy said she couldn’t prove the men were in Wayne County when they typed the threats and said police did not read some of the suspects their Miranda rights.
“These cases are very serious and the police investigation must be equally serious and thorough,” Worthy said. “DPD has many fine investigators, but the work in the four Facebook cases was substandard. When this happens, we must request further investigation.
“We cannot fly by the seat of our pants in charging cases. The police are trained to know when they must give Miranda rights, and they are aware that a viable case is not possible with Miranda violations and no other evidence.”
Worthy’s decision was blasted by Police Chief James Craig, who said his officers were in constant contact with prosecutors about what was needed in the investigation — “only to find out in an 8-page press release there were supposedly problems.”
“She didn’t have the courtesy to tell us if there were any issues,” Craig said. He added the four men were arrested for traffic warrants, which is why he said they weren’t read their Miranda rights.
“We didn’t pick them up for the threats; it was for traffic warrants. So to make it sound like we did sloppy work is disingenuous.
“We were in constant communication with them. At my direction, my investigators called prosecutors several times a week. If there were problems, why didn’t they tell us about them? We have to find out from a press release? I’m sorry; that’s ridiculous.”
In separate incidents, police arrested four African-American men in early July, after they allegedly posted threats that included: “All lives can’t matter until black lives matter. Kill all white cops,” and “It’s time to wage war and shoot the police first.”
Detroit police on July 11 submitted warrant requests seeking charges of using a computer to make threats, a two-year felony, against the four men.
Detroit Police Officers Association President Mark Diaz also on Tuesday criticized Worthy’s decision.
“The decision not to charge these men with crimes is unfortunately not a surprise to those of us in the law enforcement community,” he said. “Time and again, Kym Worthy has shown she doesn’t support our front-line heroes or emergency service workers. This is par for the course with her.
“Her attempt to place the blame on Detroit police is despicable.”
Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor’s Office, further explained.
“The police must provide evidence that the crime occurred in Wayne County for us to charge a crime,” she said. “We were not able to charge because the statements of two people violated Miranda, so we couldn’t use them to prove venue, and there were no other proofs on that issue. In the third case based upon our request for further work, it was documented that the suspect was in Puerto Rico, again, there was no venue in Wayne County.
“In all three cases, the was no proof that the crime was committed in Wayne County. Without that we can’t issue charges. “
In the past month, prosecutors in several states, including Michigan, have charged people for allegedly making threats against officers on social media. The charges have ranged from using a computer to make threats to terrorism.
Michigan State Police troopers on July 18 arrested Billy R. Thompson, 33, in Saginaw after he allegedly wrote on Facebook: “Let’s get these cops. It’s hunting on all you pigs in the injustice system. Let’s murder them like they murder us. It’s long past time for revolutionary action. Everyone strap up!” Thompson, who is the nephew of recently retired district judge M.T. Thompson Jr., was charged with using a computer to commit a crime.
Thompson was bound over for trial after waiving his right to a preliminary exam Aug. 16. No court date has been set.
Prosecutors in Norwalk, Connecticut; Racine, Wisconsin; Illinois; New Hartford, New York; and Dallas are among those who have charged people in recent weeks for making social media threats against cops.
“I find it interesting that they’re able to charge these cases in other jurisdictions,” Craig said. “The problem is, (Worthy) wants a certainty of prosecution. But that’s not the standard. We arrest on probable cause. It’s up to a jury to decide if a crime occurred.”
Worthy said in her statement there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the men with terrorism or lesser crimes.
“(One of the cases) could not be charged under Michigan’s terrorism statute,” she said. “A person is guilty of making a terrorist threat if he threatens to commit to an act of terrorism. An act of terrorism is an act that would be a violent felony under the laws of Michigan, that the person knows or has reason to know is dangerous to human life, and that is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or affect the conduct of government or unit of government through intimidation or coercion.
“Accordingly, the elements of the offense are: (1) a threat, (2) to commit an act, (3) (a) that would be a violent felony, (b) that the person knows or has reason to know is dangerous to human life, and (c) that is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or affect the conduct of government or a unit of government. Only ‘true’ threats are prohibited under the statute.”
Worthy’s decision follows an arrest Monday night of a man who allegedly threatened to “kill that pig” in a Facebook thread lauding a Detroit cop for delivering school supplies to children, police said.
The alleged threat was posted beneath a video showing the female officer from the 11th Precinct passing out supplies to kids, Craig said.
Courts have ruled that “true threats” are not protected under the First Amendment. But determining when lawful speech crosses the line and becomes unlawful is difficult, and the definition of a “true threat” is open to interpretation, legal experts say.
The four men were arrested days after five Dallas officers were killed July 7 by a sniper during a protest march. The man blamed for the killings and injuries to seven others, former U.S. Army soldier Mikah Xavier Johnson, an African-American, reportedly told police he wanted to kill as many white cops as possible.
Since then, 20 officers have been killed in the line of duty nationwide, 13 of whom were shot, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks police killings. So far this year, the website lists 37 police officers fatally shot in the line of duty, up 61 percent during the same period in 2015.