State Sen. Virgil Smith Jr. was sentenced Monday to 10 months in the Wayne County Jail and five years of probation in a plea agreement to charges he shot at his ex-wife’s car.
But the judge’s ruling could be in jeopardy over whether he will be forced from office.
Wayne County Judge Lawrence Talon said he can’t enforce a provision in the agreement that Smith would be forced to leave the Legislature as part of his punishment for firing up to 20 shots at his ex-wife ’s car.
However, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said if Talon doesn’t accept the resignation she will pull the full agreement off the table, potentially exposing Smith to a harsher sentence.
Talon said Monday Smith was not constitutionally required to resign from office adding that decision “belongs to his constituents.”
Talon explained that the crime Smith is accused of did not involve his public office. He said forcing Smith out would be illegal for him to enforce, according to his interpretation of the Michigan Constitution.
“You do not have to resign from the Senate,” Talon told Smith.
Worthy’s office says it has been ordered to file a brief with their legal objection by March 21. “The plea is legal, and the defendant agreed to it,” Worthy said. “If all the conditions are not accepted by the court we will withdraw our plea. We are certain that we stand on solid legal ground.”
Talon scheduled a hearing for March 28 to sort it out.
Meanwhile, Smith’s colleagues called for him step down.
Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel on Monday said: “With Senator Smith pleading guilty to this terrible crime, now is the time for Democratic leadership in Michigan to step up and do the right thing. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich should call for Smith’s resignation. His behavior is appalling, and the residents in his district deserve better. ... They deserve effective representation in Lansing, and it is clear Smith can no longer fulfill that duty.”
A spokeswoman for the the state Senate Democrats said they “remain committed to making sure the people of the 4th Senate District are getting the services they deserve while the legal process plays out.”
As part of his sentencing, Smith also must undergo drug and alcohol treatment. He holds a medical marijuana card, according to his attorney, and the issue of whether he gets to keep it during his probation will be addressed later between Talon, Smith’s attorneys and prosecutors.
The state lawmaker appeared morose and kept his head down during most of the hearing as his father, Wayne County Judge Virgil Smith and others painfully looked on.
“He’s being held accountable,” Smith’s lawyer, Godfrey Dillard, said. “His political career is destroyed.”
Smith was allowed to plead guilty to malicious destruction of property greater than $20,000 for allegedly firing shots at his ex-wife’s Mercedes Benz in May 2015. The charge, a felony, carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Charges of felonious assault, felony firearm and domestic violence will be dropped.
Smith, 36, did not speak during the sentencing hearing but wiped tears from his eyes after Anistia Thomas, Smith’s ex-wife, spoke about losing the “love of my life” and receiving over 18 bruises, a busted lip and swollen jaw after the early morning fight when she went to Smith’s eastside home and found another woman, naked, in his bed.
After Smith and Thomas allegedly tussled inside the home and on the porch, Smith is said to have pointed an AR-15 at her and then shot at her car. The weapon was surrendered to police as part of the plea deal.
More than 20 rounds were fired into Thomas’ vehicle during the incident at his home in the 18000 block of Wexford.
Thomas spoke tearfully about the incident saying she has suffered physical and emotional pains. She told Talon that Smith “hunted” her down and shot at her car.
“It pains me that it has come to this,” Thomas said. “I hope God spares his soul.”
Smith had been scheduled to go to trial March 7.
Under additional terms of the plea offer, Smith would be prohibited from holding elective office or being appointed to an office while on probation. He also would have to submit to a mental health evaluation and surrender the gun as part of the plea agreement.