Ex-clerk must pay restitution in ticket bribes

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — A former court clerk was sentenced Friday to probation and must pay thousands in restitution after she accepted bribes to dismiss traffic tickets without approval from any judge.

Detroiter Annette Bates, 56, received four years probation and was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the 36th District Court, where she worked and participated in the bribery scheme alongside co-conspirator Charles Fair, Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a press release.

Bates earlier pleaded guilty as charged to two counts forgery, admitting she received $10,000 to improperly dismiss around $40,000 in traffic tickets. Fair, a Detroiter who was not employed at the court, also has pleaded guilty as charged to two counts forgery, Schuette said. He will be sentenced March 14.

Conviction on each count was punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

From October 2010 to January 2013, requests to dismiss tickets were funneled from Fair to Bates, who dismissed the tickets using the names of four district court judges, Schuette said. The unnamed judges had no knowledge of the scheme.

In some instances, the bogus dismissals would allow drivers with suspended licenses to regain their operator’s permits, officials have said.

“Ms. Bates took personal advantage of the public office she was entrusted with,” Schuette said Friday in a statement after Bates’ sentencing. “Not only did she break the law, she took advantage of a city rising from the ashes of bankruptcy.”

Chief Judge Nancy Blount of the 36th District praised the investigation, led by the attorney general’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Detroit-Area Public Corruption Task Force.

“The judicial system works,” Blount said in a statement Friday. “The Court remains committed to cooperating with all law enforcement agencies. We will assist in all investigations leading to the arrest and prosecution of any individual, whether a court employee or not, who commits illegal acts that violate the public’s trust in the court system.”

HFournier@detroitnews.com

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@HollyPFournier