Worthy seeks high court ruling on Virgil Smith case

Oralandar Brand-Williams, and Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Just days after Virgil Smith placed second in the primary election for a seat on the Detroit City Council, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy asked the Michigan Supreme Court to reinstate plea bargain provisions that would bar him from running for office.

“Defendant Virgil Smith entered into a plea agreement under which he agreed to resign from his position as State Senator and not hold elective or appointive office during the term of his probation,” reads part of a motion filed Thursday with the high court. “The Circuit Court struck those provisions, and denied the People’s motion to vacate the plea.”

Smith finished second in Tuesday’s primary election held Tuesday beating out council president pro-tem George Cushingberry and has advanced to the November election for a seat on the city council. Candidates for the November election must be certified and the information must be sent to the printer by Aug. 22.

“A decision from this Court is necessary by August 22, 2017, so that defendant may make an informed decision whether he will continue to run for office and, if he chooses to run, the voters casting ballots will be aware whether defendant will be violating the plea agreement if elected and that a special election would be necessary in the event defendant resigns or is removed from office,” according to the brief filed Thursday with the state Supreme Court.

As part of his plea agreement in a case for shooting at his ex-wife’s car in May 2015, Smith was to be prohibited from holding elective office during his five years of probation.

Immediately after his conviction, Smith said he had no intention of running for city council. However, residents in District 2 convinced him to put his name on the ballot, he said.

Many were disappointed with the incumbent, City Council President Pro-Tem George Cushingberry, and wanted a change, Smith said.

Smith finished second in the primary behind Roy McCalister Jr.

“Yes, I had reservations (about running) with all that’s going on,” Smith said. “I have learned some hard lessons and now I’m moving forward.”

Smith’s appellate attorney Valerie Newman said Thursday that the judge did not agree to the part of Smith’s plea deal about preventing him from running for office during his probation.

“It was struck (down) by the judge,” said Newman. “The judge said that part of the (plea) agreement violates the (U.S.) Constitution.”

The high court could decide to ditch the plea deal for Smith and send the proceedings back before the original court.

“At this point it’s going to be hard to start over and to be fair,” Newman said. “They bargained in good faith and the judge made a decision.”

In March 2016, 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. The charge, a felony, carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Charges of felonious assault, felony firearm and domestic violence against Smith were dropped. He resigned his state Senate seat a few weeks later.

Smith had been scheduled to go to trial before he entered into an agreement with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon told Smith he did not have to agree to resign from the state Senate.

During a hearing in March 2016, Talon denied the prosecutor’s motion to pull Smith’s plea deal off the table after Talon said he would not enforce the portion of it that would have forced the Detroit Democrat to step down from the Legislature.

The prosecutor’s office appealed Talon’s ruling.

In April, a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Worthy’s bid to void the plea deal.


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