2nd trial clears St. Clair Shores cop of most charges

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

For the second time in a year, a Wayne County jury failed Friday to convict a white St. Clair Shores police officer accused of racial bias and other charges in an incident involving two African-American suspects and the theft of his daughter’s cellphone.

The jury did convict him on a misdemeanor neglect of duty charge, which usually carries a year’s incarceration sentence and court fines.

The racially diverse jury acquitted Michael Notoriano of felonious assault, armed robbery, unlawful detention and ethnic intimidation. He was accused of tracking his teenaged daughter’s cellphone to a Detroit neighborhood where he and another police officer allegedly roughed up the suspects they believed stole it.

The jury was in its second day of deliberations when it reached its verdict. The decision comes nearly a year after a mistrial was declared before Wayne Circuit Judge Mark Slavens.

“We believe that all of the charges were warranted under the facts and evidence in this case,” Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Maria Miller said. “Although we are disappointed with the jury’s verdict, we do note that they held defendant Notoriano accountable for his conduct by finding him guilty of willful neglect of duty.”

Notoriano was accused of enlisting the help of his friend, Detroit Police Sgt. David Pomeroy, around 4:30 p.m. July 21, 2013, to retrieve his daughter’s iPhone which was tracked to an eastside Detroit gas station. Prosecutors said Notoriano and Pomeroy, both off-duty at the time, stole marijuana, cash and a gun from the suspects, who are African-American men.

Pomeroy took a plea.

Notoriano was charged with ethnic intimidation after he allegedly hit one of the men and allegedly used the N-word.

Notoriano’s defense attorney, Richard Convertino, a former federal prosecutor, said his client “is relieved.”

“It’s been nearly a three-year ordeal,” Convertino said after the verdict. He noted the second trial was longer with more witnesses and trial exhibits.

“We had everything a trial attorney could want,” Convertino said. “We had a careful, conscientious jury and a judge who is outstanding for both sides”

The case was heard before Wayne Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny.

Convertino said Notoriano did not lose his state certification to be a police officer if he were to choose to continue in that profession. Convertino said he didn’t know if he would.

During closing arguments, Notoriano’s attorney denied his client did anything wrong and that his client wasn’t motivated by race when questioning the individuals about the phone.

“What they did was lawful from start to finish,” Convertino said.

Under questioning this week from assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey, Notoriano admitted he had made “ignorant” racist remarks while performing his duties as a police officer. He testified Wednesday his actions in 2013 had “nothing to do with color.”

“I didn’t think they were dangerous because of their (skin) color,” Notoriano said.

Lindsey told jurors that “if what (Notoriano and Pomeroy) did was proper, why did they leave the scene?”

Notoriano will be sentenced 9 a.m. March 8 before Kenny.