Suit seeks contempt charges against Macomb prosecutor

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
Macomb County prosecutor Eric Smith

The former head of the Macomb County Republican Party filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to have Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith and one of his top assistants found in contempt of court in the ongoing forfeiture fund controversy.

Attorney Frank Cusumano Jr., who represents Jared Maynard, had previously sued for copies of records concerning transactions from forfeiture fund accounts set up by Smith. Maynard and others have been questioning whether $1.8 million taken from drug dealers, drunken drivers and others by Smith has been appropriately spent for law enforcement purposes.

Tuesday’s lawsuit alleges that in hearings this past January in Macomb Circuit Court, Smith or his attorney, Joshua Van Laan, misrepresented to Judge Edward Servitto whether Smith's office had possession of records, including invoices.

The lawsuit cites search warrants and warrant returns that Smith released to the news media Monday as indications that he did have such documents vendor materials from Weber Security Group and Chemical Bank “receipts and notes” that Michigan State Police removed from his county offices in an April 17 raid.

State police are investigating whether public funds were used to finance an elaborate security system that troopers dismantled at Smith’s Macomb Township home during a separate raid last month. Weber received more than $160,000 in work primarily done on the prosecutor’s third and fifth floor offices from the forfeiture fund, according to records.

“The June 10, 2019, disclosure strongly suggests that … (Smith and Van Laan) … acted in bad-faith and blatantly lied to this court repeatedly and as a result justice was subverted on material issues before the court,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit alleges Van Laan told Servitto in open court that the public record being sought from Smith’s office “did not exist” and were “never even possessed.”

“We have provided him with every single record we have in our possession,” Van Laan is alleged to have told Servitto at one point, according to Tuesday’s complaint.

In a statement Tuesday, Van Laan, who is an assistant county prosecutor, called the suit "meritless."

"We are aware of the latest filing from Karen Spranger's attorney," he said. "The fact that he sent it to the media before serving it on the rest of us really says it all.

"Not only does the motion reveal an incredibly desperate desire for a headline, it is also a prime example of the kind of baseless, illogical, and frivolous filings for which the courts typically award costs to the responding party. As such, we will obviously be asking the court to award costs for our having to respond to such a meritless motion."

“The county is not taking any position on this issue and its not something the county would have pursued,” said Macomb County Corporation Counsel John Schapka.

The county Board of Commissioners authorized a forensic audit of the forfeiture accounts, a probe that is still underway, Schapka said.

A July 8 hearing is scheduled in the contempt matter before Servitto, who is also being asked to refer the matter to the state Attorney Grievance Commission for consideration, which — depending on findings — can include disciplinary action.

(248) 338-0319