Suit claims documents withheld in Macomb prosecutor probe

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Lansing — An activist’s Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit alleges the Michigan State Police and state Attorney General’s Office are withholding public documents — including two additional search warrants — that have been issued in the ongoing probe of spending by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith.

Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw (left) and Lt. Darren Green stand outside the home of Macomb County prosecutor Eric Smith while their fellow officers raid Eric Smith's home on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

Smith, whose forfeiture fund accounts have come under scrutiny, has said the State Police gave him the go-ahead to distribute copies of search warrants executed last month at his Macomb County offices and Macomb Township home because it would not interfere with the probe.

But Robert Davis believes officials deliberately excluded affidavits that accompany such search warrants and lay out potential crimes that may have been committed. Davis, who has requested the documents from both the State Police and Attorney General’s office, said he has also talked with court officials who revealed that instead of the two known search warrants, a total of four were provided to state police.

“According to officials at 54B (District Court in) East Lansing, the Michigan State Police has executed at least four search warrants in the criminal investigation of Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith,” said Davis of Highland Park.

“I believe these are all public records that should be provided. His own press release explaining why he was releasing two of them (search warrants) is evidence enough that everything else should be available.”

Davis noted the release said, “Michigan State Police advised him the release of search warrants and inventory lists would not in any way interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation.”

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Thursday: “We have been served but we don’t comment on litigation.”

Driving the MSP probe is Smith’s spending practices involving around $1.8 million in proceeds from seizures made in drunken driving and drug cases.

The Attorney General's Office initiated a probe and state police investigators executed search warrants April 17 at Smith’s county offices in Mount Clemens. They left with several banker boxes of records.

 A few weeks later, on May 14, state police investigators, carrying warrants and aluminum ladders, knocked on the door of Smith’s Macomb Township home and proceeded to dismantle security cameras and other equipment throughout the home.

 Inventory lists provided to The Detroit News reveal investigators were seeking specific security equipment throughout the home. It is believed the surveillance cameras and other electronics were purchased from and installed by Weber Security Group of Mount Clemens, which, records show, had at least $160,000 in contracts from forfeiture fund accounts.

A person answering the phone at the company recently refused to comment.

Forfeiture funds are required by law to be spend for law enforcement purposes, including equipment and training. Purchases made from the fund for Smith’s private use might be questionable. Smith has maintained all fund expenditures were appropriate.

Michigan State Police declined to release any documents because they have been suppressed by the court. Macomb County officials, including in Smith's office, said they have never received any affidavits nor are they familiar with additional searches that may have been executed by MSP.

Davis’ lawsuit was filed in the Court of Claims in Lansing and asks Judge Michael J. Kelly to declare all of the requested documents are subject to disclosure under the FOIA and to award court costs and attorney’s fees.

Attorney Andrew A. Paterson said they will request an expedited hearing and subpoena Smith to give a deposition.

Davis is known for filing lawsuits against public bodies. A former member of the Highland Park school board, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in 2014 after pleading guilty to converting money from the school district for his own use and filing a false tax return.

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