Acting Macomb prosecutor picked to finish Smith's term

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

The Macomb County Circuit bench voted Wednesday to appoint current acting prosecutor Jean Cloud to fill out the unexpired term of former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith.

Smith resigned March 30 in the wake of criminal charges that he misused $600,000 in forfeiture funds seized in drug and drunken driving cases between 2012 and 2018. Also facing related charges in the still pending criminal case are Smith’s former assistant prosecutor Derek Miller, who is on administrative leave; Benjamin Liston, once Smith’s chief of staff; and a Mt. Clemens security company owner, William Weber.

Jean Cloud

As Smith’s chief trial attorney, Cloud was first in line for succession to the post and temporarily assumed his former duties. She was one eight candidates, including three other assistant prosecutors, to file for consideration.

After brief discussion in the Zoom meeting, during which Judge Diane Druzinski recommended assistant prosecutor Steven Fox for the job, the bench voted 14-1 for Cloud. Druzinski was the lone vote for Fox.

“Congratulations Ms. Cloud,” Chief Judge James M. Biernat, Jr. said before closing  the virtual meeting.

Besides Fox, other assistant prosecutors who filed applications were Dean Alan and Jurij Fedorak.

Rounding out the field were Brian Jaye; 41B District Court Magistrate David Portuesi; Saima Khalil, a director with the Macomb County Bar Association, and Tom Rombach, a former president of the Michigan Bar Association and ex-county commissioner.

Rombach formally withdrew from consideration at the start of the meeting.

Cloud is not among the seven candidates, including Rombach, who filed to run for the four-year prosecutor’s term in the August primary. Other Democrats, who did not file applications for temporary appointment by the Macomb County bench, include retired Macomb Circuit Judge Mary Chrzanowski, former Waterford District Judge Jodi Switalski and attorney Eva Tkacyk.

Republicans State Sen. Peter Lucido and Richard John Goodman, an ex-Macomb County assistant prosecutor, will face off in the same August primary for the right to face the top Democratic candidate in November.

It is expected the November winner will take office immediately after election, according to court Administrator Julie Bovenschen.

Before the vote, several judges praised Cloud and her team for their brief takeover to date. Cloud has addressed some concerns in the still pending criminal probe of Smith and others.  

James Langtry, a part-time assistant prosecutor who worked for Smith as a chief assistant and was a former chief of operations, was terminated in April by Cloud, who previously put Miller on a paid administrative leave. Langtry is not facing any criminal charges.

Smith and his three co-defendants are all free on personal bond and requested a probable cause hearing on charges this week. That hearing has been moved to July 14.

The charges involve allegations concerning forfeiture fund accounts from the prosecutor’s office.Under state law, forfeiture funds — seized from people in drug and drunk driving cases — are supposedly designated for law enforcement training and equipment. Authorities allege Smith and his co-defendants conspired to use the funds for holiday parties, equipment, gifts, even high-tech home surveillance cameras for Smith’s Macomb Township home

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners is reviewing blueprints and expenditures for surveillance cameras that Smith requested for the prosecutor’s office. Commissioner Leon Drolet said 20 cameras were initially listed in a plan Smith arranged that was separate from the county’s other surveillance cameras.

“So far, we have only determined three cameras were purchased and the only persons who had access to them were Smith and Weber Security,” Drolet said.

Michigan State Police removed high-tech equipment installed at Smith’s home last summer, and the agency, is seizing the cameras in the county prosecutor office as evidence, Drolet said.

Smith’s attorney has maintained his client has broken no laws and that when the matter goes to trial, the expenditures will be shown to be justified and legal.

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