Ex-Macomb prosecutor Eric Smith's plea hearing moved again amid virus diagnosis
A plea hearing in former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith's corruption case has been rescheduled a second time after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, officials said Thursday.
Smith had been set to appear late last month but was forced into quarantine after his family was in contact with people who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The former prosecutor has agreed to plead guilty to obstructing a federal investigation into whether he stole campaign funds.
He was expected to plead guilty at a new hearing Friday. However, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker issued a order Thursday to move the date to Dec. 17 after Smith was diagnosed and hospitalized this week.
"Defendant continues to exhibit severe symptoms of the virus," Parker wrote. "Defendant is in quarantine at his home pursuant to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention’s guidelines. It is in the best interest of justice that defendant be present
in his counsel’s office to prepare for and execute the plea hearing."
The date change further delays the conviction of the highest-ranking public official charged in a crackdown on public corruption in Macomb County.
In September, Smith was charged with one count of obstruction of justice, a 20-year felony.
The criminal charge came months after Macomb's top law enforcement official resigned.
Prosecutors allege Smith tried to push a friend and two assistant county prosecutors to lie to a federal grand jury and FBI investigators who concluded he was behind two fraud schemes involving $75,000 from his political campaign fund. Smith used the money for personal expenses from 2012 through this year, authorities allege.
Smith reached the plea deal to resolve a corruption investigation that coincided with a separate state probe that in March led to the Michigan Attorney General's Office filing racketeering charges against him.
He and three others were accused of participating in a scheme to embezzle $600,000 in county forfeiture funds.
Since 2016, federal prosecutors have secured the convictions of 22 contractors and public officials, including former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds, trash mogul Chuck Rizzo and towing titan Gasper Fiore.
Former county Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco is awaiting trial on federal corruption charges.