Police open criminal investigation into former prosecutor over relationship with victim

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan State Police have opened a criminal investigation into a former assistant attorney general who allegedly confessed to having an intimate relationship with a victim in a sexual misconduct case he was prosecuting. 

Assistant Attorney General Brian Kolodziej admitted to the relationship Friday morning and resigned before the department could immediately end his employment, Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a Tuesday press conference. 

Nessel's office had been notified by state police of the allegations Thursday evening and had put Kolodziej on leave within an hour of receiving the information, she said. 

"To say that I'm horrified, to say that I'm disgusted, it's really an understatement," Nessel said. 

The revelation has prompted internal reviews at both the Attorney General's office and at Kolodziej's former employer, the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office. 

Defense attorney Joe Barberi told The Detroit News Tuesday afternoon that he was informed by Nessel's office Monday of the prosecutor's resignation, which was first reported by the Morning Sun of Alma. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel

Barberi had represented Ian Elliott, who pleaded no contest to third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Isabella County and is serving a year in prison. Elliott is a former Central Michigan University student who was accused of sexually assaulting two women.

Elliott’s case was handled by Kolodziej, a 41-year-old former film actor and former Macomb County assistant prosecutor from March 2, 2015 to Sept. 14, 2018. Kolodziej couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Kolodziej's alleged relationship with a victim in the Elliott case took place while the case was pending, Nessel said. 

Barberi told The News he’s reached out to Nessel’s office “to see if the injustice that’s been done here can be corrected.”

Barberi said he raised concerns about Kolodziej as early as April, when a judge in the case determined the assistant attorney general had violated court rules with “false pleadings.” At sentencing, Kolodziej verbally attacked Barberi’s defense of Elliott, he said.

Barberi said he's still uncertain of the best path forward. 

“The problem I have is, how will this man ever get a fair trial when Mr. Kolodziej was tainting witnesses because of his relationship with (the victim)?” the defense attorney said. "...The only right thing to do is to dismiss these charges."

Nessel's office is conducting an internal review of any cases Kolodziej was involved in, she said Tuesday. 

The Macomb County Prosecutor's Office is conducting a similar review of the cases Kolodziej prosecuted there. While the office is "very troubled" by the allegations, it had "never received any accusations of wrongdoing by Mr. Kolodziej," Prosecutor Eric Smith said. 

He served as a member of the county's Child Protection Unit prosecuting sexual assault crimes involving minor victims.

"I have ordered an immediate internal investigation to be conducted on all files handled by Mr. Kolodziej during his tenure in our office," Smith said. "If anyone has information about a particular case where inappropriate behavior transpired, we encourage you to come forward and let your voice be heard."

Kolodziej also worked as a general assignment assistant prosecutor in Genesee County. Prosecutor David Leyton's office was unable to provide further information about his employment there Tuesday night. 

Any potential charges that stem from the Michigan State Police investigation into Kolodziej would be referred to the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council for an independent prosecution, Nessel said. 

Barberi's concerns regarding courtroom behavior were never brought to her attention, Nessel said, but have already spurred changes in the department. She said all allegations of ethical or prosecutorial misconduct now will be brought to her directly or her executive team. 

She said she also will require staff to undergo training on the boundaries that should be maintained with witnesses and victims. 

"This man's actions do not define our department but our response will," Nessel said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.