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Ex-Livingston County judge Theresa Brennan sentenced to six months in jail for perjury

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Howell — In the past, Theresa Brennan was the one meting out justice to a  defendant begging for leniency during sentencing. 

Friday, Brennan found herself on the other side in Livingston County Circuit Court as visiting Judge Paul Cusick prepared to sentence her for committing perjury during her divorce proceedings.

Former Judge Theresa Brennan addresses the court before sentencing.

"I ask for mercy," Brennan told Cusick, who sentenced her to six months in jail. 

The former jurist cried as she addressed the judge: "I'm devastated. I've lost my career." Brennan said her suffering had reached a point that "I wondered how to die."

Cusick was not swayed by Brennan's pleas of remorse and shame.

"You took an oath when you became a judge, Ms. Brennan, to uphold the constitution of the United States, the constitution of the state of Michigan and the laws in the state of Michigan," said Cusick. "And when you were a judge, you required people who came before to tell the truth."

Brennan was given conditions to meet when she's on probation after her jail time, including 200 hours of community service, a weapons ban and allowing a probation field agent into her home at any time.

Cusick said Brennan's actions undermined the purpose of the criminal justice system, which is to get at the truth.

Michigan Assistant Attorney General William Rollstin said Brennan betrayed the public's trust and called for Cusick to send her to jail.

"We obviously expect more from our judiciary, whether it's perjury or some other thing," said Rollstin. "This is conduct she brought upon herself. Nobody made her perjure herself."

Brennan, who was a district judge in Livingston County until being removed by the Michigan Supreme Court last June, must turn herself in to begin doing her time Jan. 24.  

She declined comment as she left court Friday. 

People in the standing-room crowd clapped and one courtroom spectator shouted, "Welcome to your nightmare!" after Brennan's sentence was announced.

Howell attorney Tom Kizer was among those who said justice was served Friday with Brennan's punishment. He said he was not persuaded by Brennan's comments Friday.

Kizer said his mind is on Jerome Kowalski and others who went before Brennan when she was a judge and were denied justice.

"I do believe this is justice  and this ends of chapter of what has gone on," he said outside the courtroom shortly after Brennan was sentenced.  (Authorities) still needed to address the misconduct in the Kowalski case."

Brennan is accused of judicial misconduct involving Kowalski's case in January 2013. The former judge is accused of having an affair with a Michigan State Police lieutenant  who was a key witness  Kowalski's murder trial.

Kowalski was convicted of killing his brother, Richard, and sister-in-law, Brenda. The couple were found shot to death in their Osceola Township home in May 2008.

Brennan testified about her close friendship with MSP Lt. Sean Furlong and that he was a visitor at the family's cottage and that her husband, upon her recommendation, gave Furlong tickets to a University of Michigan football game, which the MSP investigator attended with his son.

Prosecutors have planned to retry Kowalski, whose convictions were vacated because of the scandal.

Brennan pleaded guilty to perjury, a 15-year felony, last month. Two lesser charges against Brennan, misconduct in office and tampering with evidence, were dropped.

In April, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission recommended that Brennan be removed from the bench in 53rd District Court after the commission found she failed to disclose relationships with a state police detective and an attorney who had appeared before her; tampered with evidence in her divorce case; lied under oath; "was persistently impatient, undignified, and discourteous," and ordered employees to perform personal tasks during work hours.

In removing Brennan, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled "the cumulative effect of a respondent's misconduct convinces this Court that respondent should not remain in judicial office."

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

George Hunter contributed