Judge blocks release of search warrant documents in Chatfield investigation

St. Joseph Co. prosecutor charged with drunken driving after crash into fence

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

The St. Joseph County prosecutor has been charged with two alcohol-related offenses after he crashed into a fence last month, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.

The attorney general's office has charged John McDonough with operating under the influence, a 93-day misdemeanor, and driving with open intoxicants in the vehicle, a 90-day misdemeanor.

It is alleged that on May 11, McDonough "crossed the center line, veered off the roadway and crashed into a fence" in Lockport Township. The St. Joseph County Sheriff's Office investigated the crash and arrested McDonough at the scene. 

McDonough waived his arraignment, according to a statement from Nessel's office. Vincent Westra, a judge in Kalamazoo County, was appointed by the state court administrator to preside over the case, the statement said. The case is being handled at 3B District Court.

After the judges at that court, which is in St. Joseph County, recused themselves, it fell to the state to assign another judge.

"You need to have someone who doesn't know (the defendant) presiding over the case," said John Nevin, spokesman for the State Court Administrative Office. 

McDonough is due for a pretrial hearing July 24. A staffer at the 3B District Court said McDonough is out on personal bond, and that the bond issue would be raised again at the July 24 hearing.

If McDonough were to miss that court date, "no automatic fine would be owed to the court," but there would be a bench warrant for his arrest, said Ryan Jarvi, a spokesman for Nessel's office.

WMMT-TV in west Michigan obtained audio of McDonough's 911 call reporting the crash.

On the call, McDonough identifies himself and tells the dispatcher he had a "coughing fit" before his vehicle went off Lovers Lane and he "ran over a fence."

The dispatcher asks if McDonough is OK.

"I'm fine. The fence is not," McDonough says. "And my car will need to be towed."

McDonough is up for re-election in the fall.

Michael Hills, attorney for McDonough, said via email that his client "has been released from the hospital and is starting physical therapy to aid in his recovery," adding that "he remains on sick leave from work and will return once he has fully recovered."

Hills said he could not speak on the case, as the matter was in its "initial stages."

In McDonough's waiver of arraignment, submitted to the court June 15, he agreed "not to consume any alcohol, marijuana, illegal or intoxicating substances during the pendency of this case."

The St. Joseph County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.