Former police officer sues ex-AG employees after sexual abuse charges dismissed

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A former police officer whose sexual assault case was dismissed by Attorney General Dana Nessel is suing six individuals involved with his case, including a Michigan State Police trooper and three former employees of the Department of Attorney General. 

Sean MacMaster, a former Detroit police officer, filed suit in Detroit federal court last week, alleging that investigators and prosecutors in his case violated his rights to due process and protection from unreasonable search and seizure. 

Former Assistant Michigan Attorney General Brian Kolodziej is among six individuals being sued by a former police officer whose sexual assault case was dismissed by Attorney General Dana Nessel.

MacMaster and his 71-year-old stepfather were arrested in 2019 and charged by the Attorney General’s Office with the sexual abuse of a relative. MacMaster maintained his wife, Johanna MacMaster, had fabricated the story during a custody battle and argued in his lawsuit that investigators acted inappropriately while investigating and prosecuting the case. 

“Defendants encouraged, assisted, and ratified defendant Johanna MacMaster’s unlawful objective to falsely accuse plaintiff of sexual abuse in order to gain an advantage in the custody dispute following divorce from plaintiff,” the May 6 filing said. 

Nessel is aware of the lawsuit filed against the state employees.

Some of the individuals named in the case had been implicated in an internal investigation last year by Nessel's office, but others were cleared in a Kent County investigation of the case. 

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Child Protective Services and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office declined to bring charges against Sean MacMaster when Johanna MacMaster first brought her complaints to them in 2016. She later brought her complaints to a Michigan State Police post in Lapeer and the FBI, both of which declined to investigate after speaking with Oakland County officials, according to the complaint.

When Johanna MacMaster later approached the Michigan State Police and then Center Line Police Department about the case, it was referred to the Department of Attorney General, where Assistant Attorney General Brian Kolodziej took the lead.

Kolodziej resigned from Nessel’s office in September 2019 after he was confronted about allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with the victim in a Mount Pleasant criminal sexual conduct case. He was charged with two counts of misconduct in office in December and is scheduled for a June preliminary examination. 

The scandal led to the dismissal of the Sean MacMaster case and the firing of a department investigator, Lauren Schipani, who also was involved in the Oakland County case. Sean MacMaster had spent five months in jails in Oakland County and Florida, where he was working at the time of his arrest, when his case was dismissed.

Kolodziej and Schipani are among the six being sued.

In his lawsuit, Sean MacMaster alleged Kolodziej had a relationship with a woman in the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, his former employer. The woman’s cousin was Johanna MacMaster, whom Kolodziej met in 2018 and learned of her allegations. 

Kolodziej and a Center Line police officer, both employed to handle cases in Macomb County, investigated Johanna MacMaster’s Oakland County claims in 2018, according to the lawsuit, and brought concerns to an assistant attorney general, who also declined to charge.

Kolodziej also met with Michigan State Police trooper David Busacca that summer about the case, the lawsuit said. He continued his investigation after he was hired by the Attorney General’s Office in 2018, under former Attorney General Bill Schuette, through a federal grant to prosecute sexual assault cases.

Kolodziej eventually obtained permission from Schuette’s Chief of Staff Laura Moody to work on the case. Sean MacMaster alleged in his suit that Moody should have been aware Kolodziej “was acting in a manner which violated Sean’s constitutional rights.”

The lawsuit alleged that Kolodziej and Schipani took the victims to a museum, had a squirt gun fight and went horseback riding. The lawsuit also alleged Kolodziej and Schipani had a romantic relationship.

Sean MacMaster alleged that Kolodziejand Busacca failed to tell a judge while requesting charges that the victim had made inconsistent statements about the alleged abuse or that Children’s Protective Services had declined the case.

During a bond hearing for Sean MacMaster, Schipani misrepresented her work experience working on sexual assault cases, the lawsuit said.

Sean MacMaster’s case eventually was dismissed with prejudice by Nessel in December 2019, based on the revelations regarding Kolodziej and Schipani's testimony during the bond hearing. 

The four other individuals being sued by Sean MacMaster are Moody, Busacca, Johanna MacMaster and Center Line Officer Michael Gerald.

Nessel's internal investigation of Kolodziej's behavior found Moody failed to appropriately supervise Kolodziej and that Schipani had offered "untruthful testimony" in the Sean MacMaster case. Schipani had filed a grievance over the firing, calling it "arbitrary and capricious," and an arbitrator later gave her her job back in the department, according to Schipani's lawyer Gina Puzzuoli.

Moody had left Nessel's office to work for the U.S. Attorney's Office a few months before the allegations against Kolodziej surfaced. 

A separate investigation by Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, who authorized the charges against Kolodziej, found Kolodziej, Busacca and the Center Line officer all acted properly in the Oakland County case. He also found a review of Schipani's testimony showed no perjury.