Lapeer prosecutor, deputy accused of ignoring judge order to return evidence
Lapeer — Attorneys in a drug case want Lapeer County’s top lawman and a sheriff’s detective found in contempt of court for allegedly planning to violate a judge’s order to return seized property.
In Friday legal motions filed in Lapeer Circuit Court, attorneys allege Prosecutor Timothy M. Turkelson and Gary Parks, a detective lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office, conspired to work around Judge Nick Holowka’s order and obstruct justice in a 2012 case against Jaime Fricke.
The 35-year-old Lapeer mother of three was convicted last year of a misdemeanor offense of transport of marijuana. A medical marijuana cardholder, she later sought return of property that may have been destroyed by the sheriff’s office, according to her attorneys.
“The orders were clear,” attorney Neil Rockind said. “Turkelson was ordered some time ago to recuse himself and his office was to have no involvement at all in the case. The judge also later ordered her property be returned.
“But we have emails between (Turkelson) and Parks indicating he continued to be involved and provided advice to Parks that one of his options was to ignore a judge’s order,” said Rockind, a former Oakland County assistant prosecutor. “If that’s not contempt, I don’t know what is.”
Turkelson has not returned telephone calls or emails from The Detroit News.
“This is all BS,” Parks said Tuesday about the allegations. “I am not going to discuss it other than to say there was nothing improper or inappropriate done by anyone.”
Copies of court records obtained by The News show:
■ Turkelson, while in private practice before becoming prosecutor, represented a co-defendant of Fricke’s and had confidential information and knowledge of defense strategy in the criminal case.
■ That prior attorney-client relationship led to Turkelson being disqualified in June 2014 from prosecuting the case and it was assigned to the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office.
■ The Saginaw Prosecutor’s Office reached agreement with Fricke in which she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of transport of marijuana in exchange for dismissal of felony counts.
■ Fricke sought return of seized property including a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu; more than 71/2 ounces of dried marijuana flowers; and body oils and butters.
■ Holowka ordered the return of Fricke’s property May 12, 2015.
■ On May 14, 2015, Parks emailed Turkelson police could not and should not have to comply with Holowka’s order to return seized property and sought advice on how to proceed. Parks never contacted the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office.
■ On the same date, Turkelson emailed Parks that one of the detective’s options was to ignore the judge’s orders until called into court for a hearing
In his emails, Turkelson stressed to Parks he was no longer involved in the prosecution of the case but would discuss Parks’ concerns with the Saginaw prosecutor and ask they object to the order. Turkelson’s email read, in part:
“The other option would be to ignore the order and let them show cause you for not complying. When (that) happens you would be required to come and testify as to why you failed to comply with the court’s order. You would then explain to Judge Holowka exactly what you noted below. At that point Judge Holowka would have to make a decision regarding whether you would need to return the items and I don’t see how he could order you to comply and I don’t see how he could hold you in contempt for not complying ... I can’t advise you to ignore the order Gary but I can tell you that you have valid points that the court needs to be aware of.
“I wish I could get in and help but I have already been removed from the case. We will contact Saginaw County ASAP and we will let you know what they say.”
Assistant Saginaw County Prosecutor Mark Gaertner could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Rockind said property has still not been returned to Fricke.
A hearing on the contempt allegations is scheduled for July 17 before Holowka. If a finding of contempt is made, sanctions can range from fines to jail time. When an attorney is found in contempt of court the matter is referred to the state attorney disciplinary board for review and further consideration which can potentially include suspension or disbarment from practicing law.