Wayne Co. clerk: Davis' prosecution racially motivated

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Activist Robert Davis admitted stealing $92,000 from cash-strapped Highland Park schools and spending the money at car dealerships, hotels, bars and a custom-clothing store but Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett thinks his prosecution was racially motivated, according to federal court records.

Robert Davis

Garrett was among several people who penned letters to help Davis reclaim his job at Detroit's biggest municipal union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Davis was fired after pleading guilty Sept. 2 to stealing money from the school district and filing a false tax return.

Most of Davis' character witnesses shifted blame for his legal problems or said he was innocent. Garrett mentioned race during an interview with a U.S. Department of Labor investigator.

"Ms. Garrett described Davis's legal problems as an example of 'what a black man in Detroit' is up against,'" federal prosecutors wrote in a federal court filing Thursday.

The government is fighting Davis' attempt to reclaim his union job.

"Ms. Garrett does not believe that Davis personally profited from the Highland Park Schools," prosecutors wrote. "Ms. Garrett added that Davis has matured and is committed as a parent and to being a strong voice in the community."

Cathy Garrett

Davis was charged in 2012 in a 16-count indictment alleging he stole more than $125,000 from Highland Park schools between 2004 and 2010.

According to the indictment, Davis told the IRS he never made more than $63,000 in a single year between 2006 and 2009.

The indictment alleges Davis made a lot more money, illegally.

Davis was accused of using some of the school district's cash on an $84,000 spending spree at car dealerships, hotels, bars and a custom-clothing store.

The FBI analyzed bank records showing debit card purchases totaling $84,055 at several places, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Foot Locker, Gap Kids, Gymboree, Michael's Custom Clothing, Sears and Kmart.

The money also was spent on travel, utility bills and for satellite TV, according to an FBI affidavit.

Davis, who recently filed bankruptcy, will be sentenced Dec. 18 in federal court.

Garrett's brother, Al Garrett, is the head of AFSCME Council 25, the same union that fired Davis on Sept. 18.

Federal law prohibits someone convicted of embezzlement from working for a union.

Al Garrett said "it just did not look good for the union to have Davis as an employee," according to the court filing.

Other character witnesses voiced tepid support for Davis.

Darnelle Dickerson, a lawyer who has known Davis for several decades, admitted he would "think twice about trusting Davis with (Dickerson's) personal or business assets," according to the filing.

Prosecutors tried to undercut support from Davis' supporters. The supporters believe he is innocent, a victim of a political vendetta and that the charges "are somehow racially motivated," prosecutors wrote.

"If Davis's own character references, at the very least, do not accept that which Davis himself has admitted to doing, it's difficult to find them equipped to provide credible evidence of Davis's rehabilitation," prosecutors wrote.


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