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Former state Sen. Virgil Smith sentenced to probation in incident with ex-wife

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Former state Sen. Virgil Smith Jr.  was sentenced to probation Wednesday in connection with a five-year-old case in which he was accused of shooting at his ex-wife's car.

Former state Sen. Virgil Smith

Smith reached a plea deal in September with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Talon stuck to the plea agreement and sentenced Smith to probation, which the former state senator will serve until March 14. Smith also will have to adhere to other terms of the agreement, including having no contact with his ex-wife.

Talon said fortunately, no one was hurt during the "horrible incident" and that he hopes everyone involved has learned and will make better decisions in the future.

"You paid the penalty for your actions," the judge told Smith. "I hope that you and everyone involved has had time to reflect upon what happened ... about everyone's behavior. I trust that everyone's made a decision to move on.  I hope everyone that's involved has learned from this incident  and will make better decisions in the future." 

Felony assault and domestic violence charges against Smith were dropped as part of the plea deal. Charges of malicious destruction of property $20,000 or more, an original offense, and reckless discharge of a firearm were filed instead.

As part of the plea deal, Smith also was charged court and other fees, which he has paid in full, said the judge. Smith will still has to pay a $10 per-month fee for probation supervision.

Smith served nearly nine months in the Wayne County Jail on the original charges from March 28, 2016 to Dec. 4, 2016.

Smith did not speak but his attorney David Steingold said the former state lawmaker denies allegations made by the ex-wife, including that he pointed a gun at her.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey hit back at Steingold's arguments, telling the lawyer that "these matters could have been resolved in a trial (and) the defendant decided to take a plea."

Steingold told Talon that Smith has taken responsibility for his actions and admitted to his "misdeeds" in May 2015 at his home in the 18000 block of Wexford.

"My client had been drinking ... took that gun and did something that he will regret the rest of his life. We are not trying to excuse it," the defense attorney said. "It was a crazy thing to do, perhaps because of his anger ... We're not denying he did it."

Steingold said Smith is dedicated to doing the right thing and has been active in is church and community since the incident.  

Smith's ex-wife, Anistia Thomas, said Thursday: "I never agreed to any plea deal." 

Thomas added: "This verdict is just the beginning, and myself as a true leader who represents women of color — specifically Black women, I will continue to lead efforts as to why Black women across our nation should be valued and why we matter as human beings."

Smith, 40, told The News in September that he plans to resume his political career.

"I believe I have one more race in me," said Smith, who said he is term-limited out of the Michigan House and Senate. Smith, who is a registered lobbyist, said he is interesting in running for the Detroit City Council, to which he unsuccessfully sought election three years ago.

"It's all about being committed to public service, which I've been trained to do and raised on," he said.

Smith said his focus is looking for ways to get illegal guns off the streets and prevent the violence that has plagued Detroit. He said  he is a changed man and is looking forward to a bright future, having gone through Alcoholics Anonymous.

"I haven't had a drink in over five years," he told The News. "(The plea agreement) finally allows me to openly talk about what I learned (from his ordeal) and to try to be a better man my mother wants me to be and that God intended me to be."

Under an initial plea agreement, Smith was to be prohibited from holding elective office during his five years of probation.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that plea deal violated public policy.