Lawyer wants to help DUI offenders get Snyder pardons

The Detroit News

A Birmingham defense attorney hopes to carve out a new business niche following Gov. Rick Snyder’s rare pardon of the drunken driving conviction for a politically connected Oakland County lawyer.

In December, Snyder pardoned attorney Alan Gocha Jr.’s conviction in December 2007 in Bloomfield Township. It was one of 11 pardons the Republican governor issued at the end of his first term from roughly 750 pardon applications.

Gocha, appointed by Snyder to a state board in 2011, is well-known in Republican circles because of his work for the founder of 5-Hour Energy drinks.

Birmingham attorney Patrick Barone, whose Barone Defense Firm represents about 200 drunken drivers annually, said he was “shocked” to learn Gocha got a gubernatorial pardon for a DUI — one of the only kinds of convictions that can’t be expunged from a person’s record by a judge.

“There’s no doubt that having a drunk driving on your record can be a real scarlet letter” in the workplace, Barone said.

So Barone has launched a new website — — to help people with drunken driving convictions apply for a pardon. includes links to the state’s pardon application and a copy of Gocha’s pardon application. “It’s almost a political protest in a way,” Barone said of the website.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor pardoned Gocha’s DUI conviction on the advice of the state parole board.

Wurfel said Snyder moved an office for pardons and commutation out of the governor’s office in 2011 “to help avoid any conflict of interests and make sure there’s no political ties whatsoever.”

Magic and the Nerd

Michigan State basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson gave Gov. Rick Snyder a political lift and perhaps a deflation when he came into Detroit to share his business experience and give tips.

On Monday, the professional basketball Hall of Famer and business partner with Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert tweeted: “Governor Snyder has done a wonderful job turning our state around! #Michigan”

At first blush, this could be interpreted not only as supporting the Republican governor’s tax reduction and other pro-business efforts but perhaps his interest in possibly running for president.

The problem is on Sunday Johnson embraced Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential bid:

“I feel @HillaryClinton will be a great President for the American people and she will make sure that everyone has a voice!”

It was a theme he returned to in Detroit, with Snyder in attendance, telling the business audience he would work for Clinton, and she would win.

Dems back Clinton

Nearly all the Democrats in Congress representing Michigan say they’re supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, with several adopting the hashtag #Hillary2016 in messages on social media.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., dean of the House, is a “likely” Clinton supporter, but it’s too early for endorsements, spokeswoman Stephanie Báez said.

Since Sunday, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow has been on CNN’s “State of the Union” and MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” praising Clinton’s policy priorities.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters tweeted from his campaign account, “I’m standing with @HillaryClinton because she’s the middle class champion that America needs.”

On Facebook, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell posted, “I know it's no surprise to most of you ... but I am in,” linking to Clinton’s campaign-launch video.

A push for Lynch

Michigan’s senior senator, Debbie Stabenow, took to the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday afternoon to chastise her Republican colleagues for continuing to delay a vote on the nomination of Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general.

“As of today, President Obama’s nominee for attorney general has waited 157 days and counting. And we intend to count the days,” said Stabenow, D-Lansing.

“I regret that our Republican colleagues are continuing to perform the same stunts with the majority that they did in the minority — to govern by holding government functions hostage.”

Lynch cleared the Judiciary Committee in late February and “she has now waited longer for a vote on the Senate floor than the last seven attorney generals combined,” Stabenow said.

Lynch’s nomination has stalled over an unrelated dispute related to a human-trafficking bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, reiterated this week that Lynch won’t get a vote until the impasse over the trafficking bill is settled. Democrats have rejected that legislation because it would prohibit using money from a domestic trafficking victims fund for abortions.

Unconfirmed report

An Internet blogger from Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof’s home turf in west Michigan this week accused the West Olive Republican of ducking a town hall where he was supposed to field constituent questions about Proposal 1.

Meekhof, who backs the proposition connected with $1.2 billion more annually for road repairs, was going to face a hostile audience before “bailing on the event,” wrote West Michigan Politics managing editor Brandon Hall of Grand Haven.

The frequent Meekhof critic didn’t accept an explanation from state Rep. Amanda Price, R-Holland, that Meekhof hadn’t confirmed he would attend the April 27 event in Spring Lake.

But Amber McCann, press secretary to Meekhof, said Price is correct — the representative sent out notices before Meekhof’s office had a chance to check his schedule and confirm. He was being asked to co-sponsor it.

“He has talked about Proposal 1, in support of it, at nearly every public appearance since the beginning of the year,” McCann added. “He certainly is not shy about his support for the ballot measure.”

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke, Richard Burr, Lauren Abdel-Razzaq, Gary Heinlein and David Shepardson