Sen. Virgil Smith returns to Senate

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Detroit Democratic Sen. Virgil Smith returned to work for Tuesday’s Senate session but refused to talk about criminal charges related to an alleged shooting of his ex-wife’s car more than two weeks ago.

The 35-year-old lawmaker took his seat in the Senate without speaking to the press after having missed the past six legislative sessions following the incident at his house late May 9 or early May 10.

Smith spoke with colleagues and voted on bills but didn’t respond to questions fired at him by reporters who trailed him as he left the Capitol and headed down the front walk during a noon recess.

Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich, who has stripped Smith of his committee assignments and duties as assistant caucus whip, has urged the lawmaker to reassess his political future.

Smith also did not speak to the media following a preliminary court appearance on Friday.

He has been charged with felonious assault, malicious destruction of personal property $20,000 or more, domestic violence assault and battery, and felony firearm after he allegedly shot up former wife Anistia Thomas’ Mercedes Benz after an argument outside his Detroit house.

Smith was naked at the time, and another woman was in the house, according to the police report.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus have urged patience and noted that, by law, Smith remains innocent unless proven guilty.

Smith’s appearance coincided with a scheduled Tuesday afternoon hearing on Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s proposal that would allow auto insurance companies to sell Detroiters lower-cost policies with a maximum of $275,000 in medical coverage for auto-related injuries. Smith is the plan’s legislative sponsor.

Smith’s legislative website has been taken down except for a message that reads “Senator Virgil Smith's office will continue to be open and available to assist constituents of the 4th Senate district. If you need any assistance, please call 517-373-7918 or email”

Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said members of Smith’s state-paid office staff were moved to the Senate’s main business office across the street.