Support grows for ousting Smith from state Senate
East Lansing — The Michigan Senate’s Democratic leader said Friday he would vote for the expulsion of Sen. Virgil Smith if the Detroit Democrat does not resign from office before heading to jail for 10 months for shooting up his ex-wife’s car.
“I think there is no scenario where a person serving in jail serves in the Michigan Senate,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich said during a taping of WKAR-TV’s “Off The Record.”
Smith is due back in Wayne County Circuit Court on Monday in what’s expected to be the final proceeding before he starts serving a sentence in the county jail for malicious destruction of property greater than $20,000.
The senator’s plea deal with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy called for him to resign his 4th District Senate seat to get a lighter jail sentence, five years of probation and avoid a trial.
Worthy intended to drop additional charges of felonious assault, felony firearm and domestic violence in exchange for Smith’s resignation. But Judge Lawrence Talon said he could not enforce the resignation, which delayed the sentencing while Worthy’s office filed additional legal briefs in the case.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, has said he expects Smith to eventually resign.
“That’s been the expected outcome,” Meekhof spokeswoman Amber McCann said Friday. “At this point, the majority leader is anticipating a voluntary resignation.”
Ananich, D-Flint, said he asked Smith to resign last May after his colleague was charged and released on bond after a late-night incident with his ex-wife, Anistia Thomas, in which police say Smith pointed an AR-15 at her and then fired multiple rounds at her Mercedes-Benz.
Senate Democrats wanted to let Smith’s court proceedings play out before making a judgment on Smith’s political future, Ananich said.
“Now that process is coming to an end and I think a resignation will happen or there will need to be an expulsion,” Ananich said.
Smith’s attorney, Godfrey Dillard, did not return a message Friday seeking comment.
Only four members of the Legislature have been expelled in Michigan’s 179-year history.
The most recent expulsion was last September when the Michigan House ousted Rep. Cindy Gamrat from office for misconduct in office related to Rep. Todd Courser’s failed cover-up of their extramarital affair. Courser resigned before the House could expel him.
Attorney General Bill Schuette filed misconduct in office felony charges against Courser and Gamrat in late February, more than five months after they were run out of office by the House Republican leadership.
Schuette also charged Courser with perjury for allegedly lying under oath to a House committee about instructing state employees to forge his signature on proposed legislation.
Courser has denounced how he and Gamrat — freshmen members of the GOP majority — were treated differently than Smith, a second-term member of the Senate’s Democratic minority.
After he was arrested and charged in May, Smith was stripped of Senate staff and committee assignments, but has continued to show up for session in Lansing, cast votes and collect his $71,685 annual salary.
Courser weighed in earlier this week on the Smith saga in a Facebook post.
“So now Virgil Smith has plead guilty to shooting at his ex-wife 20 plus times and will serve supposedly 10 months in jail and still no effort to remove him from office? No expulsion?” he wrote. “Not that anyone cares that two of the most conservative voices to sit in the State House were removed without any finding of criminality, let alone felonious conduct.”