Judge dismisses PPO against Rep. Marino after review of 'totality of circumstances'

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

An Ingham County judge has ended a personal protection order obtained by a Birmingham lawmaker against her Harrison Township colleague after she said he sent her threatening texts. 

Ingham County Circuit Judge Lisa McCormick in a Wednesday order said testimony and exhibits reviewed during a hearing last week showed the behavior of Democratic Rep. Mari Manoogian made it difficult for Republican Rep. Steve Marino to know what was acceptable.

State Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township, was removed from his committee assignments after state Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, accused him of sending threatening text messages.

Manoogian and Marino, McCormick wrote, "often engaged in offensive, and sometimes violent, vulgar language when talking with each other and discussing other individuals, including coworkers. 

"While petitioner had no problem with this type of language when directed at other people, once directed at her, she claimed a fear that respondent would harm her," McCormick wrote. 

The decision was followed shortly by an announcement from House Speaker Jason Wentworth saying Marino would be returning to work and would be re-appointed to committees. Marino will now serve on the House Appropriations Committee as well as several appropriations subcommittees but he wasn't return to the House Commerce and Tourism Committee on which he served with Manoogian. 

Marino, 32, has been under a PPO since mid-September, after Manoogian, 29, showed the court texts in which Marino said he would make it his "life mission to destroy" Manoogian. The texts also said Marino hoped Manoogian's "car explodes on the way in" and he warned her to "hide on the House floor."

The texts came in September, nearly two years after the Harrison Township Republican and Birmingham Democrat ended a brief relationship. They had continued to text and served on the same committee after the relationship ended. 

After Manoogian brought the texts to House leadership in September, Marino was removed from committee assignments. 

McCormick's initial personal protection order barred Marino from being in the same room with Manoogian, but Republican House leadership and Manoogian agreed to an arrangement that allowed Marino to attend House session with a security escort.

Michigan State Police investigated the texts, but Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon declined charges in late October. 

McCormick's decision Wednesday comes after a nearly four-hour hearing Friday in which additional testimony was taken and additional text messages were reviewed. 

Manoogian told the judge during that hearing that she was fearful of "retaliatory behavior" from Marino and that Marino's texts began to become "emotionally abusive" starting in spring 2020. She also alleged that she saw Marino abuse his dog.

But Marino's lawyer on Friday listed several vulgar texts Manoogian sent to Marino during their relationship, including calling one colleague a "dumb ass" and saying she wanted to murder another. 

McCormick in her Wednesday order noted a review of the "totality of the circumstances" and history of texts between the lawmakers must be part of the analysis for the PPO to be continued. 

"The court finds that petitioner's behavior made it impossible for respondent to know what was acceptable from day to the next," McCormick wrote.


Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.