KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A former Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo employee has been indicted on a federal wire fraud charge after allegedly defrauding immigrants she was supposed to be assisting.
Federal prosecutors contend that Monica Karina Mazei engaged in a scheme between 2015 and this year while assigned to help people apply for visas, work permits, permanent resident status and citizenship.
Prosecutors say she requested blank checks or money orders from her clients, wrote “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” in the payee line of the documents that she used as receipts, then wrote her own name on the checks and cashed them.
The diocese said in a statement Thursday that the employee was fired when officials learned of the potential fraud earlier this year.
Mazei did not return a call left on her phone.
DETROIT (AP)— A man was charged Thursday in the death of a 9-year-old Detroit girl, who was mauled by three dogs despite rescue efforts by neighbors, her father and emergency workers.
Pierre Cleveland, 33, was charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a dangerous animal causing death, Wayne County prosecutors said. Cleveland owned the pit bulls or pit bull mixes that got free from his yard and attacked Emma Hernandez as she rode a bike Monday in her neighborhood on the city’s southwest side.
A judge entered a not-guilty plea on Cleveland’s behalf and set bond at $2 million. The judge also set a probable cause hearing for Aug. 30 and a preliminary exam on Sept. 6.
Defense attorney Emmett Greenwood said Cleveland tried to get the dogs off Emma, and that he has no criminal history. Cleveland is a machinist who lost three fingers in a recent workplace accident, Greenwood said.
“My client and (his) family wanted to convey they are praying for the precious child,” Greenwood told The Associated Press after the hearing. One of the dogs was shot by a bystander while a medical crew tried to save the girl in an alley. The other dogs were captured. Neighbors threw bricks at the dogs to try to stop the attack, police said.
Emma died at a hospital.
Her father, Armando Hernandez, said this week that the dogs lived at a house behind his, and that he and the owner had argued recently about them. The dogs weren’t properly restrained and the fence was too flimsy, Hernandez said.
Prosecutors allege Cleveland left the dogs loose and went to a nearby store. Investigators say the fence was damaged and unsecured, and a side door on a garage was open, leading to the alley.
Cleveland knew the dogs were aggressive. One of the dogs involved in the attack recently killed puppies in Cleveland’s home, a prosecutor said.
“It is high time that the city of Detroit shines a light on the owners of these dangerous animals that sometimes roam and wreak serious havoc — none worse than what happened here,” Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement.
Animal control officers received a complaint in March 2018 about two of the dogs involved in Monday’s attack, according to several media reports. Officers responded to a call about the dogs not being behind the fence but nobody answered the door.
The dogs are expected to be euthanized, though it’s unclear when. The Associated Press left a message with Detroit Animal Care & Control.
The death follows the December 2015 fatal mauling by four pit bulls of Xavier Strickland, a 4-year-old Detroit boy who was attacked with his mother. Police had to shoot them to free the boy’s body.
The dogs’ owner, Geneke Lyons , was convicted several months later of involuntary manslaughter. Lyons wasn’t home at the time of the attack, but prosecutors said he should be held responsible because the dogs weren’t under control. A judge earlier dismissed a second-degree murder charge. Numerous pit bull attacks have made headlines in Michigan and elsewhere. A 2014 American Veterinary Medical Association report says pit bulls are not disproportionately dangerous in comparison to other breeds, and that the owner’s behavior should be taken into account.
ALLEGAN (AP) — A priest wrapped a teen boy in plastic and tape and left him in a janitor’s room for more than an hour at a Michigan church, prosecutors alleged Thursday as they filed a charge of false imprisonment.
The alleged incident occurred in 2013. But the attorney general’s office, citing records from the Kalamazoo Diocese, said the Rev. Brian Stanley “had been engaging in this type of conduct with the binding materials for decades.”
Stanley, 57, was in custody and not immediately available for comment. He appeared via video feed for a hearing in Allegan and was formally charged with unlawful imprisonment.
He was being held on $5,000 bond and ordered to have no contact with minors as a condition of his bond.
The attorney general’s office said the incident occurred at St. Margaret Church in Otsego where Stanley had been asked by the boy’s family to counsel him.
Investigators said the teen was wrapped in plastic and his mouth and eyes were covered with tape.
LANSING (AP) — The Michigan Republican Party sued Thursday to block the formation of a commission to draw congressional and legislative lines in 2021, saying the voter-approved change is unconstitutional because there will be no reliable way to verify the panel’s political makeup.
The federal lawsuit, the second filed by Republicans in less than a month, seeks an injunction against Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, whose office is implementing the law.
Others joining the newest challenge include GOP chairwoman Laura Cox, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and state Rep. Hank Vaupel.
The 2018 constitutional amendment requires that a randomly selected commission of four self-identified Democrats, four self-identified Republicans and five unaffiliated members draw political districts instead of the Legislature, starting in 2021. It is a bid to curtail gerrymandering in a state where the GOP has had one of the largest partisan legislative advantages in the country after controlling the once-a-decade process in 2011.
The suit alleges that the law “can, and likely will, result in a situation where those who do not represent (the party’s) interests are selected as Republican commissioners and, by implication, standard bearers of the political party.”
It says that other states with an independent redistricting panel are different because they have party registration or the political parties are involved in determining their representatives on the commission.
Those excluded from serving on Michigan’s panel include people who currently are or have in the previous six years been elected partisan officials or candidates, their paid consultants or employees, legislative workers, lobbyists and their employees, or political appointees not subject to civil service classification. Also barred from the paid positions are those individuals’ parents, children and spouses.
“We do not oppose the concept of a fairly designed and implemented redistricting committee, but that is not what this is,” Cox said in a written statement. “Instead this is an assault on the associational rights of political parties.”
Voters Not Politicians, the group that spearheaded the ballot measure, said the suit is not surprising but a “reminder of what’s at stake.”
“Those who have the most power to lose will do whatever they can to keep hold of it, but we are confident the redistricting amendment will withstand this legal challenge and all others, and that the will of the people will prevail,” said Nancy Wang, the organization’s executive director.
Under new law, Benson must make applications to join the commission available by Jan. 1, including by mailing them to 10,000 randomly selected voters across the state.
Her office will randomly choose 200 applicants — 60 Republicans, 60 Democrats and 80 unaffiliated with either party. The two Democratic and two Republican legislative leaders will have the option of eliminating 20. After that, Benson will randomly select the 13 members.
BUCHANAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Murder charges have been filed against the driver of a car that ran past a stop sign in southwestern Michigan and slammed into another vehicle, killing four.
The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office announced Tuesday that Dub Alan Collins of Buchanan was charged with four counts of second-degree murder and several drunken driving charges in connection with the Aug. 2 crash.
Killed in the crash was 66-year-old Robert Klint of Sawyer, 60-year-old Melissa Klint of Sawyer, 22-year-old Landyn Klint of Sawyer and 52-year-old Virginia resident Kent Williamson.
The 54-year-old Collins and his 38-year-old wife, Heather, were taken to a South Bend hospital with injuries from the crash.
The prosecutor’s office says while blood tests are pending, Collins’ suspected intoxication, excessive speed and failure to stop for the stop sign “knowingly created a very high risk of death,” meriting second-degree murder charges.
LANSING (AP) — The embattled director of Michigan’s civil rights department has taken a leave of absence, weeks after he was reprimanded for making inappropriate remarks about the appearance of a woman he saw outside a meeting.
The state Civil Rights Commission on Tuesday gave no reason for 69-year-old Agustin Arbulu’s request for leave, which was made Monday, nor did it say how long the leave will last or if he will continue to be paid.
He earns approximately $159,000 a year.
Arbulu, a Republican, has faced calls to resign from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and others after a male communications analyst for the agency complained that Arbulu repeatedly commented about the woman’s appearance during a break from a May listening session on the planned reconfiguration of the Grosse Pointe Public School System in suburban Detroit. The employee, who is gay, said he told Arbulu the statements were not OK and Arbulu responded that “he would not understand because he did not like women.”
An investigator reviewing the incident said Arbulu told her if he did make inappropriate comments, he was referring to his adult daughter.
Mary Engelman, deputy director of the Department of Civil Rights, was named acting director by Alma Wheeler Smith, chairwoman of the Civil Rights Commission.
“I’m confident Mary will do an exemplary job of leading the department and guiding our efforts to refocus on the many civil rights challenges that face us,” the Democrat said in a written statement.
DETROIT (AP) — A man was in police custody Tuesday in connection with the death of a 9-year-old girl in Detroit who was mauled by three dogs despite efforts by neighbors and her own “heartbroken” father, who lamented that “she was gone when I reached her.”
Emma Hernandez was riding her bike in an alley Monday afternoon when three dogs, described as pit bulls or pit bull mixes, got free from a yard and attacked her, police said. She died later at a hospital and the dog’s owner has been taken into custody. No charges have been filed, though police sent a warrant to prosecutors.
“I tried my best. I tried CPR. I tried helping her. I did everything I could in my power,” Emma’s father, Armando Hernandez, told WWJ-AM on Tuesday. “She was gone when I reached her.”
One of the dogs was shot and killed by a bystander while a medical crew tried to save the girl in an alley. The other dogs were captured. Neighbors threw bricks at the dogs to try to stop the attack, police said.
“They were not stopping,” Edward Cruz, who hurled a brick after hearing screams, told The Detroit News. “I had to step in.”
Hernandez said the dogs lived at a house behind his, and he had an argument last week with the neighbor about them. Hernandez says the dogs weren’t properly restrained and the fence was too flimsy.
“I knew the dogs were there. I knew the neighbor,” he said. “We had an argument about it just last week and he just didn’t take care of his dogs properly. He could have prevented this.”
The dogs will likely be euthanized, city officials said.
Hernandez said he keeps replaying the tragedy and feels “empty.”
“I’m really heartbroken right now. I can’t explain it,” he said. “Just, every time I close my eyes, man, I see my baby girl.”
Detroit police Chief James Craig on Tuesday afternoon called the case “tragic” and “distressing.”
“The owner of these dogs should be held accountable,” he said. “Certainly the owner has a responsibility when they have violent animals that those animals are to be secured at all times. If you can’t secure the animal, you shouldn’t have the animal. Period.”
The incident follows the December 2015 death of Xavier Strickland, a 4-year-old Detroit boy who was attacked with his mother by four pit bulls. Police had to shoot them to free the boy’s body.
The dogs’ owner, Geneke Lyons, was convicted several months later of involuntary manslaughter. Lyons wasn’t home at the time of the attack, but prosecutors said he should be held responsible because the dogs weren’t under control. A judge earlier dismissed a second-degree murder charge.
Numerous pit-bull maulings have made headlines in Michigan and elsewhere. A 2014 American Veterinary Medical Association report says pit bulls are not disproportionately dangerous, though owners of pit bull-type dogs deal with a strong breed stigma.
However, some advocates for breed-specific community ordinances say pit bulls are behind most fatal dog bites.
DETROIT (AP) — Michigan State Police say troopers had to give a driver in the Detroit area four doses of an overdose-reversal drug to revive him after he purportedly ingested heroin on his way home.
The Detroit Free Press cites state police as saying troopers responded to calls of a wrong-way driver and possible accident in Taylor on Saturday afternoon.
The report says troopers found the man slumped over in the driver’s seat after an apparent overdose. He took a gasp of air after a third shot of Narcan and awoke after the fourth.
The report says that the driver, who wasn’t identified, later explained that he’d bought four packets of heroin and consumed one. The report didn’t say if the man was facing possible charges.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Eirran Betka-Pope was on her lunch break when she spotted hundreds of Donald Trump supporters protesting outside the office of Rep. Justin Amash, the first Republican on Capitol Hill to say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against the president.
The protesters, who stood on the sidewalk with “Squash Amash” signs, saw his comments as the ultimate betrayal of a president they adore. But for Betka-Pope, a Trump critic, Amash’s actions were commendable — and worthy of a counterprotest. The 32-year-old from Grand Rapids, who works in theater and sketch comedy, put on a Trump mask she happened to have in her car and joined the crowd on the sidewalk. She held up a piece of paper that read “I suck.”
For the next half hour, Betka-Pope stood silently as some people insulted her. A few passing drivers honked in support. More than one person flashed a middle finger.
Betka-Pope happily took the abuse for the congressman. But the one thing the Democrat says she won’t do to show her appreciation for Amash is vote for him.
“There are other candidates more aligned with my values,” she said.
Amash’s is another cautionary tale for GOP lawmakers who consider opposing Trump, whose job approval rating among Republicans has hovered around 90% for the past year, according to Gallup.
Those who stand against him quickly find it’s a lonely place to be — and may spell the end of their political career.
In the era of tribal politics, the worst thing to be may be a politician without a tribe.
The biggest winners to come out of Amash’s big stand may be Democrats. Amash ultimately left the GOP , is running for his seat as an independent and is flirting with running for president as a Libertarian — a threat that could wound Trump one more time. More than 200,000 Michigan voters supported a third-party candidate in 2016, when Trump won the state by just over 10,000 votes.
If Amash goes that route, he could help a Democrat win — just as he could if he stays in the race for the Grand Rapids-area House race. His exodus from the GOP has set up a three-way race that could divide right-leaning voters and help the Democratic nominee win what was once a GOP stronghold. Democrats now see it as one of their best chances to pick up a House seat next year.
“I think this was a district everybody was eyeing when we thought we’d be running against one Republican,” said Brian Stryker, a Democratic pollster who’s working for Hillary Scholten, a Democrat seeking the nomination. “It’s better to have two Republicans on the ballot.”
Once a bedrock of Republicanism in the state, Kent County has become more Democratic as Grand Rapids and its suburbs have grown diverse and better educated in recent years, thanks to growth in several universities and the medical sector. The birthplace of Gerald Ford and hometown of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos now looks a lot like the politically divided suburban districts Democrats flipped in 2018 to win control of the House.
Democrats and Republicans vying for the seat are both raising money easily, with two Democrats on pace to surpass Amash and one Republican already doing so. In a cruel twist for the congressman, Democrats say they’re poised to hammer Amash for the times he voted with his former party, such as his support for a House bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
Amash, the son of Arab Christian immigrants from Palestine and Syria, has always charted his own path. As a young state lawmaker he earned the nickname “Mr. No,” holding a hard line against government spending and what he viewed as overreach. He came to Congress in 2010 with the class of small government, tea party Republicans. He quickly stood out as an ideological purist, even in a class of professed purists.
His willingness to buck GOP leaders earned him his first primary challenge in 2014 from a Republican businessman with establishment backing angry that Amash voted against a GOP budget that included a business tax cut.
But Amash survived by digging in, holding regular town halls and explaining every vote he took on his Facebook page.
He went on to win the general election by 20 percentage points. Amash won easily again in 2016, even as he criticized Trump for caring more about accumulating power than following the constitution.
Since then Trump appears to have only firmed up support with Republican voters, while more Democrats moved in. Amash’s independence looked more like a liability than an asset.
Anna Timmer, a former Amash supporter who volunteered for his first congressional campaign in 2010, said voters like herself were willing to overlook his opposition to Trump then because many Republicans were unsure about him as well.
“People didn’t know what they were going to get with Trump,” Timmer said. But by 2018 they knew what they were getting — and they liked it, she said. On Amash, she said: “I think he saw the writing on the wall.”
Amash won re-election last year by 11 percentage points — half the margin he had two years earlier and one of his closest races since taking office.
Before the year ended, several conservatives and Trump loyalists started talking about mounting primary challenge in 2020.
LANSING (AP) — The state of Michigan has created rules so there are testing standards for the first crop of industrial hemp.
The state launched a pilot program this year allowing for the growing and processing of hemp. The state’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on Thursday announced emergency rules that establish sampling and analytical testing methods for measuring the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol in the emerging crop.
Hemp contains ultra-low levels of the THC that creates a high in marijuana. The rules will be in place for six months and can be extended for an additional six months.