A special prosecutor has been named to review an excessive use of force complaint made against East Lansing Police Officer Andrew Stephenson, who is white, by Anthony Loggins, Jr., a Black man who was injured by Stephenson’s actions in the course of a December 2019 arrest.
Jackson County prosecutor Jerard Jarzynka will act as the special prosecutor, according to Scott Hughes of Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon’s office.
Stephenson’s defense attorney Mike Nichols told ELi this evening by email, “I am just happy that we have a special prosecutor and I’m confident that, based on what I know about Officer Stephenson professionally and now as a client and further, with what I’ve learned from experts, he will be exonerated and we can go to the next step.”
Loggins made the complaint after he was arrested by ELPD officers, including Stephenson, in December 2019. Loggins’ face and head were injured when Stephenson took him to the ground face-down, and he was later transported to the hospital.
Loggins had been stopped for failure to use a turn signal, and the incident escalated from there after Loggins was told he was under arrest and he sat back down in his car, telling officers they’d have to come get him.
Loggins was initially charged with resisting arrest by Siemon’s office. In late March, Michigan State Police Lieutenant Erik Darling reviewed the complaint against Stephenson by Loggins and another African American man, after ELPD discovered the pattern of complaints against Stephenson.
Then, in a surprise twist, the charges against Loggins were dropped after Siemon’s office “review[ed] of all the circumstances [and] determined that the charges would be dismissed” on June 3, 2020, according to a press release of June 11. No more explanation was given for the dropping of charges against Loggins, and no further explanation has been provided following a request to do so today by ELi.
On June 11, Siemon (a Democrat) also filed a petition with the Attorney General’s office asking that a special prosecutor be named to review a warrant request against Stephenson submitted to her office in June by the state police.
Siemon’s dropping of charges against Loggins and her request for a special prosecutor came amidst the national protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. Siemon’s office apparently then looked anew at the growing local outcry about Stephenson and decided to take action, dropping the charges against Loggins and asking the Attorney General for a special prosecutor to review Loggins’ complaint against Stephenson.
Siemon’s office asked for the extraordinary action on June 11 because, according to that office, they had just become aware of the complaint and video tapes, and “Having a case reviewed by an elected prosecutor from another jurisdiction, one who does not work with the agency whose officer may have committed a criminal offense, can provide an extra layer of credibility and public confidence.”
Mayor Ruth Beier has repeatedly said at City Council meetings that she believes Stephenson was playing to the cameras to suggest falsely that Loggins was resisting arrest and that he had bitten Stephenson. She has suggested that Stephenson was doing this to justify his alleged injurious actions against Loggins.
But Nichols, Stephenson’s attorney, has written to Beier to say he doesn’t believe she’s right. He has invited her to watch the tapes with him with an expert present.
Nichols has also notified the mayor that his client “passed a polygraph” (lie-detector test) administered by “a veteran MSP [Michigan State Police] polygrapher, who has failed many of my clients.”
The Jackson prosecutor, Jarzynka, was elected in 2012, running as a Republican, after his predecessor decided to not seek reelection. MLive quoted him during his election campaign as saying, “I love to seek justice for the victims of crime and help our community be a safe place to live and work.”
Last fall, Jarzynka came under fire by a mother of an 11-year-old boy killed by an unnamed police officer who struck the child while the child was riding a miniature motorbike. The officer was traveling 66 mph in a 30 mph zone with no lights or sirens in response to an emergency call.
Jarzynka did not bring charges in that case, saying the officer was doing his job when the tragedy occurred, suggesting the actions of the child caused the accident.
This is a developing story.
UPDATE, July 9, 10:45 a.m.: Responding to questions from ELi, Jarzynka’s office said, “We can confirm that we have been assigned as a Special Prosecutor. There is no set timeline. We were just assigned. It will be a process that will take some time to complete.”