There’s been an unexpected switch in the case of East Lansing Police Officer Andrew Stephenson. Instead of the Jackson County prosecutor – a Republican – functioning as the Special Prosecutor – now the case will be reviewed by the Washtenaw County prosecutor – a Democrat.
We reported last week that Jackson County prosecutor Jerard Jarzynka had been named to review a complaint of excessive use of force from an African American man, Anthony Loggins Jr., against Stephenson, who is white.
But this morning we learned from Scott Hughes of the office of Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon that the prosecutor will instead be Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie.
Stephenson’s lawyer, Mike Nichols, tells ELi this is not appropriate.
“There is no authority in the special prosecutor statute for a ‘substitution’ – none,” he told ELi by email this morning in response to request for comment. “I’m investigating it and the obvious concern is that a fix is in.”
Nichols suggests the move could be political, related to national calls for policing reform:
“If he is charged just for the sake of making his badge a sacrificial lamb – what good has been done for the movement? He’s one of the good cops and should not be hung out to dry because we don’t understand what those officers are trained to do when dealing with active resistance.”
Ryan Jarvi, Press Secretary for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, tells ELi that the Jackson County prosecutor reconsidered the responsibility for handling the case.
Jarvi added, “We have no comment on why the Jackson County prosecutor reconsidered this matter, but we’re confident the rule of law and the evidence at hand will guide the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s review in this case.”
The prosecutors for Jackson and Washtenaw have not responded to requests for comment.
Jarvi explained the process used to appoint a special prosecutor:
“The Attorney General’s office works with the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council, an autonomous agency within the Attorney General’s office, to fulfill requests for special prosecuting attorneys. That process includes consideration of the resources that may be needed to handle the case and typically a request of an office in the same region to handle the matter. The county prosecutor decides whether to accept responsibility of prosecuting. In this instance, the Jackson County prosecutor reconsidered that responsibility and the case will now be handled by the Washtenaw County prosecutor.”
Asked for comment, three members of East Lansing’s City Council responded.
Jessy Gregg said this is the first she had heard of it, and offered no further comment about it.
Lisa Babcock said she just hopes the matter is resolved soon for the sake of everyone involved, including Loggins and Stephenson. She said that everyone deserves prompt resolution.
Mayor Ruth Beier said she has no information on why the change happened and that “I am purposely staying out of the process at this point. I am just pleased that the review will finally begin.”
City Council is scheduled tonight to appoint a group of citizens to a special Study Committee that will advise Council on establishment of an Independent Police Oversight Commission.
City Manager George Lahanas is also set to make a special presentation on “police realignment.” Find the agenda here.