The race for Saginaw County Prosecutor is undeniably one of the most significant contests being waged that could easily be determined in the August Primary election, as it pits two respected Democrats - incumbent Mike Thomas and challenger John McColgan - against another young respected Republican challenger, Matthew Frey, at a time in our region's history where it is sharing the list of most dangerous cities in terms of first-degree felonies with areas like Detroit, Pontiac, and Flint, that also harbor much larger populations than Saginaw County.
On the other hand, according to statistics compiled by the FBI & State of Michigan, despite a recent rash of onerous felony crimes that seem to mirror the recent reduction in City of Saginaw public safety cutbacks, the 10-Year Murder rates per 100,000 population show that Saginaw is actually below the per-capita ratios of Pontiac, Detroit, and Flint when it comes to combating crime, which is a pivotal factor that Thomas points to in terms of documenting the progress of his office.
In 2002 the office had 23 assistant prosecutors, which dropped down to 20 in 2002 and has not changed. And despite public safety cutbacks in the city of Saginaw, recently Gov. Rick Snyder's budget for the 2013 fiscal year contained nearly $50 million in public safety funding, committing $15 million for more police in high-crime areas like Detroit, Flint, Pontiac & Saginaw.
But to what end? Since 2004 more than 20 prisons and minimum-security prison camps have also been taken out of circulation. So it is within this background and context that I recently spoke with each of the candidates for Saginaw County Prosecutor at length, presented here in this in-depth candidate forum.
Incumbent Mike Thomas is a graduate of U of M and Rutgers Law and has served as Saginaw's Chief Prosecuting attorney since 1990. He has also served as an activist with The Family Youth Initiative, Crime Prevention Council and the 2008 Blueprint for a Safer Saginaw.
Democratic Challenger John McColgan is a lifelong Saginaw resident, a graduate of the University of Dayton, Ohio and the Detroit College of Law. He moved back to Saginaw in 1984 and has practiced law in Saginaw for 28 years, working in the Prosecutor's office for six-and-a-half years. Since February 1992, McColgan bas been retained by the City of Saginaw to handle all traffic, misdemeanors, and civil matters and basically everything that happens with the City of Saginaw in District or Juvenile court.
He notes how the benefit of this is that it keeps him in court all the time so that he knows what's going on within the courts on a day-to-day basis. McColgan also engages in legal work for Saginaw Township, Bridgeport and many other townships and villages. He has also served as a Saginaw County Commissioner.
Republican challenger Matthew Frey passed the Bar in 2005 and has practiced law for seven years, mostly in Saginaw County. He started with a Southfield law firm manning a satellite office in Saginaw for 20 months and left to start his own practice. He has lived in the City of Saginaw since 2006 and initially started as an estate-planning attorney and obtained his Master's degree in taxation. He says that 80 percent of his time the last three years has been focused on criminal work, which has been prolific in Saginaw County. He applied for two Federal Prosecutor jobs and also one in Tuscola County. Several hundred clients later he feels that he can do a better job in terms of what is going on within the Saginaw County Prosecutor's office.
Review: Over the expanse of the last 4 years what do each of you who feel are the pivotal issues facing the Prosecutor's office?
Thomas: In terms of resources, we lost an investigator and two other positions two years ago and the County went to the public for a special 1 mil assessment tax to keep the jail open under the pre-condition that all elected offices had to take another $1.5 million in cuts. We did that like everyone else and lost a dedicated 10-year county investigator in our office and did not fill that position.
Obviously, we are doing more with less and maintaining the efficiency and productivity of the office has been our key role over the last four years. With two exceptions everybody in the office was hired during my tenure and our attorneys have changed the face of public prosecution. When I started as an assistant and then Chief Assistant Prosecuting attorney back in the 1970s, the Prosecutor's office was a training ground for private practice. We've professionalized the office and it is thought of as one of the best offices in the State of Michigan.
In the old days this was a two-year and out position, but now the office exists as an apolitical source of public professionals and actually a specialty within the law. I think we have the best staff in the history of Saginaw County and this is reflected in terms of our measured success.
For the last few years we have tried more jury trials per judge per capita than any county in the State. Last year we tried 109 felony jury trials, in part because of this experienced and productive staff and in part because of the productivity of our judges, as over the last 2 years we went from having 6 district judges with limited jurisdiction to a situation where the Supreme Court & State Court Administrator's office has given concurrent circuit jurisdiction to the district judges, so we went from 5 circuit judges to now having 11 judges dealing with serious felony crimes.
With that additional productivity we've caught up on backlog cases and have pounded out more jury trials than any other staff in the State on a percentage basis. Last year 1600 felons were convicted of felony crimes in Saginaw County, which compares favorably to Genesee County that has twice as much crime, more judges, and a larger staff. They had 1800 convictions and we're doing approximately the same amount of work with not quite half the staff.
Review: But out of these felony convictions, aren't 75% of them put on probation so they end up out on the streets again fairly quickly?
Thomas: It is frustrating. The State of Michigan sees around 20% of convicted felons actually going to prison; and in Saginaw we've been greater than that around 25%. Over the last five years its been kicked-up to the 28-29% level; but that still pales compared to the national average of the other 49 states where 40% of all convicted felons get sentenced to prison.
Unfortunately, the State of Michigan was the worst in the 19 states of the Midwest in terms of violent crime for the last 10 years because our cities are challenged. Convicting more felons is part of our game plan, along with fostering more public safety, which is why we've ramped that up over the past four years.
We recently lost a child in Saginaw in one of the most brutal slayings I've ever seen and that's refueled our resolve and commitment to do more about holding criminals accountable in Saginaw County.
Governor Snyder announced the 'Secure City's Initiative and as a result of that public safety will get more financial support from the state starting in the next budget year. Out of the four most violent cities - Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, and Saginaw - our trend line from 2007 onward is directly down on violent crime. We're at 50 year lows for homicide, even though you're hard pressed to feel that kind of progress when you pick up the paper and see the crime reported there. But this is what the numbers show from the FBI and uniform crime reports.
Review: What are your top 3 goals in terms of why you are seeking this office?
McColgan: My main goal and reason for running for this is office is to focus on the dangerous felons that are placing us at the top of the list of most dangerous cities in the country and get them out of here.
Mr. Thomas talks about high conviction rates and the numbers of people convicted of various felonies that do not serve hard jail time but do probation; and a lot of people shouldn't be in prison because they are taking up space that could be used for these dangerous felons we need to get out of town. So number one, I would focus on the worst criminals - they should be the targets.
Secondly, the Prosecutor is the chief law enforcement officer of the county and I believe the office can be more effective at bringing the courts, police, and community together to fight this problem. Presently, the Prosecutor's office is constantly at war with the courts. I hear complaints from police that things are over-burdensome and it's a chore for them to get a warrant. Plus he doesn't utilize technology available through the county to streamline the warrant process, so the police have to take themselves off the streets in order to do it.
Finally, I'm going to court, pure & simple. In fact I'll probably be in the courtroom next to the assistant prosecutors so if they have any questions they can come and ask me directly. I think that would work a heck of a lot better than it's working now.
Frey: As a defense attorney you're uniquely positioned to not only hear complaints from the prosecutor's office, but also from judges and assistants and witness the actual effect of what happens. One thing that prompted me to run is the disparity of treatment we have in this county. A lot of defendants for whatever magical reason are given option 'X' whereas other defendants who come in under less egregious circumstances are given option 'Y', which may be hung out to dry. And I ask why the two are being treated differently?
Second, I don't think we can afford Mike Thomas anymore. He is a hard worker and goes through all the files and determines the outcome personally of every case in moving forward, but the problem is that these cases are never re-evaluated. From day one there will be a one-sided version of the facts and Thomas will determine what happens to the case, so that by the day of trial, after investigation and speaking to other witnesses, the office may be dealing with a garbage case that should not be moving forward and taking up valuable court time. In fact, his failure to re-evaluate cases is one reason I do have a winning record against his office.
We have these highly educated and qualified assistant prosecuting attorneys who essentially have been eunuched to doing nothing when it comes to dealing with a case apart from what the man at the top says; which is fine if you have evidence to back it up. But look at Ramon Barerra who is walking free because his hand picked servant of justice couldn't seal the deal and didn't evaluate the case properly.
Mike Thomas is out of touch and has been there too long. This is why we don't have a President for 23 years. At some point you need a fresh face with new ideas.
Review: Both of your opponents ask why citizens should give you four more years as Prosecutor when Saginaw is ranked at the top of the dangerous city's list.
Thomas: I don't think my opponents are saying that the Governor and all law enforcement officials are responsible for the fact Michigan has the highest violent crime rate in the Midwest. We don't over-incarcerate we under-incarcerate compared to the national average. I don't think blaming it all on the Prosecutor's office makes much sense and can't imagine that my opponents would challenge the tenacity of other law enforcement officers in Saginaw County or the State of Michigan in the past decade. Crime is a more complex issue than planting the blame on one prosecutor or any Police Chief. The problem in Saginaw is tied to the loss of police officers, which is why I've fought against any budgetary reductions in my office. We need more of the budget going to public safety, not less of it.
McColgan: He's ducking the question. Mr. Thomas is the Chief Law Enforcement Official in Saginaw, and we've been ranked at or near the top of the list of the most dangerous cities in America for the last several years and his failed policies have done nothing to change it.
The police are doing everything they possibly can try to keep up with the unrelenting crime, which has continued to get worse because of Mr. Thomas's failed policies. The police need a prosecutor who will hold up his end.
Keeping his office's budget intact does absolutely nothing in regard to keeping police on the streets. As prosecutor I will trim anything I can out of my budget to put more police on the streets.
Frey: The problem that I have with these 10-year crime rate statistics that show how violent crime is coming down in Saginaw County is that Mr. Thomas has been in office for over 20 years and had a generation of being in power to effect a difference. This is like saying the last 99 years have sucked but last month we did a bang-up job.
What frustrates me, as a taxpayer is that crime should be on a decrease when you have your population decreasing. When he started office 20-plus years ago we had double the population in the area, so the fact violent crime is purportedly down now, well it should be declining. What can he point to that his office has actually done to affect that?
He's got the second largest law firm in the county and our population has decreased in half. He's doubled the size of his office yet why does the County charge attorneys court appointed on criminal matters $1.00 per page per copy that he in turn uses to fund his office? Bay, Midland, Tuscola, no other county charges attorneys for police reports - they hand that to me for discovery. We've had 25 shootings since March, so what is he doing about that?
The decline of public safety personnel is a current day excuse. When you have that much time in office and talk of social issues, he's had the chance to reach these people that have turned into criminals since birth. He's been there that long. He could be talking to these criminals back when they were in pre-school. He needs to be proactive with the office and what we have now is too little too late.
Review: For decades now this publication has argued for more combined public safety and recently the Saginaw City council actually witnessed reduced officers on the street, despite the passage of a 7.5 mill special assessment two years ago. It's like the more we pay the less we get.
Thomas: That's true, Bob. I walked the streets with police & firefighters because I believe we needed to maintain those levels back then and was more than happy to pay my fair share. I own a home in the city and have no problem paying taxes to maintain a higher quality of life, so it distresses me that 3 years later we are asked to make some pretty stark choices.
I was asked by City Manager Earley & Mayor Branch to be on the public safety funding committee and they both know my position. I don't believe this community needs less public safety - it needs more because its one of the things holding us back as a region and as a state. This is why I'm glad the light bulb went off in the Governor's office to increase state funding for public safety in communities like Saginaw. The safer our community is the more businesses it will attract along with jobs, so we can keep our children here instead of watching the county being de-populated. Plus we'll have a bigger influx of talent.
We don't have an emergency manager in Saginaw, but we do have the opportunity to discuss how we do and pay for public safety. Voters have already supported it in the city with a 7.5 special assessment and expect to see public safety as a result of that. This is one of the reasons that the Crime Prevention Council has adopted a 5-point plan to retain resources at the police department, which until this year we've been pretty good at doing. Pontiac lost their whole department and Saginaw is hanging in there. Now with this hiring freeze we're looking at 15 vacancies in Saginaw police and need to pour more state resources into the city and partner up with the Sheriff's department.
Keeping the jail open has been a positive step, along with increased productivity by our office and judges so more felons are held accountable for the crimes they commit. It's critically important to have jobs in our region. When I was in Washington recently Senator Levin handed me a report that shows in the 2010-11 fiscal year Saginaw County was 10th in all counties of America in terms of job creation, which I couldn't believe. We're normally not 10th on lists with positive things. But Saginaw Future and other groups have done a yeoman's job, even though you don't read or see much about in the daily news. You see crime news instead.
We've also got to get witnesses to cooperate in order to proceed with cases. The state needs to pass a Witness Protection law similar to the one in California to protect more witnesses that come forward. Without witnesses, criminal justice can't do anything. Citizens control the level of crime we have in our community by what they demand from public officials. Maybe citizens are willing to see more than 67% of their budget spent for public safety. I think they are - they want to see public safety the absolute last thing cut out of the city budget because they realize without it, civil society doesn't exist.
McColgan: When you talk about limited resources, when I was a Commissioner a couple years ago we had a $6.6 million deficit to deal with and department after department came to the Board offering what they could do to help the budget. Did Mr. Thomas show up? No. Was there anything his office could do? No. Did he offer anything personally he could do such as forgoing his $45,000 per year pension? No.
I know of three attorneys in that office that cost the county over a half-million dollars a year and rarely do any of those three go to court. I'll go to court. When you go to court you get better in touch with your community and what's going on. I will be a hands-on as opposed to a 'micro-manager'. Mr. Thomas writes in every file that his assistants carry what should happen in every case. Why are we paying these assistants $80,000 to $100,000 a year if they're just going up there, looking at Mike's notes, and saying 'end of conversation'. Instead of focusing on every little thing going on in the office he needs to focus on the people putting us on the top of the most dangerous city's list.
If we had unlimited funding Mike's approach to running the Prosecutors office would be great, but we don't. And while we stay ranked on that dangerous city list we won't have businesses coming into our community to beef things up. We are at where we are and need to deal with it.
His staff is amazing but to me what's happening in the office with the crime problem is similar to fighting a forest fire. Thomas is like a fire chief and while the city is burning down he's off to Lansing trying to get the rules changed on how to fight a fire. His assistants are running around putting out fires as fast they can, only his focus is not where it needs to be. For one thing he needs to focus on the people committing these crimes that put us on this list of dangerous cities and get them out of here.
Frey: We need to attack violent crime from a multi-level approach and need to get to these people before they're in the mindset that crime is their only option in life.
We also need to take the resources we currently have available and realize they are probably going to shrink more, so technology needs to be brought into that office to maximize the efficiency of each person. If more technology were incorporated conviction rates would go up. Jurors want to see dynamic interaction, not pen and paper. They want to see visual presentations and his office is inefficient. He's operating a 2012 office with a 1989 mentality.
Finally, you need to empower your assistant prosecutors. He has some of the best minds and talents in that office, plus we have 11 courtrooms between district, circuit, civil and probate court - and if you go in on a Friday afternoon and see who's doing what, the answer is not much. I wouldn't say there is 100% staffing going on.
I think you have to do efficiency studies and see if we're spending our resources wisely. I'm not lenient and I also want the biggest bang for my buck. If I believe in a case and go into the courtroom, I'm going to win. This goes back to empowering. You need to have an assistant with the power to re-evaluate a case, as opposed to basing your strategy on the first day when the case looked great when you heard one side of the story. You can't try every case and need to prioritize. But how can you implement efficiencies with this inherent mechanism in the office that propagates inefficiency?
As a county prosecutor you have the ability to push back on people. I'm not here to be elected for 23 years and that isn't my goal in running. My main goal is to correct what I consider a problem office, not become a career politician.
Traditionally the prosecutor's office is a training ground and lawyers eventually move into private practice where they make the big bucks. In the current office, his assistants make big bucks and when you add in benefits are talking huge salaries, which if you compare to the Public Defender rates, we're at opposite ends of the spectrum. Public defenders are the lowest of the low and the Prosecutor's office is the highest of the high. That's the reality.
But at this point the only person I would replace in the office is Mike Thomas. And my problem is not with him but with his policies. I want more public communication between myself and the people involved with these cases. I will be on the 4th floor looking at the evidence, not on some Lansing junket.
Review: Another significant role of the Prosecutor's office involves dealing with drunken, impaired, or intoxicated driving, which has taken on a special significance in this election because of the deal that Mr. Thomas gave former Saginaw News editor Paul Chaffee a couple years ago when he was arrested for drunk driving and given a careless driving plea, which is a civil infraction allowing no jail time or counseling, and which the court cannot enforce because it is a civil infraction.
Apart from this smacking of cronyism, since that time the State Legislature has passed new 'Super Drunk' legislation which carries stiff penalties, fines, and mandatory counseling. What is your take on this and how do you feel the office should deal with drunk driving offenses?
McColgan: The result of Mr. Thomas getting called out for giving Chaffee this sweetheart deal is best seen in his stance on the new Super Drunk law. He is going to show everybody how tough he is on drunk driving by having a 'no deal' policy on these super drunk cases, contrary to say Bay County where the Prosecutor will give a regular drunk driving plea should the circumstances warrant the same.
Super Drunk is the law the state enacted to deal with drunk drivers whose blood is .17 or greater, the major differences between regular and super drunk driving are that possible jail time goes from 93 days to 180 days, which is irrelevant as first offenders don't go to jail in Saginaw County. The time where a defendant has no license privileges and the time before a restricted license kicks in goes from 30 to 45 days. There is mandatory one year counseling and a mandatory interlock system installed in the defendant's car. The statutory fine is higher, but this is irrelevant as the judge in the case can extract the monies regardless of what is provided by statute by simply labeling them 'costs'.
So what has Thomas' policy of 'no deal' on super drunk caused? Because his policy is no deal you go to a pre-trial where the highly paid assistant prosecutors say, “you know our policy is no deal”. Because there is no offer the case goes to trial, using up valuable resources that could have been used to prosecute people committing the crimes that have landed us at the top of the country's most dangerous cities list.
The accused pleas to a regular drunk driving and the judge can make as part of the sentence whatever conditions are felt necessary for this particular defendant. Should the 60-year old retiree be treated the same as the 21-year old who gets caught super drunk driving? If one size fits all, why have judges at all? Why have probation departments working these cases and what is appropriate for each defendant? Each of us is different. What works to keep one individual from repeating this activity might not be the same as what is necessary to keep the next person from doing it again.
His office is wasting our valuable resources. We only have so many of them at our disposal to fight our terrible crime problem and these resources need to be focused on our most serious problems.
Thomas: Why did the legislature pass the Super Drunk law? I think the reason is when you're twice the legal level of intoxication those people operating vehicles on the road are a danger to the public. The Super Drunk Law passed after the Chaffee case and I agreed with the intent of the law, because I think Drunk Driving is a serious crime.
My opponent and I have a different view of drunk driving. I think every person charged with drunk driving is one victim away from more serious carnage. I'll readily admit I made a mistake to enter the careless driving plea in the Chaffee case, but I didn't agree to any sentence on that case - it totally came from the judge.
I think drunk driving is a very serious offence and is unique in the criminal law system because all the victims are innocent victims. This is why we don't do many non-drinking related pleas in the Saginaw Prosecutor's office - we never have and never will. The death, injury and carnage caused by Drunk Driving are unique in the criminal law system, because all the victims are innocent victims.
I know my opponent has a view that it's more important to plea the cases and get fines and costs than hold someone accountable for drunk driving. We just did 7 drunken driving cases today and the 5th one was sentenced to prison. I don't believe in offering someone who can afford to pay high fines and costs a deal and making some person get stuck with a drinking related offense based on the financial abilities of the accused. I'm not going to play that game.
I think the legislature meant something when they passed the Super Drunk Law. There are not many excuses for driving behind the wheel of a 4000-pound missile at twice the intoxicated level. Now with impaired driving, or first time offenses, if the circumstances and facts and conditions of the defendant's behavior and prior record merit it, we will consider a plea for the reduction of the charge to impaired, but not for Super Drunks.
McColgan: Mr. Thomas is trying to pass the buck and blame the Judge with his decision to grant Mr. Chaffee a careless driving plea. Mr. Thomas knows Careless Driving is a civil infraction, which carries a fine only with no possible jail time. Mr. Thomas knew that once he gave Mr. Chaffee that sweetheart deal, the Judge's hands were tied and the only penalty the Judge could impose was a fine.
Drunk drivers need to be held accountable for their actions. The pleas I take from defendant's in drunk driving cases are fashioned such that the defendant is punished in a manner that will cause that individual not to repeat such activity, which is what the criminal justice system is all about.
If it was okay to plea a careless for Chaffee, why isn't it okay for everyone? And if each case needs to be looked at upon an individual basis, when you go from a .016 to a .017 does that change the world? Is that fair to people? My problem with Super Drunk is not the law, but that it got passed by Interlock and counseling lobbies. Everything contained in Super drunk can be ordered through the court, from counseling time to interlock - except for when a careless driving plea is entered, which he did for Chaffee. If you don't have plea-bargaining the courts won't function. It's axiomatic to the judicial system. Otherwise why have judges or a probation department?
But the bottom line with the Chaffee incident is that if Chaffee walked in with Super Drunk levels of intoxication and Thomas didn't even bother to seek an impaired, but a careless charge - what sense does that make? It's the 'take care of my friend' syndrome.
Frey: The problem with Super Drunk and Thomas' role in the Chaffee scandal is that with Super Drunk you are charged as a felon. Activist groups are always screaming for blood when it comes to drunk driving, and I've thought at least the no deal on Super Drunk is a consistent policy. I like consistency and knowing what the rules are.
But every case is absolutely different and you do have to look at facts and circumstances and at some point balance the interest of justice and what activist groups want versus the interest of society on the other end.
Recently I had a client who got popped for drunk driving leaving a bar and blew a .22 and lived a few blocks away from the bar. She was in her mid-40s and I don't know what would have happened on her way home - if she would have swerved off the road or killed somebody. But what I do know is that she got pulled over coming out of the bar and in some of these cases you need to be able to go back and say if nobody was injured, that the victim is society and sanctions are fine. But you do need to have some type of appropriate sanction.
I do feel you need a consistent policy and cannot randomly pick winners and losers, especially when people still have their livelihoods and families to protect and support. Perhaps in the Chaffee case an impaired would have been a good resolution. But I don't buy Mr. Thomas now admitting that he screwed up in that case, especially during an election year. The time for him to apologize was back when it happened - he could have taken out a full-page ad and apologized publicly then; but not now when he's up for re-election.
You have to own your decisions. I always tell my clients I own my actions and decisions. I wont say I've never made a mistake, but if I do I'm going to own my mistake, not do it four years later when it's an election year.
I'm a very fair person. I've never once asked for a Drunk Driving charge to be reduced to a Careless; but yes, I can see doing it to an impaired if the circumstances warrant it.
Review: What do you consider your key accomplishments as Prosecutor?
Thomas: As mentioned earlier, contrary to the trends of other dangerous cities in the state our trend lines are going down, which is something not based upon my numbers, but numbers coming out of the Governor's office. I've also talked about the professionalism of our staff and how effective we've been at successfully prosecuting crime in Saginaw County.
Our number one goal right now is to seek justice and do justice in every case that the people entrust us with. We issue 2500 felonies a year and were doing 6000 to 7000 misdemeanors for awhile, including non-compliance tickets targeted at people blowing off their misdemeanor fines. Now we're back down to 3000 of those because the judges have gone a different way in terms of orders to show cause in lieu of misdemeanor warrants.
But we want to keep the trend line going down in Saginaw County. At the end of the next four years I don't want to be any list for Flint, Pontiac, or Detroit, and I want the Governor's public safety plan to be successful. With the increased initiative involving the state police, continuing to keep the jail open, retaining detectives at the Sheriff's department, ultimately it will be up to the electorate as to whether we merge public safety resources or not. Saginaw Township has 46 officers and these different jurisdictions put big money into their local budgets to maintain their levels of safety.
Review: Do you get the feeling that this problem is moving beyond containment? So much of the crime issue involves a spreading sense of hopelessness that young people feel when they don't perceive much of a future. A kid graduating from high school may not be able to afford college; and even if he or she can, often they will look at the cost involved with higher education, with no guarantee of a job and say to themselves, 'Why not just sell drugs and make a boatload of money and pursue the Gangsta lifestyle?
Thomas: No, I'm not discouraged, Bob. I'm probably more passionate about what we're accomplishing in the community than at any time in my two decades as your prosecutor. These trend lines say volumes to me. Murder is down to a 55-year low and who thought that would be possible even back in 2008, despite our resource difficulties.
This is because our 5-Part Crime Prevention plan is working and I want to continue to partner up with Crime Prevention initiatives started back in 1998 that are having the desired effect today. I do see hope for our children growing up. We need to hear more about job growth and what's working there and I am heartened by Senator Levin's recent report card about the economic growth in our community. I'm looking forward to the working with law enforcement leaders in our community over the next four years.
McColgan: Given the scarcity of resources and fewer officers on the street I feel we need to go back to the core goal which is to take care of these worst criminals and get them out of town. We need to get investment happening in this town again and when I'm in Court mainly I see the presence of the sheriff deputies but not the local police.
I won't cut a deal with any of the individuals engaging in violent felonies. Plus the office must get more involved with community groups that have good ideas. Just because an idea is not my idea does not mean it isn't a good idea - that's not my mindset.
Plus we need to prioritize. We have reports for gunshots fired in good neighborhoods in the city and it takes the police over 30 minutes to respond. Meanwhile we have officers out at SVSU arresting kids for minor possession of marijuana. It's not right. Crime is spreading and not getting better and we have to get rid of these serious felons, pure and simple.
For lesser offenses, this issue of hopelessness among youth is serious. You need to give these kids a sense of self-worth. This is why laws such as 'Super Drunk' are significant to me.
You've got to enforce the law and the way it is now the legislature says if you are convicted of a Super Drunk offense certain things can and will happen. Some you can bargain upon, others you cannot. The fine can range from nothing to $750.00, so there is leeway on this.
But say you are a hard worker all your life and need some help, so I make a condition to give you a reduced drunk driving charge over a super-drunk. You agree to 3 months of counseling, you agree to the interlock device, hopefully all of this has helped you - because the goal is to get people not to come back into court. You can't do that with a cookie-cutter approach.
There are three types of cases: the worst people and felons would be my number one target. They get no deal so there is nothing really to deliberate with those cases. The second type of case involves kids who feel hopeless that get into trouble for the first time. Will punishment help them or will it turn them into the guy you want to get rid of that is committing the serious felony? And then the middle third of cases consist of people who are repeat offenders, but not necessarily the worst people in the world, either. That's where judgment and experience and compassion all enter into the mix.
I don't like this adversarial posture involved with politics. I know that Mike Thomas tries his best, but there are some fairly significant things that I see going on that I would approach and do differently.
Frey: What has Mike Thomas done for Saginaw? He touts all these convictions and people going to prison, but what is the end result? If you only focus on statistics and make everybody a convicted felon, that means they can't vote or hold decent employment.
When I deal with defendants it gives me insight and I can relate to them on some levels. As a younger person, I have a different attitude on things like unemployment and the system. That's where we need to shift the fight. Hopelessness is something that the Prosecutor's office can attack. I moved my parents and fiancée here to Saginaw and am here for the long haul. I may be in my house here in the city until I die because I love where I live and love the area and it saddens me to see what's happened.
This is a town where with some ingenuity and hard work we can prevail. My fiancée works at the University of Michigan Children's Hospital and I often say there is a point between the womb and habitual offender 4. Somewhere we're going wrong. There has to be consequences for actions; but you always need to balance the interests of society against the individual charge and ask what you are doing and what will work best for each case.
If I give somebody a felony conviction for retail fraud that means they can't get a job, can't vote, what are they going to do? Commit more crime? For a Republican I know this is kind of a liberal argument; but it's true. And these are the types of decisions that the office has to make and impact.
I want to go out into the community and work with younger people on the borderline. Crime statistically is a young persons' game; and Mike Thomas has had a generation to bring about change. I really want to hammer that point home during this election.