Veteran Macomb County prosecutor withdrawn from murder cases by Lucido – Macomb Daily

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The Macomb County Assistant District Attorney, who has tried many of the county’s most high-profile murder cases over the past 16 years, was stripped of his title and survived a dismissal notice from his boss.

The post of homicide chief, which was held by Macomb’s deputy prosecutor, William Cataldo, was recently abolished by county prosecutor Peter Lucido. Cataldo on June 25 invoked his “bumping rights” in his supervisory union contract, which allowed him to retain his status and salary, as well as the firing of COO Derek Miller, who is currently on hold due to of his alleged role in criminal Eric Smith. Case.

The maneuver resulted in Cataldo taking the title of Chief Operating Officer from Miller, but he was assigned the post of Deputy District Attorney at Shelby Township 41A District Court. He also remains one of five members of the prosecutor’s office panel reviewing major cases for the charges. Cataldo maintains his salary around $ 120,000, which Miller also raised.

Lucido, who took office on January 1, has always intended to cut the post and told the Macomb Daily that he didn’t want a deputy prosecutor to handle so much of murder. He said murder cases are now assigned to the deputy prosecutor under the direction of the judge to whom the case is assigned.

“I have never liked the job of Chief Homicide since Carl Marling started it,” he said, referring to the former prosecutor who served from 1985 to 2004. These files? How else can someone else gain this experience if they are not able to try one of these cases.

He said he had not tried to fire Cataldo, but his one-page letter of June 24 to the director of human resources / labor relations, Andrew McKinnon, obtained by the Macomb Daily, said: “Please continue with the dismissal procedure for Mr. William Cataldo, by the UAW collective agreement.

Macomb County Attorney Peter LucidoMACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO

Lucido said he appreciated Cataldo’s skills and experience, and noted that he kept Cataldo on the review board for these reasons. Other panel members include trial chief Jean Cloud and veteran assistant prosecutors Sian Hengeveld, Steve Fox and Jurij Fedorak, who is retiring this month but returning as part-time deputy prosecutor.

Cataldo, 65, declined to comment on his situation. He has previously indicated that he plans to retire in 2023.

Cataldo is known for his dramatic closing arguments which often drew spectators to his office and his aggressive cross-examination of opposition witnesses. Among his cases, Cataldo prosecuted convicted murderers Jennifer Kukla, Ihab Maslamani and Robert Taylor, Michael George (second trial), James Brown, Donna Scrivo, James VanCallis and Andrew Fiacco.

In January, he was cited for improper questioning of a witness, a psychologist, in the 2018 trial of Delihah Evans, whose conviction for the stabbing death of his mother was overturned by the Court of Appeal of State.

The loss of a position in the office prompted a deputy prosecutor, Joshua Van Laan, to voice his concern.

“It is always of concern any time one of our deputy prosecutor positions is cut,” Van Laan said. “It is even more troubling when this post is voluntarily abolished, without any input from the (county) council of commissioners, especially at a time when the prosecutor has repeatedly asked to increase our numbers, not to reduce them. “

Concerns have also been expressed over the several murder cases Cataldo has led over the past 15 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. These cases have been passed on to other deputy prosecutors who some say are overworked.

Macomb County Assistant District Attorney Joshua Van LaanMACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO

Lucido during his first weeks on the job last February asked County Executive Mark Hackel and the Council of Commissioners to increase his budget to nearly $ 1 million to fund up to nine new positions. , although about half of them are in non-lawyer positions such as in communications and information technology.

Hackel has indicated that Lucido may request more budget dollars during hearings to approve the 2022 budget.

Lucido was allowed to remove the homicide chief post without approval because it did not involve a budget increase, according to county rules.

Cataldo could have taken advantage of the opportunity to get an interview to possibly be offered a regular deputy prosecutor position, but declined. The maximum salary for a senior assistant prosecutor is approximately $ 105,000.

Miller could be looking for the same option. He could not be reached for comment.

The elimination of the homicide count leaves only Cloud and the chief of appeals Joshua Abbott as lawyers in Lucido’s senior administration. Other members of the Watch Union include Chief Investigator Craig Keith, Office Manager Jennifer Meech and Victims and Witness Coordinator Johanna Delp.

Lawyer Dave Mazur, who previously worked at Lucido law firm, works for him as a part-time administrative assistant.

With a one-time special grant of $ 98,000, Lucido has hired two former Macomb deputy attorneys, Dave Portuesi and Joe McCarthy, who started Wednesday and will work until the end of the year.

Van Laan stressed that Lucido eliminated Cataldo’s post but did not fill the vacancies.

Among those is his only political appointment, chief assistant, who would also be a lawyer, since Ralph “Skip” Maccarone left in March after being part of the transition team. He also did not fill vacancies due to the departures in May of former deputy prosecutors John Gemellaro and Jordan Fields.

Lucido said he was in the process of interviewing candidates for the positions.

He said James Langtry, who served in Smith’s administration, remains a candidate for chief assistant despite concerns over Langtry’s ties to Smith. Langtry is expected to be a key witness in Smith’s next preliminary examination in Clinton Township 41B District Court.

Langtry was fired by Acting District Attorney Cloud in April 2020 about two weeks after Smith was indicted by Attorney General Dana Nessel and resigned.

Langtry sued the county for his dismissal, but both sides agreed to dismiss the case without any compensation after Langtry’s attorney learned Langtry had submitted thousands of dollars in questionable mileage reimbursements to the county.

Lucido also recruited approximately 45 unpaid interns, 30 law students and 15 undergraduates. They are supervised by Dominic LaRosa, part-time employee, retired teacher and employee of the Italian Tribune. Law students are able to help handle cases in court.

Smith, 54, of Macomb Township, is charged with 10 felonies, including racketeering and embezzlement, for maintaining a slush fund from which he illegally spent up to $ 600,000 on items such as ‘a security system for his home, office parties, charities and church donations, and unknown spending on credit cards, among others. Racketeering, the most serious charge, carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Former Macomb County District Attorney Eric Smith MICHIGAN STATE POLICE PHOTO

Miller faces the same evidentiary hearing scheduled to begin Friday July 9 before Judge Cynthia Arvant. He is charged with misconduct in the performance of his duties and conspiracy to commit an illegal legal act, both of which carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Former Smith’s chief of staff, Ben Liston, has been charged with felonies but has pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors and is expected to testify against Smith.

William Weber of Weber Security Group, who provided Smith’s home security system, has been charged with felonies but has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and is expected to testify.

Lucido released a news item on Wednesday touting his accomplishments in his first six months.

Recognizing a sorely understaffed budget for critical positions, utterly outdated technology to handle day-to-day demands and other immediate needs to protect victims and ensure equal justice for the citizens of Macomb County, Prosecutor Lucido began a series of course evaluations and corrections. on all fronts, ”said the press release.

Lucido said he has reformed the “deflection” process in which defense attorneys seek to depart from politics in the hope of a plea deal for their client.

“Deviation protocols have been revised to facilitate submission, increase transparency and accountability,” he said in the statement.

Forms for police officers requesting warrants and those completed by victims of crime “have been updated and simplified to facilitate communication between victims, law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office,” the statement added. .

He said his website had been revamped “to make the necessary resources available to county and defense attorneys”, and that a “staff portal” had been created.

Lucido was questioned for removing negative comments from his county attorney’s Facebook page. He noted that he had created units for hate crimes, human trafficking and conviction integrity, and that he had re-established a unit for environmental crimes.

Two conference rooms were built with special attention to victims and their families, as well as witnesses and police, and he added around 120 works of art to the office walls, in collaboration with the Anton Art Center and several Macomb County artist groups “to make it a warmer, friendlier and more enjoyable place to work.

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