While Judge Richards in Florida is rescuing witnesses in Florida, former Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mary Waterstone appeared on the other side of the bench this week as a criminal defendant. Waterstone joined a former prosecutor, Karen Plants, and two police officers Scott Rechtzigel and Robert McArthur as defendants in the case related to a 2005 drug trial. Controversy continues to swirl around the actions of Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy (left), who defended her prosecutor’s actions and resisted criminal charges — while aggressively pursuing the former mayor of Detroit and his aide for false testimony.
Plants is charged with five counts of misconduct and one count of conspiring to commit perjury. The two officers are charged with conspiring to commit perjury and one count each of misconduct. Judge Waterstone is charged with three counts of misconduct.
The officers are accused of lying to conceal the role of an informant in cocaine bust on March 11, 2005. When the case made its way to circuit court in September 2005, Waterstone allegedly knew of the cover-up and allowed the officers to testify that the informant did not have a connection to the police. Waterstone also barred the defense from seeing the informant’s cellphone record, which would have shown that the informant called one of the officers.
Plant never corrected the testimony and Waterstone is accused of knowing of the perjury by the officers.
Prosecutor Kym Worthy suspended Plants with pay last April after the State Attorney Grievance Commission brought a formal complaint. This would be a truly commendable case for Worthy in bringing such a prosecution. However, the high ground was lost by Worthy’s refusal to bring charges against her former assistant until the commission acted — insisting that Plants’ actions complied with Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers.
After the allegations came forward, Worthy (who was doggedly pursuing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his ex-chief of staff, Christine Beatty for perjury) insisted that her assistant did nothing wrong and praised her as “a lawyer of high integrity and competence.”
This is a rare and important case for the legal profession and the integrity of the court. Worthy could have garnered national acclaim as a prosecutor if she were not forced into the prosecution. Notably, when she tried to get other prosecutors to take the case from other jurisdiction, they all declined. What concerns me the most is that Worthy would look at this case and think that the conduct, at least by her prosecutor, was permissible.
News reports state that quote the transcripts with Judge Waterstone saying: “Questions regarding whether any of the witnesses had any prior contact with police officers will not be allowed.”
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Karen Plants states in the hearing: “If they don’t want any perjured testimony to come out, then they shouldn’t ask those questions.”
When Worthy was prosecuting the mayor, this is how she explained the need for a bright line rule against false testimony and any lawyers who participate in such betrayal of the legal system:
I hope it says that no one’s above the law, that the principles in the American system of justice are strong and they should be followed. That when you swear the oath to tell the truth it means something: that you should tell the truth. That that’s why we have all the actors in the criminal justice system who take those: witnesses, victims, police officers.
That’s why lawyers are sworn in, that’s why judges are sworn in, officeholders are sworn in; it means something.
And also that corruption in any form, especially for a public official, cannot be tolerated because you have that public trust. And when that public trust is eroded, people lose their trust in government.
Worthy recently was criticized for unpaid taxes after it became known that her home was in foreclosure.
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