State police submitted their investigation last month, but prosecutors returned it for further work.
“The MSP is fully committed to conducting a thorough and complete investigation,” state police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said. “To that end, we’ve worked very closely with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure they have all the information they may need to make a charging determination. Our focus in this case, as in all cases, is to conduct the investigation in the most expeditious manner possible.”
Four days after Grimes’ death, Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger filed a $50 million lawsuit against Bessner. Fieger later filed a suit against Berger, seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
During Tuesday’s federal court hearing, Fieger Law attorney Gina Puzzuoli said state police “blatantly refuse to provide any information in this case. This whole case is shrouded in secrecy. We had to fight to just get the names of the people involved. “The state has fought us at every step,” she said. Puzzuoli also said her office has been unable to serve Bessner with a subpoena to appear for questioning because he won’t answer his door. Puzzuoli said process servers taped a notice on Bessner’s door and posted an item in the Detroit Legal News, to no avail. “We don’t know where he is,” she said. Bessner, Berger and a sergeant who removed a Taser wire from the crime scene, according to Detroit police sources, were all suspended after the incident. Bessner later resigned. The sergeant was identified in a court filing as Jacob Liss.
John Fedynsky of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office filed a motion Tuesday to prevent Grimes’ attorneys from getting more information about the case until a decision is made whether to charge Bessner, Berger or Liss with crimes.
Fedynsky asked Drain to put the lawsuit on hold for 90 days to give prosecutors time to decide whether to bring criminal charges against the troopers.
Grimes’ attorneys have subpoenaed the court for information about the case. They also filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the same information.
Fedynsky insisted Fieger filed the initial lawsuit too soon to allow criminal investigations to take place, and said releasing information could taint the inquiries.
“The court should stay this civil case entirely pending the criminal investigation,” Fedynsky said. “We’re asking the court to quash the subpoena (seeking information in the case) and stay the case pending the prosecutors’ decision.”
Drain said he would rule on the state’s motion within a week.
Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor, said it’s not unusual for judges to grant requests to withhold information in a civil case until the criminal investigations play out.
“Generally, the police authorities want to complete the criminal investigations before allowing civil discovery,” Henning said. “Judges are worried someone could use civil discovery to taint the criminal investigation.
“I can see why the state is requesting (the 90-day stay),” Henning said. “Discovery is broader in a civil case than in a criminal case. For instance, you can’t depose someone in a criminal matter, but you can in a civil case.
“Also, because these are police officers, they may be required by internal rules to give a statement in the criminal investigation,” he said. “But if they’re called to testify in the civil case, they might well assert their Fifth Amendment rights. But if the plaintiffs in the civil suit get ahold of that statement, they can use it against the officers.” they are worried about children passing the jail on their way to school. Some are also fearful of prisoners escaping or being released into their community.
Councilwoman Mary Sheffield said during a recent neighborhood meeting that she was against it. She said Tuesday that the “overwhelming majority don’t want it in their community.”
Residents, she said, are willing to work on compromises. But, “there have been no concrete solutions” on how to address traffic, school children and security.
“I have an issue with that,” Sheffield said.
If the council signs off on it next week, the agreement still will need to gain approval of the Wayne County Commission and the Wayne County Land Bank Board.
Wayne County also continues to await Internal Revenue Service approval to use the existing jail bonds on the DDOT site instead of the Gratiot property. Jim Martinez, a spokesman for County Executive Warren Evans, said the project can’t proceed until those bonds are approved.
Gilbert’s plan calls for a 2,280- bed jail, courthouse, prosecutor offices, sheriff administrative offices and a juvenile detention facility.
In exchange for the complex, Gilbert’s Rock Ventures wants to use the county’s unfinished jail site in Greektown for a mixed-use development. It has pivoted from plans to erect a soccer stadium at the site in hopes of attracting an MLS team. Instead, Ford Field is now the preferred site for a future soccer franchise.
The county would be responsible for $380 million, plus the cost of acquiring the land from