Oakland Press

January 11, 2006

State cops investigate search of judge's record

Of The Oakland Press

A dispute between a judge and Oakland County's prosecutor has led to an investigation into the prosecutor's use of the Law Enforcement Information Network, which could lead to criminal charges.

Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca said he welcomes an investigation into his search of Oakland County Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot's criminal record, which includes two arrests for alleged drunken driving and one conviction for driving while impaired.

The dispute centered on Chabot's presiding over the second-degree murder trial of Joshua Campbell, who killed Bloomfield Township police officer Gary Davis in May 2004 on Interstate 75.

In mid-November, Chabot sentenced Campbell to 90 days in jail after he was convicted only of misdemeanor drunken driving. The 23-yearold Campbell was acquitted of second-degree murder, drunken driving causing death, manslaughter and negligent homicide.

Gorcyca contends that Chabot hampered prosecutors in their case against Campbell, particularly by a last-minute decision to not allow evidence of a previous drunken driving arrest of Campbell to be heard by the jury.

"That completely changed the trial strategy," Gorcyca said of Chabot's ruling, which came just as the trial opened and reversed her previous ruling on that issue.

After the sentencing on Nov. 14, in which Chabot refused the prosecutor's request for a lengthier jail sentence for Campbell, Troy Police Sgt. Bob Redmond told reporters that Chabot had been arrested twice for drunken driving.

Chabot, who had been pulled over for alleged drunken driving in 1972 and 1984, requested an investigation of who had conducted a LEIN search of her name after she sentenced Campbell. At the time, Redmond said neither he nor any officers in his department had done a LEIN search on her.

Reached Tuesday, Chabot declined to comment but referred questions to Steven Fishman, an attorney who has handled many cases involving police procedure and the use of the LEIN.

Fishman said Gorcyca ran the background check in an effort to smear the judge.

"It is common knowledge among police officers that the LEIN machine is only to be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes," Fishman said. "It is also common knowledge among police officers that abuse of that process would undoubtedly lead to dismissal from their department and the possibility of criminal charges."

Thomas Evans, a senior executive assistant with the Michigan State Police and the executive secretary to the Criminal Justice Information Policy Council, confi rmed that Chabot asked in early December if a LEIN check had been run on her name. The state police looked into it and found that someone in Gorcyca's office had run a check on Chabot.

Evans said the case is being investigated by the Michigan State Police, who will forward the results to the information policy council, which will likely make a decision in April as to whether the check on Chabot by Gorcyca was proper.

"The state police don't make a decision on whether or not it was a proper search," Evans said. "That's the policy council's decision."

Gorcyca defended the search, saying he felt there was "an extreme amount of bias against the prosecution and police" in the Campbell trial. He said he considered asking her to recuse herself from the case.

"I was duty-bound to investigate these allegations (of bias)," he said. "I'm 100 percent positive there was no wrongdoing on my part or from this office. I've got nothing to hide.

"That was an appropriate and legitimate use of LEIN under the rules of investigation."

But Fishman said Gorcyca may be guilty of a crime.

"The notion that a county prosecutor would use the LEIN machine in an attempt to intimidate a circuit judge is outrageous and should concern not just Judge Chabot but also the other judges in Oakland County," Fishman said.

Evans, of the state police, said state law mandates that the LEIN be used only by law enforcement for criminal justice purposes. It's restricted to criminal cases or criminal activity, and it has to relate to a specific case.

"It cannot be used for personal searches," Evans said.

The first violation of the LEIN is a misdemeanor; the second is a felony. It is a felony if a law enforcement officer uses LEIN to check on the driving record or driver's license of a person without it relating to a specifi c case, Evans said.

Evans said the Oakland County Sheriff's Office was initially contacted to investigate the inquiry made by Gorcyca or his office, but the sheriff declined.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said his office works closely with both Gorcyca as prosecutor and with Chabot in providing police protection to the courthouse.

"I thought it would be best handled outside," Bouchard said.

The case then went to the state police.

"We're at the stage of finding out why did (Gorcyca) run (Chabot's) name," Evans said.

Chabot, who has not consumed alcohol in about 20 years, according to Fishman, was convicted of impaired driving in 1972, when she was arrested in Southfield at age 23.

In 1984, at age 35, she was arrested by Birmingham police for drunken driving after being involved in a minor accident. She pleaded to careless driving in the 48th District Court, and was represented by defense attorney Mitchell Ribitwer.

Now 56, Chabot was appointed to the Oakland County Circuit Court as a general jurisdiction judge in 2000 by then-Gov. John Engler. Before that, she worked as a civil attorney.

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