Ex-prosecutor to be tried for alleged lies in drug trial

Doug Guthrie -The Detroit News

Detroit — A former Wayne County prosecutor was ordered today to stand trial on criminal charges for alleged lies during a 2005 drug trial.

Former Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Karen Plants was bound over for trial in circuit court by 36th District Judge David Robinson Jr. following a two day preliminary examination of evidence presented against them by Michigan’s Attorney General.

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The judge will consider Wednesday whether to bind over retired Circuit Judge Mary Waterstone, Inkster Police Sgt. Scott Rechtzigel and Officer Robert McArthur The case stems from one of Metro Detroit’s biggest cocaine busts. During the trial, a paid undercover drug informant’s role was hidden and misrepresented through alleged lies from the officers while testifying under oath and from Plants in statements she made to the jury. Later, Waterstone also was informed of the lies, according to the prosecution.

“Why is it important for the jury to know the truth about Mr. Povish’s role,” Assistant Michigan Attorney General William Rollstin asked. “They were told he was an unwitting participant of this crime and he was offered no deals for his testimony. But it’s not true. He’s being paid. He’s an agent of the government and Ms. Plants and the officers know this. The judge (Waterstone) knows this… yet the train keeps on rolling.”

Povish testified Monday and today that he was coached by Plants and the officers to lie during a trial connected to one of Wayne County’s biggest cocaine busts. Povish said he feared for his life if revealed as the informant who led investigators to Alexander Aceval and the more then 100 pound shipment of high quality cocaine delivered to his Riverview bar and nightclub, J Dubs.

Povish said he was to be paid 10 percent to 20 percent of everything seized as a result of Aceval’s conviction. Povish said he was told forfeiture of Aceval’s home and other belongings under the state’s drug laws could amount to $1 million. But, Povish said he was paid a total of $4,500 and has spoken with a lawyer about suing authorities for what he believes is still owed to him.

Waterstone retired before being charged in March 2009 with felony misconduct in office for allegedly allowing the perjury, despite being told about it by Plants. Waterstone faces up to five years behind bars if convicted.

Plants retired after being charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly participating in perjury designed to hide the identity of the informant. Rechtzigel and McArthur face the same perjury charge, which carries a possible life sentence.

Povish testified that he was coached before court hearings and the trial by Plants and the two police officers that he should say he hadn’t met the officers before he was arrested alongside Aceval. Law forbids lying under oath, leaving authorities with the choice in this case, according to the Attorney General, of using a different witness or revealing Povish’s participation with police.

Povish said Plants told him in preparation for the 2005 trial that, “she spoke with the judge and it was OK to say I didn’t know the officers before this (the drug bust).”

Transcripts of the original trial detail closed-door meetings where Plants told Waterstone about manipulating Povish’s testimony. Although the judge was informed of the perjury, Aceval’s trial attorney wasn’t told.

That attorney, James Feinberg, testified Monday that he suspected the manipulation and complained to the judge during the trial. He later filed complaints of prosecutorial misconduct against Plants.

The case has been punctuated by legal wrangling and appeals to higher courts. It took 1½ years to complete the preliminary examination done in most criminal cases within 14 days of the defendant’s being charged..

More legal complications arose today, but Judge Robinson denied numerous requests from six lawyers representing the four defendants, including an effort to interrogate under oath the assistant Michigan attorney general who is prosecuting the case.

William Rollstin had earlier been targeted by defense efforts to have him removed from the case because he had served on the team of investigators that questioned some of the defendants prior to being charged. An argument that the Attorney General’s office itself should be removed from prosecuting the case went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, and failed.

The judge also declined today to allow the prosecution to present testimony from Larry Dubin, a University of Detroit Mercy professor and expert on legal ethics. Robinson said the testimony of an expert on the rules of conduct for lawyers was not useful in helping him determine if crimes were committed.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy was criticized after the trial for not investigating claims of perjury against one of her own assistants while doggedly pursuing perjury charges against then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his ex-chief of staff, Christine Beatty.

Attorney General Mike Cox took over the case after Worthy stepped aside, citing a conflict of interest. Worthy has said she was unaware of the circumstances and publicly spoke in defense of Plants following the accusations. Cox took the case only after four other county prosecutors refused.

Aceval is serving 10 to 15 years in prison. His appellate attorney, David L. Moffitt, has made numerous requests of the Michigan Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the drug conviction. Moffitt has obtained permission to argue before the court next month. Justice Maura Corrigan has already declined to participate in any review of the case because she intends to serve as a character witness if her friend Waterstone is ordered to trial.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20101012/METRO01/10120427/1361/Ex-prosecutor-to-be-tried-for-alleged-lies-in-drug-trial#ixzz12BR2GOGa

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