Dubious achievement awards 2004 - December 

Fireworks fallout: Just two months after charges against Daron Caldwell are dropped, he hits the City of Detroit, Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings and 17 cops with a $100 million lawsuit connected to the shootings at the International Fireworks Festival this summer. Caldwell spent 99 days in jail. In his lawsuit, he accuses members of the Police Department of fabricating evidence and witness statements. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy dropped charges against Caldwell in October after DNA evidence failed to link him to the shootings. Detroit police could have saved themselves a lot of grief just by listening to the radio. Many callers phoned into Mildred Gaddis’s show on WCHB in the days after the shooting to say they saw the gunplay go down and that Caldwell wasn’t the trigger man. (That bell you just heard is the city’s cash register going ka-ching as a settlement is prepared.)

Putting kids last: State Rep. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly) issues a report claiming lobbyists used sticks and carrots in a successful attempt to stymie an investigation into the spending of taxpayer dollars by intermediate school districts. Johnson describes the lobbying as “ferocious.” She says legislators were plied with alcohol, offered weekend retreats and intimidated into scuttling a statewide investigation, instead simply passing a bill that requires more accountability from the school districts that provide vocational and special education services. And that, kids, is another lesson in how our democracy works.

Low times: A mother attempting to enroll her son in an incorrigibility program run by the juvenile division of Wayne County Family Court learns that her attempt at intervention is probably a good move when officials find 16 little baggies of pot in the 14-year-old’s backpack. The seventh-grader, adhering to an age-old tactic, denies that the dope is his. Authorities don’t believe him. It didn’t help that he tested positive for THC when admitted to the county’s juvie detention facility.

Hear that whistle blow: One of two cops accusing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of violating the Whistle Blowers’ Protection Act had such a strong case that the judge presiding over it decided that the only thing a jury needed to do was determine how much to fork over to Officer Harold Nelthrope. Nelthrope claimed that the mayor and members of his administration retaliated against him after he exposed overtime abuse by Kilpatrick’s security staff and reported rumors of a wild party at the Manoogian Mansion.

Same ol’ Lonnie: The fallout is swift following a report by Fox 2 TV news guy Scott Lewis that Detroit City Councilman Alonzo “Lonnie” Bates had on his staff a 23-year-old woman collecting as much as $38,000 in less than a year even though she lived part of the time in Brooklyn. Council asks the city’s auditor general to review all city personal- and professional-services contracts. The FBI reportedly begins sniffing around. Detroit taxpayers must be shocked — shocked, we say — at the revelation. Could this possibly be the same upstanding public servant who took a taxpayer-funded junket to Mexico while a lame-duck member of the school board, the same dedicated official who was caught in an earlier Fox 2 report washing his ride and otherwise taking care of anybody’s business but the city’s while on city time.

Really tucked in: An Ann Arbor homeless man (they have homeless in Ann Arbor?) who bedded down in a Dumpster finds himself in the back of a garbage truck getting compacted. Luckily the trash surrounding him serves as a buffer, keeping him from being crushed. “Just being in the Dumpster and being dumped would have been a heck of a ride, let alone being compacted,” a firefighter tells the AA News. It should come as no surprise that the garbage bin was located behind a bar.

Ooops! As Mark Twain would say, the reports of this death were greatly exaggerated. There’s a fight outside a coney on Detroit’s West Side. The argument, apparently, is over a girl. A gun is pulled. Shots are fired. Two people are hit with bullets, one of whom is a 16-year old boy who’s shot in the head. He’s taken to Grace-Sinai hospital where, according to police, he’s pronounced dead. Fortunately, the city can strike one number from this year’s homicide tally. Though in critical condition, the boy actually survives the assault. Police explain that, when checked at the scene, the boy had no vital signs. “Maybe he didn’t at the time,” it is explained, “but he’s not deceased.” Police also say they hope to have the suspect under arrest soon. Just not for murder.

Dressed to thrill: Frank Rydoc is arrested after he shows up at his former workplace in Warren toting an unloaded hunting rifle. It’s a type of story heard with alarming frequency. But this case is a little different. When Rydock came calling, he wore a wig, dress and bra stuffed with water-filled balloons. We’re imagining a D-cup, but can’t say for certain. He also rode a bike, indicating that if he did indeed have foul play in mind, his getaway wouldn’t be the swiftest in the world. Newspaper accounts don’t indicate whether the bike was a man’s or woman’s. Police find him a short time later in a park, where he’s allegedly holding cocaine, marijuana and a 4-inch knife. It’s unclear whether Rydoc is wearing stiletto heels or lace-up work boots.

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