Shame game 

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. OK, that’s not true. Nobody has to do it. But for the utterly cynical and depraved, there is a certain perverse pleasure to be found in sloshing through the muck of an entire year, reminding ourselves of just how much perfidy the local media so thoughtfully delivered to us over the course of 365 days. And so, a-scouring we went, casting our dredge wide to scoop up some of 2003’s most misbegotten news bits.

 

January

Breakfast special — Two eggs, toast, coffee and all the pork you can swallow, just $20,000. The man collecting all that dough is state House Speaker Rick Johnson (R-Le Roy), serving as lead collector for the House Republican Campaign Committee. Appearing on Brit Hume’s Fox news program, lobbyist and fund-raiser Steve Linder says having to pony up 20 grand just to nosh with a pol is how our great system works. “Democracy needs to be funded like any other enterprise,” he explains. Just look at how well strong-arming has worked for the Mafia, he might have added.

If the suit fits — Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan reacts with shock — shock, we tell you! — when assistant prosecutor Judith McNair files a whistleblower lawsuit. McNair claims Duggan and three of his subordinates retaliated after she raised concerns about alleged political fundraising taking place on county time. Duggan indignantly huffs that the lawsuit is “frivolous” and vows to file a countersuit. Said countersuit never materializes. “He’s a big windbag,” says Ben Gonek, McNair’s attorney. The civil case is still pending in federal court.

 

Prosecuting a prosecutor — Less than a week after McNair sues, another whistleblower suit against the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is filed by an intern who claims she was coached by her boss, Wade McCann, to mislead the FBI regarding political work she alleges was done on county time. Nadia Alaglan claims she worked building a database of Democratic donors, and was also paid by the county for working at two political fund-raisers, including one for Prosecutor Duggan. In November, McCann is hit with a 10-count federal indictment charging him with mail fraud, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. His lawyer, Steve Fishman, tells the Associated Press that there’s not a “scintilla” of evidence justifying the fraud and obstruction charges. Adds Fishman: “If Wade McCann is guilty of a federal offense for being political while at work, all the elected officials in the state of Michigan should start hiring criminal lawyers.” Now there’s an idea whose time has come.

Honolulu blue job — The old year ends with Lions chief executive Matt Millen telling reporters that, despite a 5-27 record, head coach Marty Mornhinweg is “still a bright guy” and that the two men will soldier on together. And you know that with a stand-up guy like Millen, his word is his bond. So M&M charge into ’03 shoulder to shoulder — for a full 27 days. Then Steve Mariucci becomes available, and faster than you can say “renege,” Matt kisses both Marty and his credibility goodbye.

Sayonara Motown — Two Japanese college students in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show are ordered to strip naked and then are robbed by a pair of gun-toting men who burst into their hotel room. Police arrest the culprits at a casino within hours. In a pitiful attempt to put a positive spin on the embarrassing incident, mayoral spokesman Jamaine Dickens boasts that the two visitors, suitably impressed by the crime-solving savvy of Detroit’s finest, “walked away feeling much better about our city.” Actually, despite the city’s offer to put them up for free at the RenCen Marriott, the two young men don’t walk away from Motown, they run, as fast as they can, straight to a hotel in Windsor.

One-finger discount — While attempting to cut the sleeves from an oversized coat to handcuff 45-year-old Joni Gullas, Detroit Police Officer Anthony Johnson severs part of the woman’s left ring finger. Johnson had previously attained 15 minutes of infamy for fatally shooting a senile, half-blind 79-year-old grandmother who approached him with a knife. As with that incident, no charges are pressed in the defingering. Gullas hires ambulance chaser extraordinaire Geoffrey Fieger, who, with typical understatement, files a $100 million lawsuit against the city.

Shocking accusation — Detroit Councilwoman Sharon McPhail claims that her office chair has been wired to produce an electric shock when the attached massager is turned on. Although there is absolutely no evidence to substantiate the allegation, McPhail says Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is the likely culprit, calling the Kwamster a “thug” who goes after people who cross him. A day later, with McPhail taking the day off to recuperate from not being zapped, her spokesman tells a Freep reporter: “The councilwoman didn’t mean to imply that the mayor did something to her chair. She is a little shaken by the entire incident.”

Helluva lesson — The Oakland Intermediate School District’s trouble-filled year begins with the firing of Superintendent James Redmond, who is accused of spending more than $680,000 on secret buyouts and using staff development funds to pay for his flying lessons. Questions are also raised about deals between the district and an educational technology company that has Redmond as a board member. Redmond responds by suing the district for $2 million, saying he’s done nothing wrong and that his contract was illegally terminated. The lesson: When accused of wrongdoing, sue!

 

February

Judge not — On Feb. 10, the executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission calls Allen Park District Judge Gerard Trudel a “con artist.” A fact-finder working for the commission had determined that, among other things, Trudel filed false workers compensation claims so that he could be paid while serving a suspension for previous judicial misconduct. The Michigan Supreme Court is urged to remove Trudel from office. That same day, in an act of impeccable timing, the Michigan Department of Management and Budget grants Trudel a $33,000-per-year disability pension.

Prosecutor pays — Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Wade McCann is fined $8,375 after it is determined that interns under his supervision logged more than 750 hours working on a Democratic contributor campaign database while on the county clock. Prosecutor Mike Duggan is shocked — shocked! we tell you — that such a thing could have occurred. McCann’s attorney says that his client’s paying the fine should not be construed as an admission of wrongdoing.

One teacher’s sticky situation — An Ann Arbor public school music teacher devises a novel way to control an unruly third-grader — duct-taping the kid to his chair. The contrite teacher, Penni Paul, is suspended for three days, then put on paid medical leave for the remainder of the school year. And we are left to wonder: Does anyone ever use duct tape to actually tape a duct?

Windsor wordsmiths — Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Fred Mester says he is dissatisfied with a plea agreement that lets Shuo-Shan Wang escape jail time for practicing medicine without a license. It seems the unfortunately named Wang enjoyed a surprisingly brisk business providing castrations to men seeking to lose their testicular burdens. Authorities say Wang, who advertised his services on the Internet, admitted to performing 50 of the procedures. Mester’s declaration that Wang should do jail time inspires this classic Windsor Star headline: “Justice wants stiffer penalty for castrator.”

No shirt off his back — When Dearborn High School senior Bretton Barber wears a T-shirt declaring George Bush to be an “international terrorist” to class, school officials tell him he must either turn the shirt inside out or go home. Barber goes home — and calls the ACLU, which files suit on his behalf. In October, a federal judge rules that Barber’s First Amendment rights were violated. Unfortunately, the judge fails to send school officials back to civics class with an assignment to write a 500-word essay on the Bill of Rights.

 

March

Stallworth’s stall tactics — In the year’s most audacious political maneuver, Wayne County Commissioner Keith Stallworth resigns and then sues to get his job back, claiming that he never really quit. The former state representative had just pleaded guilty to one felony count in connection with a money laundering and drug conspiracy case involving Milton “Butch” Jones, co-founder of the notorious Young Boys Inc. drug gang. Stallworth’s lawyer claims in court that what commissioners thought to be a resignation speech by his client was really just an announcement that he planned to take an extended “vacation.” A judge rejects Stallworth’s attempt to renege on his resignation.

Don’t drink the blue apple juice — Who hasn’t been on a long flight next to a crying baby and wished someone would do something — please, God, anything! — to keep the kid quiet. Northwest Airlines flight attendant Daniel Cunningham apparently felt our pain. Or maybe he just had a really bad hangover. Whatever the reason, he is charged with assault and distributing a controlled substance after allegedly spiking a baby’s apple juice with the prescription depressant Xanax during an international flight the previous August. The child’s mother became suspicious after noticing the juice was foamy and had blue specks floating in it. Cunningham, an Ann Arbor resident, is eventually sentenced to four months of home confinement.

Scaffold of fools — News breaks that the county is paying $30,000 a month to rent scaffolding that, though in place since the previous summer, has yet to be actually used to make any repairs on the Wayne County Building it surrounds. By the time Metro Times discovers the deal, the county has already shelled out more than $230,000 to lease the giant set of monkey bars. “We could have bought the scaffolding for that,” complains Commissioner Ilona Varga. In a pique of fiscal restraint, the county renegotiates the deal down to $20,000 per month. The last time we looked, the bars were still up, and there was still no visible work being done on the structure.

Kay’s big hat trick — Detroit City Councilwoman Kay Everett’s sartorial sense is usually good for a laugh, but the chuckling turns more cynical when copies of her “Hats On Me” calendar start making the rounds. We particularly like the shot of Everett looking oh-so-fabulous nestled in a full-length fur coat. But the usually loquacious Kay buttons her lips tight when people start asking whether the calendar was printed using city equipment and resources.

Porky buries his snout in the trough — One year ago, Metro Times ran a caricature of John Engler as Porky the Pig stammering “That’s all folks!” But, of course, it wasn’t. In March, the Detroit News prints an exposé raising questions about the former guv’s now $250,000-a-year job (“with a bonus potential to double that”) with EDS, the Texas computer company that benefited mightily during Porky’s 12 years at Michigan’s helm. According to the article, under Engler’s reign, EDS “parlayed a modest $55 million-a-year contract with the state into a $555 million, multiyear bonanza.”

The kids just love to riot — Who needs a national championship to start a melee? Certainly not those fun-loving undergrads at Michigan State University. A victory over defending NCAA champ Maryland is all it takes for a few thousand well-lubricated students to swarm into the streets. Beer bottles are hurled at police, cars overturned and titties flashed. Eighteen arrests are made. “Anybody who thinks this is a part of MSU culture or tradition doesn’t know or appreciate anything about MSU culture or tradition,” a university spokesman tells the Lansing State Journal. We think that said spokesman knows nothing about Spartan tradition. Who can forget the festivities of 1999? Certainly not Mayor Mark Meadows, who griped that the current crop of students “have no institutional memory of the embarrassment the city and the university felt from the riots” that occurred when the glorious Green & White lost to Duke in the Final Four that year. Go Sparty!

So, Rosa and Strom walk into a bar… — Civil rights icon Rosa Parks is apparently a little thin-skinned when it comes to anyone daring to — gasp! — make her the butt of a joke. Seems Rosa turned down an invitation to the NAACP’s Image Awards because a character played by Cedric the Entertainer made a few cracks about Parks in the movie Barbershop. Rosa wasn’t the only sainted African-American the movie hit with barbs. Martin Luther King Jr. took a few hits as well. He too failed to show at the Image Awards, but at least he had a legitimate reason.

 

April

Big-time quack up — It was supposed to be a team for the ages, a team loaded with future Hall of Famers, a team designed to do one thing: bring Lord Stanley’s spitoon back to Detroit. And what do they do? Lose. In the first round of the playoffs. Four games straight. A sweep. To a team owned by Disney. The Ducks. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Pitiful. Mighty pitiful.

Another kind of hat trick — Remember that hat calendar put out by Detroit Councilwoman Kay Everett? She issues a scathing press release saying the FBI is investigating. Everett denies any wrongdoing, and ridicules the agency for looking into such a piddling matter when they should be protecting us from terrorists. Everett also remains defiant, vowing that she “won’t surrender one hat to this fishing expedition.” Two months later, it is reported that the feds are really looking into a $100,000 “loan” Everett received from a contractor who does much business with the city.

Who’s your daddy? — The results are in from a civil rights probe by the U.S. Justice Department that began in December 2000. And the Detroit Police Department has a new theme song: “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Play it loud, but don’t play it proud. The excessive force. The shootings. The abuse of prisoners. The illegal dragnets. But look on the bright side: At least we’re not Cincinnati.

Stop on green, go on red — We’re No. 1. Again. And, once again, it is a distinction Detroit would just as soon not lay claim to. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that among cities with more than 500,000 population, Detroit ranks first in pedestrian deaths with a rate of more than 5 per 100,000 population. That’s twice the rate of New York City. One Detroit police official tells the Freep: “It’s probably something we should pay more attention to.”

Duh.

Just for the shell of it — The whole TRTL graffiti controversy in Detroit gets completely out of hand when Aaron Timlin, director of the Detroit Artists Market, offers a reward for information leading to the arrest of the terrapin-obsessed tagger and then, in retaliation, Jef Bourgeau, founder of the Museum of New Art, offers a bounty to anyone who creams Timlin with a pie. Aside from being proof positive that some people in this country don’t have enough real issues to worry about, the feud does produce a clear winner. Timlin holds a fund-raising raffle. The winner is invited to pie Timlin, after which they may collect the $1,000 bounty. A thoroughly outsmarted Bourgeau refuses to pay up.

Damn that duct tape — A pair of Michigan performance artists spend five nights in a Washington, D.C., jail after making the mistake of putting on an impromptu show at the Capitol building. According to a report in the Ann Arbor News, the two duct-taped an empty honey bottle, a small sculpture and pamphlets to their flowing white clothes for a piece they titled “Washington experience.” It turned out to be a bit more of an experience than they anticipated. Handcuffs were soon part of their ensemble as cops rushed the two, fearing that they were terrorists. “I understand where the police are coming from,” says one of the performers, “but we should not be held accountable for their misinterpretation and lack of tolerance for other peoples’ clothing and ways.” Or, it could be that the cops are like most everyone else and just don’t get performance art.

 

May

To air is human — Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties are among 20 in Michigan that receive failing grades for unhealthy levels of smog. The American Lung Association, which levies the F’s after analyzing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stats, encourages people to write to state and federal government officials to urge them to oppose weakening the Clean Air Act.

For $200,000, you get a back rub — Just four months into his first term, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano pimps for re-election funding by establishing the “Executive Team” (folks who raise $100,000) and “Team Ficano” ($50,000 netters). A fundraising letter announcing the team concept is sent to companies that do business with the county. Member perks are reported to include regular phone calls with Ficano, a “Team Ficano” lapel pin and invitations to Ficano events. Whoa. Sign us up.

Flying manhole covers send terror alert to chartreuse — The federal courthouse in Detroit is evacuated May 5 after methane gas leaks from a sewer line and collects in an underground utility tunnel. When the pocket of poo-fumery ignites, the resulting blast rattles the neighborhood and sends two 200-pound manhole covers high into the air. Nobody is hurt, but windows are shattered and authorities require a nearby coney island diner to, for Pete’s sake, dilute its chili.

Brownout — Gary Brown, Detroit’s fired deputy police chief, says he got canned because he was investigating alleged obstruction of justice by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and members of his security detail. Brown says he was probing an alleged drunken driving accident, falsified overtime records and a possible cover-up of the incidents, all involving members of the mayor’s security detail. Also on the to-do list were questions about an alleged incident at the Manoogian Mansion involving Kilpatrick, his family, nude entertainment and an assault, he says. The Kwamster fires back: “There is no substance to any of them. There was no party at the Manoogian. There was no accident that was covered up. There are no falsified time cards.” Brown, who headed the department’s Internal Affairs Division, says, “The message being sent throughout the department is if you accept a complaint against the mayor’s friends or appointees and investigate it, you will be fired.”

Somebody’s not getting an “S” in citizenship — A seventh-grade student at Berkshire Middle School in Beverly Hills gets in a heap o’ trouble after allegedly squirting cleaning fluid into a teacher’s cup of tea. She unwittingly takes several drinks before some brownnosing goody-two-shoes students tell her what’s up. Prosecutors later charge the boy — who seems destined to become a Northwest Airlines flight attendant — as a juvenile with food tampering. The boy’s trial is set for January, says Prosecutor Robert Zivian. In the meantime, both student and teacher are back at school and the boy is not to have contact with her.

Deadbeat dad KO’d — The International Boxing Federation announces creation of a new classification, “slacker-weight,” after cruiserweight champ James Toney is arrested for nonpayment of child support. Two nights in Los Angeles County jail inspire Toney to discover $103,000 he didn’t know he had, and he makes good on obligations to his 10-year-old daughter, who lives in metro Detroit. It’s a fact that Toney grew up in Detroit, but that part about “slacker-weight” is just a joke.

Ya think? — A Commerce Township mother says she “made a mistake” in letting her 13-year-old daughter take a trip to Texas with a man who had done 20 years for second-degree murder. When the girl and her “chaperone,” William Robert Donaldson, 55, are stopped by authorities in Texas, the girl informs them that Donaldson had molested her. “They knew he had a criminal history that was from 20 years ago,” the mother’s lawyer says, adding that the mother “feels like she made a mistake in this case.” Police were investigating claims by the girl’s two sisters, ages 9 and 13, that Donaldson had molested them and that their mother was aware of the abuse. Donaldson is charged with transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes.

Rx, lies and videotape — A Detroit police officer is charged in federal court with distributing stolen drugs and possessing a stolen firearm after authorities discover he had a rather weird hobby — videotaping drug users in the acts of consumption, then posting the tapes online and charging customers who watch them. A criminal complaint accuses Ceiere Campbell, 29, of supplying stolen cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana and heroin to drug addicts who agreed to be videotaped in exchange. Campbell obtained the drugs through narcotics raids by the Detroit Police Department, the complaint states. A raid of Campbell’s home allegedly turns up several handguns, including a stolen .38-caliber revolver, marijuana in a bedroom shared by Campbell’s two children, and drug paraphernalia.

The few. The proud. The perverted. — A Marine from Huntington Woods pleads guilty in a hazing and sex-assault case after admitting he videotaped a gang attack on three fellow soldiers. Pfc. William F. Fairfield, 20, and three others are accused of entering the quarters of sleeping soldiers and attempting to rub their asses on the noses of the victims. He pleads guilty to conspiracy, assault and housebreaking charges, though he hardly seems housebroken. He is sentenced to 120 days confinement, reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of $2,400 in pay, a bad-conduct discharge and, perhaps, a severe spanking.

 

June

But did he get his phone call? — Thomas Bonner, former police chief of Taylor, is charged with "larceny by conversion" after allegedly ringing up $16,000 in unauthorized cellular phone charges. Bonner, who resigned his post in Taylor in December 2002 after an investigation was launched, is alleged to have abused a cell phone issued to him by the Downriver Community Conference, which Bonner chaired from 1998 to 2000. He later would strike a plea bargain with prosecutors and be sentenced to probation and restitution. The Downriver Community Conference is a coalition of Downriver cities that manages grants and provides job training and other things, including bitchin’ cell phones.

Shanks a lot, ossifer — Two Oakland County sheriff’s officers are suspended without pay after failing to administer a breath-test to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who is stopped after a motorist reports Patterson’s erratic driving. Patterson has a long history of alcohol-related shenanigans — but no convictions. The motorist tells officers, “The guy’s hit three, four curbs now,” and that “He’s taking off like crazy, cutting in between everybody.” OCSO audio and videotapes indicate Patterson is in no condition to drive. “He’s messed up. I’m going to drive his car home,” a deputy is heard telling a sergeant, his supervisor, who is en route to the scene. Later, the deputy says, “Ah, sarge, there’s no question. No question,” referring to Patterson’s condition. Patterson reportedly blames his poor driving on cell-phone usage, and at another point says he couldn’t listen to the radio and drive well at the same time. He also says he’d been drinking and had taken pills to ease the pain from a shoulder injured while weightlifting. The incident occurs after Patterson spends an afternoon at a golf outing. Police drive him to his condominium in his county-issued Cadillac. He later pleads no contest to reckless driving and must undergo daily Breathalyzer tests for 30 days. Through the end of the year, he is required to submit to random alcohol testing once a week.

A diamond in the roughage — A Bloomfield Township woman has to wait to get her diamond ring back after an X-ray shows it’s in the stomach of a man who had come to her home to clean carpets. “We are holding him overnight, pending warrants, and monitoring the situation in order to retrieve the evidence,” a police guy says. “Yep, 24 to 72 hours. And luckily, I’m a doctor, so I have a sterilization unit at the office,” says Tim Reilly, who had given his wife, Maria, the ring to commemorate the birth of the couple’s twins. “It’s a shame. They did a great job cleaning the carpet,” adds Reilly, one freakin’ funny physician.

Front porch, backhoe — Some kind of twisted, phantom heavy-equipment hijacker commandeers a massive backhoe and makes its arm slam down on the roof of an east-side Detroit home. “They feel the guy wasn’t trying to steal it; he was aiming for the house,” a cop says. Dan Devers, construction foreman on a sewer project on McNichols at Moran, says he had finished loading dirt from the 90-ton excavator into a truck, then set the safety to keep the excavator in place while he went to get blueprints from a nearby pickup truck. “All of a sudden, I looked up and saw the machine moving across the pavement,” Devers tells the Freep. The hulking arm of the excavator rose and crashed down on the porch roof. The commandeerer then fled. “In 27 years, I’ve never, never, ever had anyone jump into a piece of equipment and do that,” Devers says. “I thought he was going to tear the whole house down.”

Making Detroit safe for blank walls — Police are pumped up after arresting two graffiti artists and charging them with felonies that could net them five years in jail and $10,000 in fines. They are jailed on $40,000 bond each and eventually plead guilty to malicious destruction and serve 60 days. Once released, they are ordered to clean up 15 sites around the city where their monikers appeared.

Moore disruptions — Detroit activist Helen Moore, well-known for disruptive behavior at school board meetings, takes her heckling to the City Council. One big difference, though: She’s now on the staff of Councilwoman JoAnn Watson. The Freep reports June 19 that during a council session, Moore heckles Councilwoman Kay Everett, then calls Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel “a sellout.” “I don’t think harangues or catcalls” by any staff person are appropriate, Cockrel tells the Freep. “If anyone on my staff ever engaged in that type of behavior, I would fire them instantly. … Politics is rough and tumble and everybody knows that, but that takes it to a new level,” Cockrel says. Watson says she counseled Moore after the meeting, and that Moore has agreed to keep a lid on it.

Don’t hate him cuz he’s a playa — The head of the Kwamster’s security detail, Officer Loronzo “Greg” Jones, is removed from his post after the Freep inquires about a 2002 incident in which Jones escorted soul diva Queen Latifah to an illegal after-hours establishment run by the Sons of Zodiac, a motorcycle club. Sources tell the Freep that Jones enlisted patrol officers to watch over the group’s vehicles while he and Latifah’s entourage went inside for at least an hour and a half. Cops had raided the west-side club in the past.

To serve and protect and shake down and bully — Seventeen cops are indicted by the feds, accused of unleashing a reign of terror on southwest Detroit. Prosecutors claim the rogue cops dangled a man by his legs from a second-story window, threatened to kill a woman if she narced on them and stepped on the face of another woman, dislodging a tooth. The officers — who allegedly stole drugs, firearms and money from suspected drug dealers — are all indicted on one count of conspiring to violate people’s civil rights, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Eight are charged with additional civil rights violations. Two are charged with using a firearm to commit a crime of violence, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years in prison. The indictment says some officers planted evidence and falsified police reports on several victims, five to 10 of whom may be serving time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. In other cases, the officers allegedly let victims go after pocketing money and drugs.

Babbling Brooks — L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County’s executive, summons the press to say he’s cleaning up his act. “I intend to play a hell of a lot less,” he vows. This in the wake of a June 2 incident in which he got a lift home from Oakland County deputies who’d pulled him over after a motorist called in to report a madman loose on the road. A penitent Patterson says he has started alcohol counseling, docked himself three days’ pay (same number of days a sergeant was suspended for not giving him a sobriety test), and had decided not to challenge the evidence against him. “I don’t think I have a problem, but some people would say that drinking to the point of having even one episode means you’ve got a problem,” he says. “I’m not here to make excuses for my behavior, which frankly was pretty stupid.” We’ll drink to that.

Told you, you stupid mo-fo’s — A defiant Kwamster claims victory in a press conference packed with applauding mayoral appointees hours after Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announces that no evidence has been found to suggest criminal wrongdoing by the mayor or his top aides. Well, there were issues with findings of mismanagement, poor decision-making and the potential wrongful firing of the deputy chief of police who was investigating allegations against Kwame’s crew, but, hey, what’s a few well-intentioned fuck-ups among friends? Cox says the rumored “wild party” at the Manoogian Mansion is an “urban legend,” but wags a finger at the mayor’s right-hand woman, Christine Beatty, for claiming to investigators that she fired the deputy chief based on an anonymous letter she later shredded. Vindication never tasted so, well, vinegary.

 

July

Pay no attention to that 5 o’clock shadow — Taylor police issue an APB for a 27-year-old man who convinced a teenage boy and his mother that he was a 13-year-old girl named Lelani. The mother discovers Lelani’s secret and alerts the authorities, saying she suspected the poseur had inappropriately touched her son, who was, like, totally freaked.

Another case cracked — Kim Mathers, Eminem’s ex, pleads not guilty to possession of cocaine, driving with a suspended, revoked or denied license, and failing to use due care while passing a stationary emergency vehicle. St. Clair Shores police say they found two baggies filled with cocaine in her Cadillac Escalade during a June 10 traffic stop. Mathers was traveling with an unidentified woman who denied being Lelani. Hahahahahahahaha. Just kidding. Mathers proceeds to skip two court hearings and eventually is ordered to post a $50,000 cash bond and be tagged with an electronic tether, to submit to alcohol testing and to attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Call it research — Megan Norris, civilian chair of the Detroit Police Commission, is robbed at gunpoint as she walks on the city’s east side. Norris tells investigators she left her downtown law office after 9 p.m. and was walking home when a man with a gun approached her near the Belle Isle bridge and told her to drop her purse, which she did.

In Dutch — A Muslim cleric who spent 19 months in detention while the feds probed an Islamic charity he helped found is deported without notice. Rabih Haddad’s wife and children learn of his deportation when he calls them from Amsterdam, where immigration agents had stopped with him en route to his native Lebanon. Haddad was never charged with any crime.

Just plain sad — The head of the Michigan Department of Corrections apologizes to the family of a mother and two girls who were slain, allegedly by a man who was erroneously paroled. DOC officials blame a clerical error for the early release of Daniel Franklin, who is charged with first-degree murder in the fatal slashings of his ex-wife Machekia Robinson, 28, and her two daughters, Rockell Johnson, 10, and Taria Johnson, 8, in their Pontiac townhouse. A 4-year-old boy Franklin fathered with Robinson looked on but was not otherwise harmed, investigators say. DOC chief Patricia Caruso says: “I would like to offer my condolences to the family of Ms. Robinson and her children. Their murders were a tragedy for their family and their community, and my heart aches for them.”

We are not making this up — Lead on a story in The Detroit News: “This just in: Jimmy Hoffa is still missing.”

 

August

Lactose intolerance — A patron of a Jackson strip club called The School House files a police complaint claiming that a stripper squirted him in the face with breast milk during a lap dance. The dancer denies the charge. “I get one [version of events] from him that she did it. I get one from her that she didn’t,” says club spokesman Chance Williams. “I’ve been in this business 20 years, and when you think you’ve seen everything, something new pops up.” Police had not commenced with a bust because the patron couldn’t decide whether to press charges — or order a bag of Oreos.

We out — An Ohio electric utility fails to stop power surges that send the grid crashing in the Northeast on Aug. 14, knocking out power to 50 million people in eight states and parts of Canada. Some 2.3 million Michiganders are without power for up to three days. We respond by guzzling all our 40s before they get too warm. The eastcoastmediaelite seem astonished when Detroiters don’t respond by torching the place. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is lauded for his handling of the crisis in the national press, which is all well and good, but tends to overstate the influence of a politician who had no means of communicating with citizens except via battery-powered radios. Oh, well, we reckon he would have gotten blamed if things had been worse, so kudos to the Kwamster for his steely resolve under pressure. Detroit Edison says the outage cost it about $30 million.

 

September

Bubba in high-tops — It could have been bad for erstwhile University of Michigan basketball star Chris Webber. Real bad. After all, he did lie to a federal grand jury about receiving money from booster Ed Martin back when he was one of the Fab Five. That fib could have gotten him five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But then Martin died, and the case against Webber fell apart when U.S. District Court Judge Nancy G. Edmunds disallowed key evidence. With no chance of winning a perjury conviction, government lawyers allow Webber to plead guilty to the lesser charge of criminal contempt. Instead of imposing a fine, Edmunds sparks controversy by deferring sentencing for two years, then instructing Webber — who now plays for the Sacramento Kings — to spend 300 hours over the next two summers volunteering at a middle school literacy program in Detroit. A writer for The Sacramento Bee newspaper says this about Webber: “He is akin to Bill Clinton in basketball shoes; a happy hurricane who blows into towns on the winds of hope and leaves disaster in his wake.”

Zap! — Two stories appearing in local papers on the same day show just how much Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver is hated. First the case of Officer John Bennett, who is suspended with pay during the summer for hosting a virulently anti-Oliver Web site. When Bennett persists, going so far as revealing where the chief’s kids attend school, the Board of Police Commissioners cuts off his paycheck. Interestingly enough, Bennett is not charged with violating any departmental regulations — just the chief’s sense of fair play. In the other report, Oliver participates in a stun gun demonstration, agreeing to get zapped by a device the department is considering using to immobilize troublemakers. Critics lambaste him for allowing a padded mat to cushion his fall, saying real suspects would fare far worse landing on concrete — not that it doesn’t beat the hell out of landing on the ground with a bullet in your chest. As the chief is learning, sometimes you can’t win no matter what you do.

Come all ye faithful (and screw the rest of you) — The Thomas More Law Center files a lawsuit in Washtenaw County Circuit Court to prevent the Ann Arbor Public School District from providing insurance benefits to same-sex couples. The conservative group, which is based in Ann Arbor, thinks it downright blasphemous for public dollars to be spent on those sinning homosexuals, who’d be just fine if they’d only get themselves straight with God. The group also claims that the district’s policy is an attempt to institutionalize same-sex marriage. According to its Web site, the nonprofit promotes the “religious freedom of Christians.” Or, to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to choose.

And you wonder why Ernie Harwell retired? — The Detroit Tigers win five of their last six games to avoid being forever known as the Most Pathetic Team In History. The Tigers gamely battle to a 43-119 mark, saving the Motown nine from tying the ’62 expansion-year Mets in futility. But they still set the American League record. The team hits an anemic .240 for the season, and is outscored 928-531. The staff’s ace and winningest pitcher, Mike Maroth, finishes with nine victories. Unfortunately, Maroth is also the first pitcher since 1980 to lose 20 or more games, 21 to be exact. Another starter, Jeremy Bonderman, finishes 6-19. New skipper Alan Trammell has more losing streaks of six games or more in his first 30 games (three) than Joe Torre had in his first 1,162 games as Yankees manager (two). An ESPN baseball wag suggests that the Tigers be dissolved, which would undoubtedly put a huge damper on the 2005 All-Star game, slated for Comerica Park.

 

October

The FBI giveth and the FBI taketh back — The Federal Bureau of Investigation plans to honor Amad Hamad as one of two recipients of its Exceptional Public Service award. The regional director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, Hamad is told the recognition is the government’s way of saying thanks for his outstanding work to enhance communication between law enforcement agencies and the Arab-American community in the wake of 9/11. Then the Zionist Organization of America and conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel launches a campaign against Hamad. All of a sudden, the FBI has problems with Hamad and the decision is reversed. But the FBI swears — cross our hearts and hope to die — that the decision has nothing — absolutely nothing we tell you! — to do with the right-wing pressure. Originally the FBI claims some vague connection between Hamad and Arab men involved in deportation proceedings. The FBI later says that the real reason it withdrew the award is that its director, Robert Mueller, never intended to give it to Hamad. Yeah, right.

And he did it without a barrel — Some people will go to any length just to get a little attention. Kirk Jones of Canton only goes 170 feet. Media around the world take note of Jones’ plummet from Niagara Falls, made all the more newsworthy because he lives to talk about it. Afterward, Jones claims that depression prompted the leap. But pals tell The Buffalo News that he jumped for dollars. “He was sure he was going to survive it,” Bobby Kreuger is quoted saying, “and make money on the film.” Oh yeah, the film. Kreuger is supposed to tape the plunge, but he’s never used a video camera before, and is so shocked at the sight of his pal plummeting into the foam he forgets to turn the thing on.

Oops. Take two?

My, that’s an odd ankle bracelet — After disappearing for two days and failing to show up in court to face drug charges, a Macomb County Circuit Court judge orders Eminem ex Kim Mathers to wear an electronic tether. She’s allowed out only to attend counseling sessions and appear in court, which is where she finds herself in late December, pleading guilty to a cocaine possession charge and a driving offense. She is to be sentenced in January.

Serverance, not penance — After being fired from his 15-year position as Sterling Heights city manager, Steve Duchane says that he plans to go back to school and really get that bachelor’s degree he’s been claiming to have. Duchane is canned by the City Council following newspaper reports that the University of Michigan-Flint and Eastern Michigan University have no record of him attending, contrary to his résumé. By forcing the council to fire him rather than quit, Duchane qualifies for $117,000 in severance, which ought to make him a BMOC wherever he goes.

Out with a bang and a whimper — Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! The man brought in to clean up Detroit’s troubled police department resigns after less than two years on the job. The center of controversy for his hard-nosed, zero-tolerance approach to departmental wrongdoing throughout his short tenure, in the end it is a little crime problem of his own that does in Jerry Oliver. Seems the chief has a loaded .25-caliber handgun in his luggage at Detroit Metro Airport. Even police chiefs, if seems, have to declare their weapons. More to the point, even police chiefs need to have their handguns licensed. Following his resignation, Oliver pleads no contest to a misdemeanor charge and pays a $250 fine.

Adios, Jerry O. If nothing else, you kept things interesting.

Taking trick-or-treat to the extreme — A 43-year-old dad is arrested in Ann Arbor after he allegedly smashes a bird feeder and throws a pumpkin through the window of a house where his 5-year-young son is turned away without receiving any Halloween candy. OK, so maybe the pumpkin through the window is a bit impetuous. But you can bet your ass those people won’t be scrimping on the Snickers bars next year.

 

November

One toke over the line — Television talk show host Montel Williams pays a $100 fine at Detroit Metropolitan Airport for having marijuana paraphernalia. Williams says he uses the drug to treat chronic pain from multiple sclerosis. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1999. Fortunately for Montel, he is just visiting our unfair state. Back in California where he resides, an enlightened populace passed an initiative in the 1990s that makes it legal for folks like Williams to puff their pain away. Et tu, Michigan? We can only hope.

Crime and punishment, sort of — Let’s see if we got this straight: In July, South Rockwood Police Chief Kevin Walters makes contact with a 19-year-old via the Internet. They rendezvous at night in a wooded area near an elementary school. Walters, 41, offers the teen $20 and prepares to give him a blow job. Another kid ambushes Walters with a baseball bat. Walters shoots him in the chest, seriously wounding him. Walters flees, and before calling 911, first phones a subordinate to discuss exactly how to handle the, er, sticky situation. The teens are charged with robbery. And Walters? He pleads no contest to one count of willful neglect of duty. Now there’s an understatement if we ever heard one. He’s given one year probation, must do community service, pay fines, attend sex offender classes and can’t use the Internet except for work.

Blue code of silence — Right out of the gate, new Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings issues a new policy that requires officers to get administrative approval to talk to the media. And what happens if the rank and file violate this policy? We may never know unless management gives them permission to talk about it.

 

December

For Christ’s sake — Wayne Reif pays $125 for a permit to display a nativity scene in a Birmingham park and $400 for figurines. But someone apparently runs off with the baby Jesus — twice. The city says Reif must take the scene down if he doesn’t replace the Lord. He shells out another $200 for the babe in his manger and a sheep, which is also rustled. No arrests are made, but someone’s karma could be in serious jeopardy.

Following their leader? — Federal prosecutors Richard Convertino and Keith Corbett make a mess of the first post-9/11 terrorism trial. They admit at a hearing that they failed to turn over critical evidence that defense attorneys say could have been used to exonerate their clients. U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen scolds them both at a hearing on the issue. The judge must now decide if he will vacate the convictions of three defendants and order a new trial. Way to go, boys. And while we’re at it, let us also send out the appropriate props to your ultimate boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, who just got slapped down for twice violating the gag order put in place for this trial. Where the head goes, the body follows, no?

Rotate this — After the Pistons lose four in a row, The Detroit News reports that coach Larry Brown “continues to talk about wanting to shorten his rotation.” The very same day, The Detroit Free Press discloses: “Coach Larry Brown talked Sunday as if there would be neither a rotation change nor a shortening of the bench. … “ Truth be told, we’re still pissed at the shafting the Pistons gave former coach Rick Carlisle, the man who turned this franchise around, taking his team to the Eastern Conference finals, including taking a playoff series against a Philadelphia 76ers team coached by — you guessed it — Larry Brown. By the way, it’s worth noting Carlisle’s new team, the Indiana Pacers, currently lead the East, with two victories thus far over Brown and his Pistons.

Red, white, black and blue — Jack White, local garage rock godhead and frontman for the Grammy-nominated White Stripes, is hit with a misdemeanor aggravated assault charge after bloodying fellow garage rocker Jason Stollsteimer at a Magic Stick show. Stollsteimer, lead singer for the Von Bondies, files a complaint with the Detroit police against White after being released from Detroit Receiving Hospital. Stollsteimer tells cops he was punched seven times, and his manager later releases pictures in which the singer looks more battered than boyish. White later files his own complaint, saying he was acting in “self defense.” An assistant Wayne Country prosecutor describes White as “a gentleman” throughout the booking process.”

Cheers — It must feel great to make the news in the very papers he runs. Well, maybe not. Detroit Newspapers President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Vega — unaffectionately known as Darth Vega during the strike — is arrested for drunken driving in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Maybe the man who engineered the bitter labor dispute at the Detroit Newspapers was drowning his sorrows for failing to completely bust the unions as he had intended.

The leg bone’s connected to the hip pocket — We are shocked — shocked we tell you! — when Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan is named CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, which required a $50 million government bailout to stay afloat. Some think it odd that a lawyer and politician would be selected to run a $1.6 billion enterprise that includes eight hospitals. But Gov. Jennifer calls Duggan’s hiring a "stroke of genius." It is worth noting that no one would be calling Granholm governor were it not for the Wayne County political machine Duggan helped run under the reign of former county exec Ed McNamara — a fellow currently under investigation by the FBI. When his hiring is announced, Duggan claims the guv’s political clout had nothing to do — absolutely nothing! — with his getting the DMC job.

Ultimate road kill — It was all the way back in December of 2000 that the Detroit Lions accomplished something they haven’t achieved since: A win on the road. In all, as this regular season wound down, the team fumbled its way into history by suffering 24 straight losses while playing away from home — the most ever for an NFL team. A record in futility, we must add, that could continue to grow. And grow and grow and grow …

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