Life was good for Roland and Marie Dreilich in the summer of 1999.
In their mid-30s at the time, they'd already purchased two homes, taking advantage of the booming real estate market of the 1990s to acquire equity and move up the housing ladder.
A blue-collar couple — he does drywall and she held a job as a secretary back then — they proved to be smart and hardworking, and as a result were able to start planning their dream house, a 5,000-square-foot brick colonial with cathedral ceilings and a movie-set staircase in an upscale Shelby Township subdivision. Doctors and lawyers would be their neighbors.
To be built by them from the ground up on a street named Highbury Court, it would be the place in which their daughter, Laken, still in elementary school at the time, would be raised, and the home they'd grow old in together.
With Roland continuing to put in 80-hour weeks — and pulling down around $100,000 a year — Marie took on the task of overseeing work done by various subcontractors, from the pouring of a foundation to the nailing down of roof shingles. She also made frequent trips across the border to Canada at a time when the dollar was still strong, finding deals on everything from flooring to fancy light fixtures. Their custom-built house, the only one like it in Macomb County, was going to be a showplace. But more than that, it represented their future, an investment that could build the sort of equity that would one day allow them to send their daughter to college and provide for a comfortable retirement.
Things went so smoothly at first that Marie began to contemplate becoming a general contractor. If she could do it once for her family, she figured, why not do it again to make money? By her estimate, she could turn a profit of at least $100,000 per house and do two a year.
As good as things seemed at the time, the future looked even brighter. But as the Dreilichs prepared to have the brickwork done on their new home, an ominous cloud began forming just over the horizon.
Ahead of them would be financial ruin and the loss of their home. Marie Dreilich would suffer a miscarriage and severe emotional problems. She'd also be arrested and jailed. And relations between all three family members would be severely strained from the stress of it all.
But in the sunny summer of 1999, all those dark clouds were still in the future.
PART OF THE TRADE
Because of his line of work, Roland knows lots of people in the building trades. So, when it came time to build, he relied on acquaintances to handle the various aspects that go into constructing a house.
For the exterior brickwork, Roland had friends whose craftsmanship he admired, and they were initially lined up to do the job.
But when a previous commitment of theirs took longer than expected to fulfill, the Dreilichs were forced to look elsewhere. Building the new place on borrowed money while continuing to pay a mortgage on the house they were living in nearby meant they had to maintain a tight construction schedule. And with a building boom going on, finding someone that they could trust to do the work was a challenge.
That's when, they say, a contractor named Salvatore Viviano contacted Roland. The owner of his own small company, Viviano proposed doing the exterior brickwork and plumbing.
Roland knew Sal casually from working at the same job sites at various times. And Marie says she had friends in common with him from her high school days in Shelby Township.
And so they hired him without asking for references or making sure he was properly licensed. It would prove to be a devastating lapse.
The Dreilichs' allegations of what happened are found in court filings:
Relying on a handshake instead of a written contract when they hired him, the Dreilichs say they paid Viviano $25,000 cash in August 1999 after the job was completed.
"He would only work for cash," says Marie Dreilich.
Five thousand dollars went to pay the company that supplied limestone used as part of the home's exterior. A portion of the remaining $20,000 was supposed to pay for the bricks; that apparently didn't happen. Instead, they allege, Viviano put the entire amount toward the "purchase of a vehicle the very next day."
A Cadillac Escalade.
"He drove up, leaned out the window and said, 'Look what your money just bought me,'" the Dreilichs claim.
Viviano didn't respond to requests to talk with us about this story. When we phoned his office and said we were calling about the Dreilich case, the secretary answering issued a hard, brittle half-laugh. She said she'd pass along the message to Sal, but he didn't call back. Phoned at his home, the woman who answered hung up after being told it was Metro Times calling.
The Dreilichs, however, were eager to talk. It was, in fact, an e-mail from Marie Dreilich that initially drew our attention to the case.
Her lengthy message contained a number of allegations that sounded farfetched at best. But along with what appeared on the surface to be paranoid conspiracy theories, there were also allegations that could be easily substantiated.
Among those claims was her contention that Salvatore Viviano had a string of serious felonies on his record yet had never served any time in prison, being granted probation instead each time.
That turned out to be absolutely true.
Much about Salvatore Viviano can be found in records available to the public: He's 5-feet, 7-inches tall, weighs 175 pounds and has brown hair. As a kid, he came to America from Italy with his parents. He quit school at age 16. Like his father — with whom he started at least one company — he's worked in the building trades, from painting to cement to brick and stonework. As a young man he had a penchant for fast cars and drag racing that frequently landed him in trouble with the law. The father of four, he divorced and remarried.
He's also had money problems at times. In the 1990s there were attempts to repossess one of his vehicles. In 2003, when he fell behind on payments on a forklift, he allegedly "failed to disclose" its whereabouts so it couldn't be repossessed; the company he owed the money to went so far as to have a bench warrant issued for his arrest in an attempt to get the equipment back.
He's established a number of companies over the years. One of them, Superior Cut Stone, owns a limestone quarry in Indiana, according to the company's Web site. That company filed for bankruptcy in 2005. In addition, between January 2000 and January 2005, more than $380,000 in state and federal tax liens have been filed against him personally and one of his companies, Viviano Construction.
Much of this information is contained in voluminous records Marie Dreilich has amassed in the past eight years. But when she and Roland hired Viviano back in 1999, they really had no idea about the man who would play such a large role in affecting the course of their lives.
NO WORRIES — FOR A WHILE
A few months after his work at the Dreilichs' home had ended, Viviano paid another visit.
He wanted $50,000, claiming it was money still owed from work he'd done that summer.
"When I challenged him on it, he said, 'It doesn't matter,'" Marie Dreilich alleges.
This, as outlined in court documents, is what they say happened:
"Viviano stated that he had connections and that he would lien [their home] and if the Dreilichs fought him he would then proceed to sue them, buy all the attorneys, the judge, witnesses, jury and in the end he will get the $50,000 or the Dreilichs' home and the attorneys will get a ton of money."
"We just laughed at him," says Roland. "We thought he was a joke."
But they didn't laugh for long.
Viviano did place a lien on the home. So did the brick supplier, who claimed to have never been paid. Those liens caused their pre-approved mortgage to be canceled, forcing them to obtain a new mortgage at a much higher rate, adding $1,000 to their monthly payments.
That lien proved to be the beginning of their financial downfall.
Using equity from the home in which they were still living, the Dreilichs had borrowed $100,000 to buy a lot on Highbury Court and obtained a $350,000 construction loan. When work was completed the short-term loans would be converted to a pre-approved mortgage with what Marie described as "really good rates" because of their "excellent credit."
But the liens changed all that, and they were forced to get a different mortgage at much higher rates.
Then the attorney fees quickly began to mount on top of that after Viviano, as Viviano Construction, Inc., filed suit in Macomb County Circuit Court in January 2000. He alleged that the Dreilichs owed him $46,714.87. The money, he said, was in addition to the cash he'd already been paid.
The Dreilichs then filed a countersuit, alleging, among other things, fraud and slander. Unlike Viviano, who had been both plaintiff and defendant in a number of previous civil actions, the Dreilichs were wading into unfamiliar waters. With the exception of two driving violations Marie sustained years before and a lawsuit filed on their behalf by their insurance company after Roland was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, they say they'd had no encounters with the legal system. (A review of Macomb County court records by Metro Times indicated the pair were neither plaintiffs nor defendants in any civil action before to the filing of Viviano's lawsuit against them in 2000.)
Aside from the basic point that the money simply wasn't owed Viviano, the Dreilichs also contended that the suit didn't hold up for other reasons as well. Among other things, they contended there could be no breach of contract because there was no contract. Also, they claimed that the lien wasn't valid because it had been filed past the legal deadline. They alleged that Viviano submitted falsified invoices backdated to make it appear the lien had been placed within the proscribed 90 days of completion of the work.
The Dreilichs aren't the only ones who've accused Viviano of deceit.
CONTRACTOR OR CON MAN?
In 2000, Lee Ivezaj of Shelby Township, in a sworn affidavit contained in the court records of the Dreilich case, claimed Viviano bricked a home Ivezaj was building and then billed him $6,000 more than the job was bid for. When Ivezaj protested, Viviano allegedly responded by telling him the bid proposal was not a signed contract and therefore was not binding.
"I was misled and taken advantage of," wrote Ivezaj. "Not one of the extra charges were ever brought up except for after the work was performed."
Ivezaj claimed Viviano was demanding payment for 7,000 extra bricks that were never used to construct his home. Viviano's business ethics, said Ivezaj, "were nonexistent."
According to the affidavit, Ivezaj initially said he wouldn't pay for bricks that were never laid. However, unlike the Dreilichs, he changed his mind when Viviano told him what would happen if he didn't come up with the extra money: "I eventually paid the full amount," he said, "because of the threat of a lien put on my home. I felt that I was dealing in good faith and Mr. Viviano had not."
Then there's a lawsuit filed against Viviano and an associate in 2002. In that case, a Warren company called Land Masters Development had been doing business with Viviano and a partner. At one point Viviano borrowed $45,000 from Land Masters, using as collateral a Warren home he and then-wife Michelle Prodin owned.
The couple divorced in 1998 and she obtained sole ownership of the house, according to her lawyer. It wasn't until Land Masters filed suit, however, that she learned about the debt, it is alleged in court documents. In a sworn affidavit she claimed her signature on the loan documents had been forged.
"Based on Viviano's representations, Prodin believed that the title to the subject property was unencumbered," court documents state.
In another case, Dominic Matina — Viviano's partner in a company called PIO Construction — filed suit against him in 2005.
"For an undetermined time, Defendant Salvatore [Viviano] has been taking monies [from the company], diverting corporate profits to himself for personal gain ... " Matina alleged.
Viviano filed a counter-suit claiming that Matina had obtained a $600,000 loan using properties owned by PIO as collateral. But the money, claimed Viviano, never showed up in any company accounts, and when asked to turn the money over to the company, Matina refused.
Both suits were eventually dropped. Marie Dreilich claims the litigation ended as soon as she brought it to the attention of the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office in an unsuccessful attempt to have the office press criminal charges against the men.
The lawsuit and countersuit also indicated that the Dreilichs were dealing with men who could be violent. Viviano alleged that Matina grabbed him around the neck and "and proceeded to punch, hit, grab and otherwise inflict blows." As a result, claimed Viviano, he had a "well-founded fear of imminent peril and severe bodily injury."
Matina made similar claims against Viviano.
But, based on Viviano's criminal history, Matina might consider himself lucky there were no weapons involved when tempers flared around the offices of PIO Construction.
In the past, others hadn't been as fortunate when tangling with Viviano.
SAL THE SHOOTER
Although he would eventually claim that he'd acted in self-defense, Sal Viviano's first response when he shot a 20-year-old man in the stomach was to flee the scene, dispose of the gun and then lie when detectives were eventually able to interrogate him days later.
That's according to police records obtained by Dreilich through the Freedom of Information Act.
Here's what the records indicate happened:
On a January night in 1988, a 22-year-old Viviano, his then-wife, Michelle, and another couple were partying, drinking schnapps and beer at home before heading out to a club. On their way they stopped to buy cigarettes at a party store on 19 Mile Road in Clinton Township. Outside the store, two underage men asked Viviano's male friend to buy them alcohol. He refused. Angry words were exchanged. A dispute erupted. Vivano jumped out of his black Mustang convertible and pulled a .25-caliber pistol; one of the underage men grabbed a tire iron from the back of their pick-up truck. (Or maybe the tire iron was pulled out first and Viviano responded by drawing his gun — the story differed depending upon who was telling it.)
As Viviano approached him, the man with the tire iron took a swing at the gun, but missed. Viviano shot him once in the stomach. Then, according to testimony the victim later gave in court, Viviano put the gun to his head.
"He came right up to me and tried to finish me off," Khader Naoum claimed. With blood gushing from his stomach wound, the barrel of a pistol in his face and Viviano screaming that he was going to blow him away, Naoum thought he was about to die.
"I felt that he was just going to put the end to my misery because I was already in real bad pain," he testified. "I was just waiting for him to finish me off."
Viviano pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. He pulled the trigger again. Then again, and again. Maybe as many as 10 times, Naoum said.
Viviano then turned the gun on Naoum's friend. This time the gun fired, but the bullet missed its target. Viviano got back in the car and the quartet sped off. Police and an ambulance were called by someone in the party store.
When police we're able to locate Viviano and his companions days later, he and the three others offered up a concocted story, saying it was really Naoum who pulled out the gun.
"I approached him and I kicked the gun out of his hand, you know, I had a little bit of martial art. I kicked the gun out of his hand. Now the gun was in my hands," Viviano claimed during an interrogation.
Afterward, while fleeing the scene, he said, "I threw away that little gun of his outside the window 'cause I was so discouraged and upset."
Asked why he didn't call police, Viviano said he was worried that, instead of going to the hospital with a bullet in his stomach, the victim might decide to seek immediate revenge.
"What if they would have went to their basement and got fixed up by themself? So here I'm scared," Viviano told investigators. "I went home and took my car, I parked it in the barn."
The detective kept pressing Viviano to give a more plausible explanation of why he wouldn't notify police after shooting someone if he was really just defending himself.
"I'm just trying to get to the truth," said the cop.
"Let's take this to court, forget it," responded Viviano. "I stop answering questions. Let's just take this to court, let the judge, let my lawyer handle this."
Viviano's version of events was corroborated by his wife and the other couple. Then, a month later, members of the group went back to police and confessed that they'd fabricated their original story about Naoum being the one having the gun. Saying they wanted to set the record straight, they all admitted that the pistol was really Viviano's.
The victim had a different explanation of why Viviano fled the scene and laid low. He suspected Viviano of being on drugs at the time of the shooting.
"I'm positive of it the way he was shaking and sweating, the way he was moving so quick. That wasn't normal," Naoum told police. "And I know it takes about three days to get it out of you and that's how much he was hiding for, three days. He hid out for three full days, just enough to get the drugs out of him. I know he was on drugs, and he's gotten away without taking a blood test."
Viviano was charged with attempt to commit murder and three other felonies. But prosecuting the case proved to be difficult. The victim, Naoum, was subsequently arrested in Oakland County on a drug charge and sent to prison. He then balked at testifying. Naoum's lawyer told the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office his client was afraid that he'd end up meeting with Viviano in prison. For his part, Viviano was concerned that, as his lawyer stated in a letter, "his immigration status might be jeopardized by a felony."
Both sides eventually agreed let Viviano plead guilty to a felony concealed weapon charge — a ridiculously lenient deal considering the violence involved, then-prosecutor Carl Marlinga claimed at one point — and he was put on probation. Fears of deportation proved to be unfounded.
Viviano's next run-in with the law occurred four years after the shooting, in September of 1994. The incident, details of which are on file in the Oakland County Circuit Court, took place during a traffic jam on I-75 in Troy.
Viviano was in a truck with two co-workers. To get around the tie-up he pulled onto the shoulder of the road and started driving. Behind him, a man at the wheel of a new Corvette did the same thing; he was rushing to get to a pharmacy to buy an inhaler for his asthmatic son. He tried getting Viviano to let him pass, but couldn't get by. At one point, when the vehicles were stopped, both the man and Viviano got out. There was some shoving. Viviano was hit and knocked to the ground.
Then, according to police reports, Viviano went to the bed of his pickup, grabbed a piece of steel rebar used to reinforce concrete, and attacked the man with it. Viviano told police he was acting in self-defense.
He had help. A co-worker pulled a shovel from the back of the truck and used it to go after the man too. The victim testified: "I kept begging them to stop and quit. And I kept telling Mr. Viviano to stay away from me because he kept, you know, he threatened me and says, 'This isn't over.' He says, 'I'm gonna get you. I'm gonna beat your ass.' He says, 'I'm gonna kill you.'"
When the victim fled across I-75, Viviano used the steel bar to smash out the Corvette's rear window.
Viviano eventually pleaded guilty to three felonies in an Oakland County court: assault with a dangerous weapon, malicious destruction of property and a habitual offender charge. He could have been sent to prison for up to four years on just the assault charge, but instead was again put on probation.
"If he had been put in prison instead of being allowed to stay on the streets and continue working, none of this would have ever happened to us," says Marie Dreilich.
But that's not the way things worked out.
Viviano filed his suit against the Dreilichs in January 2000.
He claims the Dreilichs breached their contract and owe his company $35,600. He also alleges that the Dreilichs have "defamed" him by "repeatedly making false and defamatory statements concerning [his company's] performance on the project, its business capabilities and operations ..."
The Dreilichs immediately hired an attorney and filed a countersuit. At first it seemed the whole thing would end quickly, with the first judge hearing the case initially ruling in favor of the Dreilichs.
Judge Michael Schwartz, in May 2000, issued an order dismissing Viviano's complaint. The only thing remaining to be decided was whether the Dreilichs would be awarded costs and attorney fees. Before the case was completely wrapped, however, Schwartz retired, and it was transferred to the courtroom of Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Edward Servitto.
Servitto, to the dismay of the Dreilichs, reinstated the case.
The matter went to mediation, with a three-member panel ruling Viviano should be paid $20,000. The Dreilichs, unwilling to pay Viviano anything at that point, fired their attorney.
Meanwhile, Marie Dreilich began collecting evidence to support their case.
Although some plumbing work was done — the Dreilichs claim that the person in charge of that portion of the project kept showing up drunk and that the work was so shoddy they found a new plumber after less than a week to redo the work — the major part of the dispute center on the brickwork.
They would later learn from state regulators that neither Viviano nor any of his companies were licensed to do plumbing.
Finally, the major point of contention became the number of bricks that were used. Viviano maintained that 43,000 bricks were used for the entire house; the Dreilichs considered the assertion completely implausible.
The Dreilichs, according to court records, obtained reports from three experts who established that "no more than 29,000 bricks could possibly be installed on the Dreilichs' home."
Through discovery, they claim, they found records obtained from the brick supplier showing 23,000 bricks ordered by Viviano and supposedly used to construct what was described as an "old-world style" chimney had actually been delivered to four other job sites.
Viviano used as an expert witness Gaetano Matina, who offered a hand-drawn schematic that was submitted as evidence. (Matina is the brother of Dominic Matina, the business partner who would later sue Viviano for allegedly stealing corporate funds from PIO Construction. Both men are Viviano's cousins, claim the Dreilichs.)
In an attempt to prove their claim beyond dispute, the Dreilichs filed a motion to have the chimney dismantled so that the bricks used to construct its interior could be counted — if there were any there at all. And they volunteered to cover the cost of doing so.
"We were willing to pay for it, just to prove that the bricks weren't there and get the whole thing ended," says Marie Dreilich.
Viviano's attorney objected, according to court records.
"They claimed that doing that would be prejudicial to their client," says Marie Dreilich.
The judge ruled that the chimney would remain intact.
In November 2001, what was then called the Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services (DCIS) issued a formal complaint accusing Viviano of several violations of the state's occupational code, including "engaging in conduct which is fraudulent, deceitful and dishonest ..." In the equivalent of a plea bargain, that and other charges were dropped when he admitted to "violating a rule of conduct." He was fined $750 and had his license briefly suspended when he failed to pay.
At about the same time Marie Dreilich obtained a critical piece of evidence from the DCIS.
At the launch of the lawsuit, Viviano signed a sworn statement attesting to the fact that Viviano Construction Inc. was a legal entity, thereby giving it the standing to be a plaintiff in a court action.
But based on the information the state provided Marie Dreilich, it turned out that Viviano Construction, Inc. was not a licensed corporation.
The company's legal status was of key importance. Based on his carefully worded deposition testimony, Viviano certainly seemed aware of the distinction between having a corporate entity press the case as opposed to him doing it as an individual.
Asked if he was "personally involved in the construction of the chimney," Viviano replied: "Viviano Construction was present, yes."
The Dreilichs' attorney pressed the issue, trying to determine if he was present at the job.
"Through Viviano Construction I was physically present, yes," he replied.
The reason for that insistence, the Dreilichs contend, is that Viviano didn't want to be personally responsible for damages should the case be lost and sanctions imposed.
And if it were found out, there existed the possibility a judge could be convinced that filing suit under the name of a nonexistent company was an innocent mistake.
Which is what his attorney argued when the company's status was discovered 18 months into the case.
The attorney hired just before their case was set to go to trial in January 2002 — Paul Nicoletti of Bloomfield Hills — informed the Dreilichs their discovery was very good news.
"Essentially," wrote Nicoletti, "this means that Salvatore Viviano commenced the original suit against you through a nonexistent corporation, and as such, it lacked standing to even use the court system in the first place."
Nicoletti said the plan of attack would be to establish that "fraud was committed upon this court when Viviano brought suit through an entity that did not exist," he said in the letter, which ended up in a court file.
(Nicoletti also wrote that the Dreilichs could have grounds to sue their previous attorneys for malpractice for failing to check the company's legal standing. In fact, it was Marie — who began taking on more and more responsibility regarding the case as the legal bills mounted — who had contacted the state and obtained the documentation.)
The phantom company's status was not disputed. "For whatever reason, this lawsuit was filed in the name of 'Viviano Construction, Inc.,' an entity that does not exist," one of Viviano's attorneys admitted on the record.
However, he argued, "the Dreilichs by no means should be allowed to avoid liability by raising this innocent misnomer or the plaintiff's purported lack of capacity to sue at this late date."
The Dreilichs again motioned to have the case dismissed. As Schwartz had done more than a year before, Judge Servitto granted their request, they claim. Court records appear to verify that. However, because of everything that went on, the record is a confusing one.
Even if the case originally brought by Viviano was dismissed, the legal battle it spawned clearly wasn't over. For one thing, having spent at least $80,000 on legal fees by that point, the Dreilichs were still hoping they would prevail with their countersuit and recover those expenses.
CONFUSION IN THE COURT
Buoyed by the discovery of Viviano Construction Inc.'s lack of legal standing, the Dreilichs had hope that the nearly two-year-old legal battle would soon be concluded.
The fight had already taken a toll that couldn't be measured in terms of dollars and cents.
The stress of litigation and the money drain associated with it had caused a miscarriage, Marie claimed; a doctor was set to testify that she was otherwise healthy and that the stress associated with dealing with the lawsuit was to blame.
But there were other problems, the most significant being a break with Nicoletti after a major disagreement with how he wanted to handle aspects of the case.
He withdrew from the case in January. Before doing so, however, Judge Servitto allowed him to place a lien on any settlement the Dreilichs might win. As a result, claim the Dreilichs, they could get no attorney to take their case on a contingency basis, because Nicoletti would be entitled to the money.
So the case was left in Marie's hands.
There was also another twist. A court hearing was held ostensibly to settle an action between Viviano and the company that originally supplied the bricks and hadn't been paid. Marie Dreilich didn't attend.
It proved to be a crucial error.
During that court action, Judge Servitto apparently reinstated the case Viviano brought against the Dreilichs. The same case he'd dismissed only a few months earlier, say the Dreilichs.
The judge himself seemed confused.
"And again because of all the difficulties associated with this case, I'm not sure how things transpired as I did and I recognize your case has been dismissed and reinstated ..." Judge Servitto said from the bench, according to a trial transcript.
But the bottom line was this: He awarded "Salvatore Viviano doing business as Viviano Construction and Viviano Construction, Inc." $35,619 for breach of contact and $10,000 in sanctions to be paid by the Dreilichs.
The Dreilichs, with Marie filing the actions, would appeal the decision all the way to the state Supreme Court. The high court refused to hear it.
A grievance accusing Servitto of bias was filed with the Judicial Tenure Commission. It too went nowhere.
"There was no bias," Servitto told the Metro Times. "The law's the law."
In legal terminology, when a person represents his or herself, it is referred to as appearing in pro per.
In 2004, the Dreilichs again scraped together enough money to hire another lawyer. Appearing in court in an attempt to fend off the loss of their home, he told the judge: "I think that this case is a textbook example of why an individual should not represent themselves in pro per."
"I agree," responded Judge Edward Servitto.
SAL'S HIGHS AND LOWS
Financially devastated and facing foreclosure, the Dreilichs' fight to keep their house would continue three more years. It is a battle they would ultimately lose.
But while it continued, Marie Dreilich would continue keeping a close eye on Sal Viviano. Which is why she was in a Macomb County criminal court to follow proceedings involving him in 2005.
It is also why the record of a felony conviction that would otherwise have been kept from public view saw the light of day. She got hold of those records before they were sealed and succeeded in having them added to the file of what was then an on-going civil action.
According to those records, here's what happened to Sal Viviano:
On a November night three years ago, Clinton Township police officers witnessed suspicious activity in the parking lot of party store in an area known for drug activity along 15 Mile Road and Gratiot.
After witnessing what they suspected to be a drug deal, the cops followed a red Dodge Ram pickup truck as it left the site and then pulled it over.
Salvatore Viviano was behind the wheel.
According to a police report, the vehicle was searched and a wooden container about the size of a cigarette pack and a metal "one hitter" marijuana pipe were found. Also found was a small baggie with white residue in it.
As Viviano was being arrested, one of the officers noticed he was holding what appeared to be a small clear baggie containing white powder. Officers attempted to get it; he resisted and the wrestled to the ground. As the cops attempted to gain control, he was apparently able to put the baggie in his mouth and swallow it. After being booked, Viviano was taken to Mt. Clemens General Hospital to receive medical treatment for the possible consumption of cocaine. He was charged with possessing marijuana and cocaine, and resisting arrest.
According to trial records, he was again eligible to be charged as a habitual offender because of his earlier felonies. When it was proposed that he be offered what's known as a "7411," which allows the conviction of first-time drug offenders to be suppressed, one of the arresting officers initially objected and then subsequently withdrew his opposition.
As part of a deal, Viviano, 38 at the time, pleaded guilty to one count of possessing less than 25 grams of cocaine and one count of attempting to "resist, assault or obstruct a police office."
The drug charged carried with it the possibility of four years in prison, a $25,000 fine and drivers license sanctions.
Asked by the judge before sentencing if he had anything to say, Viviano's lawyer told the court his client was taking medication for bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder.
"I have a lot of experience ... representing people with bipolar and ADD," said the attorney. "They tend to self-medicate if they are not on the medication for the depression and for the manic part."
The good news, he said, was that according to Viviano's wife, Sal had "never been better."
"The trick," said the judge, "is to get everybody to stay on the medication."
He then sentenced Viviano to two years probation.
Noting that Viviano's wife was in the courtroom, the judge added: "Well, you obviously have very strong family support and they care about you, so you need to continue to be a good dad, a good husband. And hopefully this sentence will work out for you ..."
Less than four months later, police received a 911 call summoning them to Viviano's Washington Township home. When they arrived, according to their report, Stacy Viviano "came running out of the front door ... crying and yelling to get her husband out of the house forever."
"She appeared very scared of him," a cop noted, adding that Viviano appeared to be "winded and tired out." He had scratches on his neck and face and "smelled of a strong odor of alcohol, and appeared to be intoxicated."
A complaint alleging one count of domestic violence and one count of interfering with a crime report — for allegedly ripping the phone out of the wall when an attempt was made to call the police — was forwarded to the prosecutor's office, but apparently no charges were filed. It also seems that no action was taken regarding potential probation violations.
Some people, it seems, are luckier than others.
Continued:The Dreilich home goes into foreclosure, Marie Dreilich goes to jail as her emotional problems grow more severe, and a trial involving allegations of fraud and conspiracy ends up in court.Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him 313-202-8004 or [email protected]