Does Virgil Smith Jr. deserve another shot?

May 10, 2017 at 1:00 am

If you are perverse enough to like a good story that makes Detroit look bad, Virgil Smith Jr. is the gift that keeps on giving.

You may have thought you were done hearing about him last year, when he left the state Senate and went directly to jail.

But he's out of the can — and back on the campaign trail, thanks in part to a Michigan Court of Appeals panel that seemed dreadfully ignorant of the news.

More on that later. But first — a little recap regarding the Virgil follies. Two years ago (May 10), the then-state senator got into a bit of a scrape with the law after he repeatedly blasted his ex-wife's Mercedes with an assault rifle in the wee hours of the morning. Virg, it seems, called the woman up and suggested she come over for sex, something most men don't tend to expect of their ex-wives. Apparently she came over and was scandalized to find he already had some woman in bed; Smith the younger never was very good about keeping those pesky details straight.

Well, one of the women allegedly attacked the other, a fight ensued, Smith repeatedly started beating his ex, and Virgie then showed his leadership qualities by blasting away at her car.

Nobody was hurt, but the car didn't survive.

With that, you might have thought Smith's career in politics would have been over. He was charged with a raft of felonies, and it seemed that he'd be on his way from the Senate to the Big House in Jackson, or somewhere.

He should have been. But the old boy network has coddled and protected Smith for most of his sad and sorry 37 years. Smith, you see, is the son of Virgil Smith, Sr., a former legislator and now a circuit court judge.

After an undistinguished career at Michigan State University, notable mainly for shoplifting convictions, Virg minor got elected to his father's old legislative seats, first the House, then the Senate. While a lawmaker, he was notable mainly for drunk-driving convictions, and for selling out to the insurance lobby. They gave him thousands; he became the only Democrat to support taking full benefits away from victims of catastrophic car accidents. There's much more, of course.

I've written about Virgie's squalid life in greater detail before, and hoped not to have to do so again. But he's now fighting to be in a position that could help torpedo Detroit's fragile comeback: He's running for City Council.

Now, it's easy to see why he would want to do this; he really has no skills of any kind, and given his resume, a private employer would have to be cracked to hire him.

Smith the lesser did promise not to run for any office for at least five years, as part of a plea bargain to avoid serious felony time in a major state prison, where he might have gotten to be someone's involuntary boyfriend pretty quick.

But promises and ethics never meant very much to Virgie, who frequently sold his own caucus out and voted with the Republicans in the year and a half he clung to office after the shooting episode. He wasn't going to give up his seat voluntarily; he was making $71,685 a year. He only quit as part of a plea bargaining deal, and then only until after his cell door shut.

That plea bargain also specified that Smith not run for any office for at least five years, the period of his probation. But Wayne County Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon said the requirement was improper, and voided it.

Wayne County prosecutors knew instinctively that if this were allowed to stand, Smith would move to get attached to the public teat in some way or another as soon as possible.

They went to the Michigan Court of Appeals to ask them to revisit the requirement that Smith not run for five years, something he had signed off on last year.

But on April 18, a three-judge panel of the appeals court dismissed that appeal, saying it was moot, since "he appears to have no intention of running for public office during his term of probation." In other words, judges can be fools.

In this case, they were fools who didn't follow the news. Smith had already picked up petitions to run for Detroit City Council. The judges' signatures weren't even dry before he turned them in. That's right. Little Virgie wants to go to council.

That would be a disaster. For the last four years, a generally sober, hard-working group of Detroit City Council members have mostly worked hard to rehabilitate the reputation of a body that for many years was a bad joke.

Yes, George Cushingberry — the incumbent Smith is taking on in District Two — isn't the best ad for good government. He has had his law license suspended more than once for professional misconduct, and a bunch of other problems.

But think what a message putting Virgil Smith Jr. on the council would send. It would take us back to the days of Child Molester Charlie Pugh, Sludge Felon and Class Clown Monica Conyers, Crooked Kay Everett, and Clueless Martha Reeves.

Is this the best Detroit can do?

Detroit, as all the world knows, badly needs jobs. What we don't need is any more tax dollars spent on Smith.Fairness is for wimps

You have to say this for Arlan Meekhof, the thoroughly despicable creature who is the Senate majority leader. He doesn't even feel the need to pretend to be fair and balanced, or to care about the Constitution.

Whether that's a consequence of having not much education isn't clear, but with Anal Arlan, what you see is what you get, whether he's trying to destroy teacher unions, or do everything he can to make it harder for people to vote.

Late last month, he rammed a bill through the state Senate under which Michigan would collect and distribute money to various anti-abortion groups. They'd do that by selling a new "Choose Life" license plate, collecting the proceeds, and sending it to whatever pressure group someone selects.

That's probably illegal under both the federal and state constitutions, but Arlan don't care none. There are those who say he is especially passionate about this issue because he was adopted himself, back before abortion was legal.

Not being an amateur psychologist, however, I'll just quote what his fellow Republican Candice Miller said about him recently; "Term limits can't come fast enough for some people."

Meekhof did say that supporters of a group like Planned Parenthood could try to get a bill through mandating their own license plate, but immediately followed that by indicating he'd never never vote for it.

This has been tried before, and we were saved from lawsuits and statewide embarrassment by the state House of Representatives, which hasn't voted on this yet.

Hopefully, they'll bail us out again. Otherwise, you can always hope Gov. Rick Snyder will veto this, but I have been told by a reliable source that last week, a leaf blew onto his desk from his right wing office window, and he signed it.