Keeping the grass roots growing!!
FLINT — Embattled Judge Byron Konschuh’s nearly 20-month fight with the legal system has come to an end with all felony charges against the judge dismissed.
However, Konschuh’s lawyers and Shiawassee County Prosecutor Deana Finnegan seem to have widely differing opinions of what happened after 6 ½ hours of negotiations in front of retired Genesee County Circuit Court Robert Ransom in Tom Pabst’s Flint law offices Tuesday.
Mikey Sharkey, Konschuh’s lead attorney, said in a press release, “Finally, this travesty of justice is over for the Konschuh family and the taxpayers of Lapeer County.
“The justice system won here,” Pabst said.
Finnegan responded, “He has not been exonerated.”
Finnegan said that while she agreed to drop the felony charges against the judge, Konschuh pleaded no contest to Public Officer – Failure to Account for County Money, a 90-day misdemeanor. A no contest plea carries the same penalties as a guilty plea.
A clerk for Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercutt said a sentencing hearing has been set for Konschuh for March 31.
While Pabst and Sharkey said they expect the final charge against Konschuh to be dismissed on March 31, Finnegan said, “It looks like the defense attorneys really do not understand a delayed sentence. When we go back on the 31st, Judge Neithercut will set down terms and conditions of the delayed sentence as well as the period of delay.”
Finnegan said that at sentencing she will ask the court to require Konschuh to repay Lapeer County the $1,802 he’s said to have spent on doughnuts and staff meals. Expenses, which Lapeer County Administrator John Biscoe said, would only be reimbursable under state treasury rules if they were part of a public meeting or staff training session.
Finnegan will also ask Neithercutt to require Konschuh to write letters of apology to Biscoe, Lapeer County Prosecutor Tim Turkelson and Assistant Lapeer County Prosecutor Cailin Wilson.
“These people didn’t do anything wrong,” Finnegan said. “Tim Turkelson,” she said, “did what he was ethically obligated to do.”
Konshuch, whose annual salary is $140,000, has been on paid leave since July 2014. That’s when he was charged with five counts of embezzlement by a public official of more than $50 — felony charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine and in the case of a lawyer, loss of license to practice law.
Finnegan said, “The defense may want the case dismissed on the 31st, but that should not happen. The plea cannot be withdrawn, since there is no reason to withdraw the plea. All parties agreed in the stipulation that the judge would determine the delay period, not the attorneys. The case cannot be dismissed until the end of the delay period.”
While some of Konschuh’s supporters contend he will be back on the bench April 1, that’s not entirely clear.
Chief Circuit Court Judge Nick O. Holowka said Wednesday that he had received nothing official yet. “I’ve heard rumors, but I’ve nothing in writing,” he said. Holowka said he suspended Konshuch following the felony charges “in the best interest of himself and the county.”
It seems at this point Konschuh will have to make a formal request for reinstatement.
“This guy’s life has been destroyed over doughnuts,” Pabst said. “People should be angry, but not at Konschuh.”
“Judge Konschuh and his wife, Lorraine, are well known and loved in our community for their tireless dedication to many charitable causes,” Sharkey said. “They are among the very few who can recover from this terrible injustice and betrayal to again serve the people to their full potential.”
“In some ways, I feel I sold the farm,” said Finnegan. “But Lapeer County was going to continue to bleed.” She said the case has drug on for 19 months, largely due to Konschuh and his attorneys, and it looked like possible motions and appeals could add another 20 months.
In December Konschuh’s attorney accused three Lapeer County officials of perjury and one of them with forgery in motions calling for the release of electronic communications between the three. As part of the sentence agreement, Konschuh’s lawyers agreed to withdraw that motion.
Finnegan said that motion could have created months of delay and cost the county thousands of dollars as outside IT specialists completed forensic examinations of the trio’s computers.
Sharkey said he and Pabst “will be requesting that Judge Neithercut dismiss the misdemeanor accounting statute offense, as there is no justifiable reason to delay the dismissal any longer.” He added, he believes he has a “compelling argument that there is no need for a delay.”
“Nobody is going to be happy about the outcome,” Finnegan said.