You know back in the day how we would play those games where you were handed a word puzzle on a page and you had to figure out what the saying or idiom was that they were trying to portray by the puzzle? Well I made my own:
Get it? It’s 13th Circuit Court Overruled. It’s our new graphic for when the 13th Circuit Court gets overruled. I’ll keep it handy.
Michigan Court of Appeals Overrules Charese Arnold Sentencing
Charese Arnold was involved in trafficking drugs to Northern Michigan. She accepted a plea to a lesser charge that involved a lower amount of drugs than the police alleged initially. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution and defense agreed to certain considerations that would impact the length of her sentence. They agreed that the judge wouldn’t consider that a larger amount of drugs was initially alleged.
Judge Power walked right through that agreement and sentenced Arnold as though the higher amount was involved. He sentenced her to 20 years in prison. Power’s failure to honor the agreement certainly resulted in a prison sentence that’s years higher than it otherwise would have been.
Did Prosecutor Bob Cooney really agree that the Cherase Arnold sentence was inappropriate?
In the Record Eagle article about the Cherase Arnold Court of Appeals decision, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney says that he knew all along that the judge was wrong to ignore the plea bargain and sentence agreement. Cooney said, “Our opinion all along has been that it should have been scored at 75 points. We believe re-sentencing is appropriate.”
So let’s fact check that statement.
First, if Cooney’s office agreed that the court sentencing was inappropriate, the prosecutor could have stipulated to the merits of the appeal and remanded the case for a new sentencing. Cooney didn’t do that.
Second, here’s the case ledger from the Court of Appeals case:
The Grand Traverse Prosecutor’s Office didn’t initially file a response to the appeal. The Court of Appeals had to order them to answer. If Cooney thought that the sentencing was wrong all along, why didn’t he file an answer stating as much? Why would he sit silent as an injustice passed on his watch?
We don’t have access to what Cooney replied to the Court of Appeals. But, we do know, whatever it was, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied Arnold a resentencing. Arnold had to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court:
Also shocking about what Cooney has to say was his other comment to the Record Eagle. Cooney said something to the effect that he expects Arnold to have the same sentence or “higher.” Why would he want Arnold to have a higher sentence if he agrees that the court inappropriately sentenced her based on inappropriate factors? Why is an admitted injustice nothing more than a “procedural hiccup” to the Grand Traverse Prosecutor’s Office? Is Cooney’s intent merely to slightly adjust procedure and still reach the same result? Cooney is saying the right things – that he agrees with the remand and knew it all along – but then saying he’ll make sure the defendant gets the same result using another path.
So what sounds deja vu about the cherase arnold case?
There are a couple of familiar tunes in the Arnold case:
1. The 13th Circuit Court trying to turn one conviction into a conviction for something else.
Judge Power and Judge Rodgers were both guilty of that in the Robert Schwander debacle that’s still ongoing. Essentially they want to treat the Schwander sentencing like a first-degree murder conviction to ensure that Schwander receives life in prison. But he was convicted only of second-degree murder. Power and Rodgers have both resentenced Schwander over and over again as though it were a first-degree murder conviction, and the Court of Appeals keeps kicking it back to try again. Here we are again with Charese Arnold essentially receiving a sentence for the higher offense.
2. The 13th Circuit Court refusing to honor a negotiated plea agreement. That was the allegation that prosecutor-turned-prisoner Clarence Gomery made when he unsuccessfully challenged his plea.
So what I don’t understand is how anyone negotiates with the prosecutor’s office in order to plea bargain in a criminal case. There’s a good chance that the judge, with or without the prosecutor playing along, will try to back door a sentence for what you originally were charged with in the beginning, or at least try until you go through rounds of appeals. How do you accept a plea knowing that you’re not really getting the benefit of the plea bargain?
Why should I care that the Cherase Arnold sentencing is remanded to the 13th Circuit Court?
If you’ve gotten to this point in the article, you might still be wondering, “Yeah, but so what? After all, Arnold brought a lot of drugs to our area. She is a “bad” person.”
Remember, this judge is the same judge who determines what evidence you get to see if you end up on a jury in one of his cases. He might decide your divorce one day. He decides what evidence comes into court. He sets the tone in the courtroom.
Cooney might decide whether or not you face criminal charges. He might preside over a landlord-tenant or small claims case that you have in District Court someday. No one ever plans to be in court. No one ever wants to need sound jurisprudence.
When the courts think “right outcome” first and then find, or don’t find, a way for the law to allow them to do what they want to do, we all lose.
Let’s see how many times it will take the 13th Circuit Court to get this one right.