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Thursday, 11 August, 2011 1:41 AM
Macomb County-Style Injustice: The Story of A.J. Young
“The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.” -Dick from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2
MT. CLEMENS, Mich. -- When I ran for Macomb County Prosecutor in 2008, I ran mostly to defend the right to a robust election, a right guaranteed by the First and Ninth Amendments, and I got my point across, even though I lost. Every American has a constitutional right to run for office and support the candidates of their choice. Anyone who tries to restrict that right doesn't belong in public office and is absolutely abusing their power. (By the way, no local reporter bothered to interview a constitutional law professor to verify my legal opinion, even though Michigan has over five law schools; one local columnist, in fact, acted like Eric's lapdog and didn't mind that Eric used his taxpayer-funded office as his de facto campaign headquarters. His primary concern was that I am an artist, musician, and writer. Duh!) And, if you swear an oath to defend the U. S. Constitution (as all attorneys must), you're treating that oath (and the U.S. and Michigan Constitutions) like toilet paper. Period. Nothing personal, Eric; that's just the way it is, and you should know that, or do you just not care? The Massachusetts Democratically-led Senate knew such a restriction wouldn't pass constitutional muster when they changed the law regarding gubernatorial appointments of U. S. Senators after Ted Kennedy died, per The New York Times. Maybe you should try getting a clue, Eric – your own party in Massachusetts knows better – what's your major malfunction?
However, there is something else gravely wrong going on in Macomb County. Arthur Jason “A.J.” Young, son of Art Young, an attorney and former Roseville City Councilman, got railroaded into prison back in the days when Carl Marlinga ran the Prosecutor's Office in Mt. Clemens.
Maybe, like Rupert Murdoch claims, he didn't know of the shady goings-on during A.J.'s murder trial, and I am not going to ask him to accept responsibility in this article, but if he or Eric Smith (the current prosecutor), or Steve Kaplan (the assistant prosecutor who conducted the trial for the People), or Judge Schwartz, or anyone else, player or non-player in this travesty of justice would like to write Governor Rick Snyder a letter asking for A.J. Young's immediate release from prison, that would be nice, not to mention honorable and just.
One day A.J. and Misty McGinnis, his girlfriend, went down to Detroit to get their money back from a purchase of some street drugs that wasn't to their satisfaction. Yes, they weren't saints, but they didn't deserve to be kidnapped, carjacked, robbed, and raped by a long-time felon. A.J. now regrets ever getting into drugs, by the way.
They were told that “Fila” Frank Tipton was the man who could rectify the situation and they followed him into a house. Mr. Tipton was an ex-con, a bad news guy from the get-go. But when you're Jonesing for a high, you aren't always looking for individuals of high character and breeding. Once inside the house, “Fila” Frank brandished a hidden weapon in his coat, telling A.J. to remove his leather jacket, and for Misty to give up her jewelry. Frank put the leather on over his own coat, and put Misty's jewelry on, too. He also put A.J.'s pager into his pants pocket.
“Fila” Frank had them all pile into A.J.'s van and the three of them hit the road. Misty was crying, terrified. A.J., perhaps fearing no good end to this kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, told Frank that he had money at his home in Roseville – in exchange for Misty's and his freedom.
There being no end to “Fila” Frank's greed and base desires, he readily accepted the proposition, too dim-witted to realize a ruse.
As the van pulled up to A.J.'s home, “Fila” Frank told A.J. he had three minutes to get the money before he killed Misty. He told Misty to get into the front seat as A.J. hurriedly exited the passenger seat and ran to the house.
A.J. knew he had no time to lose, so he didn't call 911. He knew that might take a lot of time. We've all heard horror stories of incompetent 911 dispatchers. A.J. did what a hero would do. What Clint Eastwood does in all his movies. He got a gun. A 9mm.
Meanwhile, the scumbag, “Fila” Frank Tipton, had already begun to sexually assault Misty. Incredibly, Assistant Prosecutor Steve Kaplan, who once ran for Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney, now works in Wayne County, and also has taught at my alma mater, Cooley Law School, characterized the sexual assault as an episode of consensual sex, defying common sense and a witness, Claire May, who Kaplan intimidated before trial such that she was afraid to testify truthfully. Ms. May had earlier told Roseville police, “.....this did not look like funsies, but a rape going on....” Mr. Kaplan was allowed, though, to have a former boyfriend of Misty's testify that she probably enjoyed having sex with “Fila” Frank, due to his race – something rape shield laws usually protect against. A nurse wasn't allowed to testify about physical evidence of rape trauma to Misty's body, either, even though a comprehensive report had been made, a report the jury was not allowed to hear about. Art Young, A.J.'s father, told me he's heard it said of Steve Kaplan, “He never lets the facts get in the way of a conviction.” Sure sounds like it to me!
There were some assistant prosecutors at the time (and I have names in case a local journalist feels like investigating this further) who felt A.J.'s actions were justified and he shouldn't have been charged at all, but they were afraid to speak up for fear of being fired. For America being “the home of the brave,” we sure have our fair share of cowards, huh? Of course, they're lawyers – not regular Americans. There were many Roseville police officers, too, who felt A.J. got railroaded, but they weren't allowed to testify, either.
This win-at-all-costs mentality is rife in the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office. I can tell you this from personal experience. I have personal knowledge of a witness who told an assistant prosecutor that she didn't witness what was alleged in a petition to hospitalize someone – that it was another employee at the group home who did. She was told she should testify, anyway. “Don't worry; I won't ask you about that.” In that case, the defendant won his trial, though. A.J. Young is doing 27 to 50 years.
When A.J. got back to the van, he saw “Fila” Frank raping Misty in the front seat. Misty's head was being forced into Frank's lap, and both their pants were down. A.J. repeatedly fired his 9mm into Frank and the van took off, crashing into a parked truck 200 feet in front of A.J.'s carjacked van. “Fila” Frank was dead. Unfortunately, a bullet passed through him and hit Misty, too. Maybe it ricocheted around in the van. A.J. was distraught. He called out loud for help, first yelling to Misty to jump out of the out-of-control van before the crash; when he reached the van, he saw Misty, gravely injured (and soon to die); he cursed “Fila” Frank, now dead, using some salty language that Mr. Kaplan later used against A.J. at trial to mischaracterize the incident.
A.J. told Mr. Bato Simich at the crash site that he and Misty were “being held hostage” by “Fila” Frank Tipton. Kaplan tried to, and succeeded, in making sure Judge Schwartz and the jury never heard that testimony, either—for it showed A.J. wasn't making up an elaborate yarn after the fact as he stewed in jail, awaiting trial. We can't let the truth come out in a Macomb County courtroom, can we? Kaplan intimidated that witness by saying, “You probably heard that somewhere else.” Mr. Simich never relayed A.J.'s excited utterance to the jury, due to Kaplan's intimidation tactics. Mr. Simich signed an affidavit as to what he heard, too. In United States v. Koubriti, Judge Gerald Rosen ruled that the prosecution had “materially misled the court, the jury, and the defense” by withholding exculpatory evidence. The intentional suppression of exculpatory evidence, which includes the prosecutorial intimidation of witnesses, denies a defendant their constitutional right to a fair trial and is grounds for a mistrial. A.J. Young still awaits the justice has has been so egregiously denied.
In a Michigan Court of Appeals case called People v. Springs, 101 Mich App 118 (1980), the Springs court noted that, “Nothing can bring more contempt and suspicion on the administration of justice than the failure of its ministers to respect justice.” You will forgive me if this article drips of contempt, I hope.
In case you aren't keeping count, we now have two witnesses that weren't allowed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – thanks to the repulsive corruption of the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office under Carl Marlinga, the man who hired Eric Smith, the current county prosecutor, who has never gotten back to Attorney Art Young regarding the fish-smelling nature of A.J.'s conviction, even though he told Art he would.
“Fila” Frank was wearing A.J.'s leather jacket and Misty's jewelry at the time of his more-than-timely demise. He also had A.J.'s pager and a screwdriver, the hard weapon he used to simulate a gun during the horribly-ending (for Misty and A.J.) crime spree.
No evidence of Mr. Tipton's long criminal history, with similar offenses and modus operandi, was allowed to reach the jury's ears, incredibly. “Fila” Frank was cast as a perfect angel, a victim of racism and jealousy. Misty was portrayed as a worthless slut, inexplicably cheating on her boyfriend in front of his house with a man wearing her jewelry and her boyfriend's leather jacket and pager. A.J. was only wearing a tee shirt above-the-waist in ten degree weather.
All this defies common sense, I know. Yet, despite numerous state and federal appeals, and letters to the Governor, the conviction stands, and A.J. rots in prison. I've seen some of the letters he's written his father, and they are heart-rending. A.J. should be a free man. He had a legal right to defend Misty from being sexually assaulted and feared for her life, thinking “Fila” Frank had a gun – a “gun” he and Misty had been threatened with during the entire ordeal.
There's evidence A.J. was only in his Roseville home for a minute and a half, yet Kaplan tried to convince the jury that he was in there for 20 minutes, trying, perhaps, to imply A.J. had traded Misty's sexual services for the bag of pot found on “Fila” Frank's dead body. Go ahead and ask him if you see him. Maybe you're some hot shot reporter dreaming of a Pulitzer; maybe you're a plain, ole American who believes lawyers shouldn't be allowed to behave as though they're the scum of the Earth (even if they are) with absolute impunity. Maybe Shakespeare was right. Maybe I should strike the word “maybe.”
In Berger vs. U.S., a 1935 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor who tries to “win at all costs” is costing the taxpayers a lot of money for incarcerating innocent people, and costing innocent people their freedom and their right to pursue happiness. The Supreme Court in Berger further elaborated, that a prosecutor “.....may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.” If Thomas Jefferson knew of the shady, foul blows going on in Macomb County courts by its prosecutors, he'd surely be rolling in his grave.
like I'm going to have to run for Macomb County Prosecutor again
and lead by example; I know I must write a letter to Governor
The more letters Governor Snyder gets, the greater chance A.J. will be freed. His father is 62 now. A.J. is 31. A.J. has done 10 of his 50 years max. Art may be 102 before A.J. gets out of the slammer. How would you feel if it was your son wrongly imprisoned as a result of prosecutorial misconduct? Not too good, I bet. Thank you in advance to all who feel, like me, something must be done to help A.J. Young, and who take the time to write a letter and lick a stamp.
I don't want A.J.'s freedom to hinge on my beating Eric Smith in 2012, though; any prosecutorial candidate (and victor in the election) should want to reopen this case – why the smell of it must permeate the entire office!
There is a good chance the field will be quite crowded in 2012. Lawyers, like sharks, can smell a drop of blood a mile away. Eric Smith appears wounded by controversy; and, like vultures circling above a dying jackal, there may be quite a few brave barristers who, not caring that the Bill of Rights has been disrespected in Macomb County in the Smith Era (and the Marlinga Era before it, thanks to Mr. Kaplan), and, thus, not opposing him like I did in 2008, suddenly feel inspired by the tortured writhings of a bellowing beast, inches away from a watering hole, but, to their sharkish minds, unable, perhaps, to reach the refreshing fount.
To these noble champions of the rights of the citizenry, I ask not where were you in 2008 (I already know where you weren't, and that says it all....), but I do ask this: will you promise to end the Smith Era policy forbidding assistant prosecutors from running against Eric or supporting anyone who dares to run against him, even with the donation of a penny or putting a lawn sign on their own property?
If not, why? Why don't you think the entire U.S. Constitution is a sacred document? Did you forget you swore an Oath to defend it? Why are you acting like a clone of Eric Smith? Afraid to get your hands dirty? Why did you bother to run if your candidacy is tainted with corruption and cowardice from Day One?
And, will you, once confronted with the facts of the kangaroo courtroom antics (and behind-the-scenes intimidation of witnesses) of Steve Kaplan, openly and fervently try to see that A.J. Young finally gets the true justice he deserves and is freed from prison with a clean record? Will you do your best to see that such antics are never used again in Macomb County? If you answer, “No,” please stay out of the race; you are a disgrace. Macomb County needs to turn over a new leaf. A leaf that is beautiful and not befouled by buffoonish, cowardly, lying and/or manipulative lawyers that make Shakespeare's words ring true.
Photo courtesy of Art Young
Art Young and A.J. Young (at age three or four).
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