2016-02-24 / News

Konschuh case set for mediation next month

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 •

FLINT — Attorneys for Circuit Court Judge Byron Konschuh and Shiawassee County Prosecutor Deana Finnegan are scheduled to sit down with retired Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Robert Ransom for mediation.

Finnegan and Konschuh’s attorneys, Tom Pabst and Mike Sharkey, are scheduled to meet with Ransom in Flint at 9 a.m. March 8, but “these proceedings are not open to the public,” Finnegan said.

Konschuh has been on paid administrative leave since July 22, 2014, four days after being charged with five counts of embezzlement by a public official of more than $50.

If convicted of the felony charges, the judge could be facing a 10-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. Conviction would also result in the loss of his law license.

Finnegan said she expects mediation to last “one day and possibly two,” but she added it’s her first experience with the process, so she’s not entirely sure what to expect. However, Finnegan added, if she and Konschuh’s attorneys can’t reach an agreement, they are set for trial May 17.

Finnegan said Ransom is a well-known and respected jurist with no connections to Shiawasee or Lapeer counties. Ransom, who retired from Genesee County’s 7th Judicial Circuit in 2005, has offered mediation, arbitration and private judges services, mainly in divorce and medical malpractice cases since 2008.

Finnegan charged Konschuh with embezzlement following a six-month investigation by Michigan State Police prompted by Lapeer County Prosecutor Tim Turkelson questioning the handling of checks at the prosecutors’ office from Bounce Back, a bad check recovery program and the Law Enforcement Officers Regional Training Commission (LEORTC).

According to reports filed by Michigan State Police Det./ Sgt. Mark Pendergraff, while Konschuh was Lapeer County’s prosecuting attorney between 2009 and 2013, he deposited 41 checks made out to the Lapeer County Prosecutor’s Office in personal checking accounts totaling about $1,800.

The popular jurist’s supporters dismissively refer to the case as “Donutgate,” maintaining that the money at issue was not “public money” and that the case is a politically motivated attempt to drive Konschuh from office.

After the state Supreme Court declined to rule on the definition of public money in December, Sharkey said, “The evidence at trial will show that the law allows Konschuh, as a public official, to legally raise money through lawful outside activities, and to lawfully use those funds for discretionary activities of his office including lunches and coffee.”

However, prosecutors point to a Aug. 5, 2011, letter to LEORTC citing “reduced workforce and financial struggles” at the prosecutor’s office as the basis for asking reimbursement for a little more than half the cost of providing an assistant prosecutor for the consortium’s Corrections Academy.

Konschuh’s attorneys have countered that the signature on a recently surfaced copy of that letter was forged.

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