2017-01-01 / Insight

Konschuh legal battle ends with return to bench

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Judge Byron Konschuh and his wife, Lorraine, celebrate his return to the bench after embezzlement charges were dropped in an agreement with prosecutors. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and received a delayed sentence. Judge Byron Konschuh and his wife, Lorraine, celebrate his return to the bench after embezzlement charges were dropped in an agreement with prosecutors. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and received a delayed sentence. LAPEER — A 20-month legal saga that began with the county’s prosecutor questioning checks ended in early April with a judge who’d been accused of embezzlement returned to the bench and open wounds in the county court house.

The saga began when a Lapeer County Prosecutor’s Office staffer asked newly-appointed County Prosecutor Tim Turkelson what they should do with checks from BounceBack, a bad check recovery program.

The question came up after Turkelson was appointed prosecutor, replacing Byron Konschuh who had been named by Gov. Rick Snyder in March 2013 to replace retired Judge Michael Higgins. Before his appointment to the bench, Konschuh had been Lapeer County prosecutor for 13 years.

Konschuh signed a contract with BounceBack in 2009 which led to small monthly payments to the prosecutor’s office.

Turkelson asked State Attorney General Bill Schuette about the way the checks had been handled and Schuette appointed Shiawassee County Prosecutor Deana Finnegan to look into the matter.

Following a six-month Michigan State Police investigation Finnegan charged Konschuh July 18, 2014 with five counts of embezzlement by a public official of more than $50. Four days later he was placed on paid leave by Chief Circuit Court Judge Nick Holowka.

Investigators claimed checks totaling $1,802 issued either by BounceBack, or the Law Enforcement Officers Regional Training Commission (LEORTC) ended up in Konschuhcontrolled accounts, not the county’s coffers.

Konschuh began his defense with Flint’s Mike Manley and later switched to local attorney Mike Sharkey and Tom Pabst from Flint.

In March Finnegan agreed to an unprecedented proposal from Pabst to put the question in front of a mediator.

The mediation led to Konschuh pleading no contest to failing to account for county funds, a misdemeanor. That was followed by Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercutt handing down a delayed sentenced that meant if Konschuh stayed out of trouble for 90 days he would have no conviction on his record.

Despite facing felony charges and being suspended, Konschuh ran unopposed in 2014 for a full six-year term on the bench and won overwhelmingly.

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