Somber Eric Smith Turns Himself In On Criminal Charges [VIDEO]

WWJ News
March 27, 2020 - 12:30 pm
Eric Smith

Eric Smith is seen in his booking photo. (Photo: Michigan State Police)

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(WWJ) Somber and silent, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith turned himself into authorities Friday morning on charges he allegedly misused funds.

He then grinned for his mugshot. 

The Michigan Attorney General's Office on Tuesday issued arrest warrants for Smith and three other men charged after a year-long investigation into the alleged misspending of forfeiture funds collected by Smith's office.

The charges against Smith, filed in 41-B District Court in Clinton Township, include the following: 

•    1 count official misconduct in office – a five-year felony;  
•    1 count tampering with evidence in a civil proceeding – a four-year felony;  
•    1 count accessory after the fact to embezzlement by a public official (Benjamin Liston) – a five-year felony;  
•    1 count conducting a criminal enterprise – a 20-year felony;  
•    5 counts embezzlement by a public official – a 10-year felony – one count each for years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018; and  
•    1 count of conspiracy to commit forgery – a 14-year felony and a $10,000 additional fine. 

Speaking to reporters a year ago, Smith acknowledged this "doesn't look great," but said he welcomed the AG's investigation as he had nothing to hide. He later told reporters he used the funds appropriately.   

Tuesday afternoon, Smith's attorney, John Dakmak, released the following statement: 

"We have been working and cooperating with the Michigan Department of Attorney General since last year while it continued to investigate politically motivated allegations about how our client, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith managed Macomb County’s forfeiture fund.  We are shocked and dismayed to learn only through the media of the filing of charges by the attorney general.  Regardless, we will vigorously defend Mr. Smith against these baseless allegations.  We look forward to Mr. Smith’s day in open court, whenever that may be.  

"As he has for over fifteen years, Mr. Smith will continue to run the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office efficiently and effectively with the needs of victims, law enforcement partners and the community as its top priority. "

Due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's "Stay Home" order amid the coronavirus outbreak, Nessel issued a video discussing the situation. 

“In order for citizens to maintain trust in the institutions of government, public officials must, at all times, conduct themselves in accordance with the laws of our state,” Nessel said. “When public officials fail to do so, the people must have confidence that they will be held to account, fairly, and without any special treatment based upon their status as a public official. The Department of Attorney General, will continue to work to protect this fundamental principle, that no one is above the law.” 

Along with Smith, Nessel has charged Benjamin Liston, retired Macomb County assistant prosecutor and former chief of operations; Derek Miller, the county’s current assistant prosecutor and chief of operations; and businessman William Weber.

One allegation said Smith put $900,000 in an account only he could access. 

"What's happening here is the prosecutor has been assessing the fine of the $900 and not turning the money over to the county treasurer and it's not being appropriated through the normal channel of officials. Instead, he's been putting the money into bank accounts for many years that only he had access to," Macomb Commissioner Leon Drolet told WWJ's Charlie Langton at the time.