Independent autopsy shows Michigan cop's gun was likely pressed to Patrick Lyoya's head

Attorneys for the Patrick Lyoya family released Tuesday the findings of an independent autopsy performed by a world-renowned forensic pathology expert, Werner Spitz.

Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, was fatally shot in the back of the head by a white Grand Rapids police officer on April 4. The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) released several videos Wednesday showing the officer shooting Lyoya in the head. The four videos are from the officer’s body-worn camera, an in-car camera, a home surveillance system and a cell phone recording.

Spitz said he believes the gun was pressed against Lyoya’s head when the officer shot him “with a very powerful bullet.” The GRPD has not released the officer’s name.

Attorney Ven Johnson of Ven Johnson Law said the autopsy, which shows Lyoya was shot about 4 inches below the top of the scalp, also shows that Lyoya did not put up a fight against the officer.

“He wasn’t fighting. What he was ultimately doing was trying to defend himself and push the officer away from him,” said Johnson during a press conference in Detroit Tuesday. “He was resisting … but he was not actively fighting this officer. Hence, you have no physical injuries to the knuckles, face, body, etc. I would think that’s pretty obvious.”

Johnson was joined by attorney Ben Crump, a national civil rights attorney working with the Lyoya family who represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two African Americans who were killed by police. The lawyers said the GRPD officer did not give a fair warning before using the gun or the taser.

According to GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom on Wednesday, prior to shooting Lyoya, the officer deployed a taser twice, but the taser never made contact with Lyoya.

“From the second he pulled out the weapon until he shot and killed Patrick was milliseconds,” said Johnson. “He never gave a verbal warning, which is required under the federal law.”

Hundreds of people have protested the killing of Lyoya in downtown Grand Rapids, calling on the police department to release the name of the officer, put him on unpaid leave until the conclusion of the Michigan State Police investigation, fire him and then arrest him.

John. E. Johnson, Jr., Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said Monday he is having discussions with Attorney General Dana Nessel on a potential collaborative effort to examine whether the Grand Rapids Police Department has a history of discriminatory practices.

“The residents of Grand Rapids deserve to know that the state of Michigan takes seriously their right to equal treatment under the law,” Johnson said.

Independent autopsy shows Patrick Lyoya was shot by officer, gun was likely pressed to his head

Attorneys for the Patrick Lyoya family released Tuesday the findings of an independent autopsy performed by a world-renowned forensic pathology expert, Werner Spitz.

Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, was fatally shot in the back of the head by a white Grand Rapids police officer on April 4. The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) released several videos Wednesday showing the officer shooting Lyoya in the head. The four videos are from the officer’s body-worn camera, an in-car camera, a home surveillance system and a cell phone recording.

Spitz said he believes the gun was pressed against Lyoya’s head when the officer shot him “with a very powerful bullet.” The GRPD has not released the officer’s name.

Spitz has worked on several prominent cases, including the investigations of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. and the deaths of Michael Jackson and Casey Anthony.

Attorney Ven Johnson of Ven Johnson Law said the autopsy, which shows Lyoya was shot about 4 inches below the top of the scalp, also shows that Lyoya did not put up a fight against the officer.

“He wasn’t fighting. What he was ultimately doing was trying to defend himself and push the officer away from him,” said Johnson during a press conference in Detroit Tuesday. “He was resisting … but he was not actively fighting this officer. Hence, you have no physical injuries to the knuckles, face, body, etc. I would think that’s pretty obvious.”

Johnson was joined by attorney Ben Crump, a national civil rights attorney working with the Lyoya family who represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two African Americans who were killed by police. The lawyers said the GRPD officer did not give a fair warning before using the gun or the taser.

According to GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom on Wednesday, prior to shooting Lyoya, the officer deployed a taser twice, but the taser never made contact with Lyoya.

“From the second he pulled out the weapon until he shot and killed Patrick was milliseconds,” said Johnson. “He never gave a verbal warning, which is required under the federal law.”

Hundreds of people have protested the killing of Lyoya in downtown Grand Rapids, calling on the police department to release the name of the officer, put him on unpaid leave until the conclusion of the Michigan State Police investigation, fire him and then arrest him.

John. E. Johnson, Jr., Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said Monday he is having discussions with Attorney General Dana Nessel on a potential collaborative effort to examine whether the Grand Rapids Police Department has a history of discriminatory practices.

“The residents of Grand Rapids deserve to know that the state of Michigan takes seriously their right to equal treatment under the law,” Johnson said.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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‘We’re sick and tired of this’: Protesters continue to march for justice for Patrick Lyoya

Taylor Minor stood up through the sunroof of a car as a protest for Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man who was fatally shot in the head earlier this month by a Grand Rapids police officer, marched past Friday evening.
“No justice, no peace,” Minor, 25, of Grand Rapids, chanted with the crowd.

Within minutes, she was marching alongside hundreds of others who took to the streets for the fourth straight day of protests seeking justice for Lyoya.

“I grew up with all brothers. I have a Black father,” said Minor. “These are things they have run into before when interacting with the law. They’ve never had a good time.”

On Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) released several videos showing the officer shooting Lyoya on April 4. The four videos are from the officer’s body-worn camera, an in-car camera, a home surveillance system and a cell phone recording.

Now, protesters are demanding real change in how the GRPD polices Black communities and for the GRPD to release the name of the officer and to arrest him for killing Lyoya.

“I’m not saying all law enforcement is bad, but we’re sick and tired of this,” said Minor. “This happens too often and we see it too much.”

May Rickey, a graduate student at Grand Valley State University, told organizers of the protests for Lyoya that she wants to help ghostwrite or edit proposals to improve life in Grand Rapids for the Black Community through the Participatory Budgeting Grand Rapids (PBGR) initiative.

Grand Rapids protesters call for justice over fatal police shooting of Patrick Lyoya

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Grand Rapids this week after a Grand Rapids police officer fatally shot Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, earlier this month.

“It has been a tough situation and a traumatizing situation,” said Jimmy Barwan, Lyoya’s older brother, who was present at the peaceful protests Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Just out of nowhere, getting information that he’s gone. He’s not alive no more. It really hurts us. That’s my brother. You know, he had a dream. He just recently got his new apartment. He was going to be cutting hair and basically trying to figure out something for himself. But out of nowhere, my brother is killed just like that,” Barwan said.

The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) released several videos Wednesday showing the officer shooting Lyoya in the head on April 4. The four videos are from the officer’s body-worn camera, an in-car camera, a home surveillance system and a cell phone recording.

Protesters are calling on the police department to do more.

Specifically, their demands are for the police department to name and arrest the officer who killed Lyoya, change their policing policies in Black neighborhoods, put the officer on unpaid leave until the end of the investigation and to release all unedited videos of the shooting.

GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom said Wednesday the department has released all the videos they have and blurred some of the video for privacy of the neighbors and to blur graphic content. All audio in the videos is unedited, Winstrom said.

However, Barwan said during Wednesday’s protest that their father saw a different video than the videos the police released.

Many Grand Rapids residents have been calling for GRPD to improve its de-escalation training and calling for the city to defund the department for years. This demand has grown louder since the summer 2020 protests in Grand Rapids and cities across the country calling for justice for George Floyd, a 45-year-old African American man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck.

We know these things are going to happen, but regardless of that, nothing can prepare you for the feeling of it happening,” said Aly, chair of the Royal Black Panther Party of Grand Rapids, which has been organizing the protests, who asked to not be identified by her last name for safety reasons.

“I didn’t want to be right. None of us did,” Aly said. “We wanted people to actually listen. We hoped that people were actually going to listen to us. I should have never come to the point where Patrick lost his life.”

In preparation of protests, many businesses in downtown Grand Rapids boarded up their windows after there was some damage during the 2020 Floyd demonstrations.

The protests over Lyoya’s killing have been peaceful and nonviolent. The police have not taken much action at these protests, other than after a few people were at the top of the GRPD building and a few officers came out of the department for a few minutes during Wednesday’s protest.

But now, many in the Grand Rapids community want to see real change.

This could have been me,” said Darius Thomas, a 35-year-old Black man from Grand Rapids, who said he was recently pulled over by a police officer who claimed Thomas was speeding.

Thomas said he was compliant during the traffic stop and asked the officer if he could speak with a sergeant. That’s when the police officer busted out his car windows. Thomas recorded the interaction with the police officer and shared it with the Advance, which confirmed his account.

Far-right Republicans spin conspiracies after Whitmer kidnap plot acquittal

After two suspects in the alleged plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were found not guilty last week, some Republicans in Michigan and nationwide are blaming the FBI, saying the plot was “politicized” and denying it happened altogether.

On Friday, a jury found that Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, two of the four men, accused of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home in northern Michigan have been acquitted of charges. The jury did not reach a verdict on the other two and they will be retried.

While many were concerned that this verdict could set a precedent allowing for violent threats against public officials, others on the far-right saw this as a victory against what they contend was a political move orchestrated by the state government and FBI.

Republican attorney general candidate Matt DePerno tweeted Saturday that he predicted the “Whitmer kidnapping sham was entrapment by the FBI designed to create a false narrative before the election.” He made this comment just days after the news broke in October 2020 on a right-wing talk show with host Randy Bishop, a.k.a. “Trucker Randy.”

“I can’t wait to investigate this one. [Whitmer] stop shredding docs and deleting emails,” DePerno tweeted.

DePerno also shared a cartoon that depicted the FBI creating the kidnapping plot and Whitmer surrounded by a fake fire.

DePerno, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is facing former House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.) for the GOP nomination for attorney general. The nominee will be chosen at the state convention April 23 in Grand Rapids and will then face off against Attorney General Dana Nessel in November.

Another Republican hopeful, who is vying for a seat in the state House, Robert Regan, posted on Facebook Friday that “everyone who has followed this story from the start knew this was fabricated by the tyrant in Lansing.”

Some conservatives from out of state also chimed in on the post-verdict discourse to spread conspiracy theories.

A Republican congressman from Texas, Troy Nehls, tweeted that the “media and FBI should be held accountable” for the kidnapping plot.

Dinesh D’Souza, a longtime figure in right-wing politics and podcast host, tweeted that the verdict is a “guilty verdict for the FBI on multiple counts of entrapment. These thugs with badges need to be held to account!”

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Whitmer files suit to enshrine abortion rights, asks Michigan Supreme Court to take the case

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit Thursday with the Oakland County Circuit Court to preserve legal abortions in Michigan, as the future of the 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade is at risk pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in another major abortion access case.

“Nearly my whole life, this is a right that’s afforded women the freedom to live and enjoy full rights to privacy and autonomy and equality as American citizens. All of that is in jeopardy,” the Democratic governor said in a Wednesday afternoon interview with the Advance. “Regardless of why a woman might choose to exercise her rights in this regard, it is none of our business.”

The lawsuit seeks to recognize the right to an abortion under the state constitution, similarly to what the U.S. Supreme Court did in Roe v. Wade which declared abortion to be a constitutional right, and to strike down the state’s 1931 abortion ban law.

The Supreme Court, which is considered to have its most right-wing makeup in decades, heard arguments on a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks in December. Depending on how the court rules in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is expected by the end of the Court’s term in June, Roe v. Wade could be overturned.

If that happens, the 1931 Michigan law criminalizing abortions in all instances unless it is to protect the life of the pregnant person, will go into effect.

The state is arguing that the 1931 ban violates both Michigan’s due process clause, which provides a right to privacy and bodily autonomy, and Michigan’s Equal Protection Clause.

Michigan has previously tried to repeal the 1931 abortion ban before, but it’s failed each time. Democrats rolled out the Michigan Reproductive Health Act (RHA) in 2019, which aimed to repeal the 1931 law, roll back abortion restrictions and increase access to abortion services and support. Whitmer supported the RHA, but the GOP-led Legislature refused to take it up.

The defendants named in this case brought on by Whitmer are county prosecutors for the 13 Michigan counties that have abortion clinics — Emmett, Genesee, Grand Traverse, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Macomb, Marquette, Oakland, Saginaw, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

The governor will be represented by several attorneys from the Department of the Attorney General who have been placed behind a conflict wall. Additionally, attorneys from the Washington, D.C.-based law firm WilmerHale have offered their services pro bono.

Whitmer will use the executive message power asking the state Supreme Court to take on this case and do so swiftly. As part of the Michigan Court Rules, which are promulgated by the Michigan Supreme Court, that allows in cases of special importance for the governor to send an executive message to the state Supreme Court.

Michigan’s Supreme Court currently has the first Democratic-nominated majority in more than a decade.

“The lawsuit is necessary and crucial, and it’s so important that the court moves swiftly because we have an imminent threat to constitutional rights that women have been able to exercise for 49 years,” Whitmer said.

If the case is not taken up by the state Supreme Court, it could languish in the trial court and in the Court of Appeals for months. There is currently a 1997 decision on the books issued by the Court of Appeals saying that the state Constitution does not recognize the right to an abortion. Without a decision from the state Supreme Court, lower courts have their hands tied.

Right to Life of Michigan President Barb Listing said the group will “do everything we can to fight this lawsuit.”

“Right to Life of Michigan believes that the Michigan Supreme Court has the obligation to deny this request as it is deceitful and dishonest,” she said.

More states take action to restrict abortion

This all comes during a time when more abortion restrictions have been rolled out nationwide than ever before. In 2021, for the first time ever, states enacted more than 100 abortion restrictions in a single year.

Michigan’s GOP-led Legislature has had a long list of abortion restriction bills introduced.

That includes a bill that would make it a crime to knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a woman who wants it because of the sex, race or a disability of the fetus and a bill that would require doctors to provide information on the abortion pill reversal procedure (APR), require abortion providers to check for a fetal heartbeat prior to providing an abortion and disclose the likelihood of a miscarriage.

In September, Whitmer called on the Legislature to repeal the 1931 abortion ban law, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said Senate Republicans “will not waiver from this fundamental duty to protect the sanctity of life.”

“Ensuring that we have a statute that supersedes the 1931 law would be an effective alternative, but the majority in the Legislature does not recognize women as full American citizens and does not recognize this constitutional right,” Whitmer said. “And so that solution is … not legal at the moment. … And this is an action that I can take using the unique powers of my office.”

Republican leaders in the state will likely try to intervene with this lawsuit, but Whitmer told the Advance she doesn’t have time to be concerned about that.

“There probably will be an opportunity for them to weigh in, but frankly, I can’t not take action around this fundamental right on behalf of women, our families and providers in Michigan based on what [the Legislature] may or may not do,” she said.

In January, Reproductive Freedom for All formed to get a petition on the 2022 ballot protect reproductive freedom, including access to abortion, before voters in the November election. The coalition includes Planned Parenthood of Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Michigan Voices.

The proposal, if passed, would amend Michigan’s Constitution to explicitly affirm Michiganders’ right to make and carry out decisions relating to pregnancy, including abortion, birth control, prenatal care and childbirth.

But Michigan doesn’t have time to wait for that ballot initiative to possibly hit the ballot in November, Whitmer said.

“An initiative of any sort would not take effect immediately, especially wouldn’t be an effect by the time Dobbs v. Jackson is decided,” Whitmer said. “And that’s why it’s important right now, with this Michigan Constitution, to get an interpretation from the court that determines that, in fact, it does recognize women’s right to privacy under due process and the ability to make our own decisions about our bodies.”

Whitmer is up for reelection in November. There are 12 Republicans running for the GOP nomination in the August primary, including chiropractor Garrett Soldano, right-wing commentator Tudor Dixon, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, businessman Perry Johnson and businessman Kevin Rinke. All of the Republicans oppose abortion rights.

According to the governor’s office, Whitmer is the first governor to file a lawsuit in this context and use the executive message power to protect the right to abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court signaled its openness to overturning Roe.

She says she has been in discussion with governors from other states about “how important and how imperative and how precarious this moment is for women in America,” but not every state has the same tools Whitmer has in Michigan through the executive message power.

“I’m using every tool that I have to ensure that we protect women and we empower women and we ensure that our constitutional rights aren’t undermined if you live in the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Michigan Dem officials do 4-hour livestream fact-checking Trump's ‘Big Lie’ claims

Dem officials do 4-hour livestream fact-checking ‘big lie’ claims during Trump rally

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, Attorney General Dana Nessel and state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) recorded a four-hour livestream during former President Donald Trump’s rally in Washington Township Saturday where they reviewed and corrected inaccurate claims from he and other GOP officials.

“For 18 months, we have endured lies and conspiracies regarding the 2020 Presidential Election and they have undermined the public’s trust in our elections administrators, and our Democracy,” said Byrum. “It is critical that we not let these go unchecked, and that the residents of Michigan have access to actual facts about how our elections are run.”

Trump was in Michigan to support Kristina Karamo, a Republican running for secretary of state in 2022, and Matthew DePerno, who is seeking the attorney general nomination to run against Nessel.

DePerno is up against former state House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.) for the Republican nomination at the state convention April 23 in Grand Rapids.

Karamo is battling state Rep. Beau LaFace (R-Iron Mountain) and Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry for the Republican secretary of state nomination. The winner will be up against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Both candidates have helped spread election fraud conspiracies in the state and across the country, despite hundreds of audits across Michigan showing that Trump lost to President Joe Biden in Michigan by more than 154,000 votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Trump, along with the endorsed candidates and GOP leaders who joined him at the podium, like Michigan Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock and U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Bruce Twp.), focused on the 2020 election and conspiracies that the election was rigged against Trump with thrown-out ballots and voting equipment.

When DePerno took the stage, Byrum, Irwin and Nessel pushed back on conspiracies he shared about election fraud in the Antrim County 2020 general election.

DePerno filed a case challenging the election results in Antrim County, but Nessel noted that it was “a Republican-nominated judge who threw his lawsuit out, finding it to be completely without merit.”

On election night, Antrim County briefly showed Biden was winning Antrim County, a Republican stronghold, due to human error. It was quickly corrected.

“Early the next morning, the clerk in Antrim County realized the mistake was made, corrected it and owned up to it,” Irwin said during the livestream Saturday. “Despite what was a rather mundane mistake that everybody could see, who knew anything about elections in Antrim County … that mistake was spun up into a national controversy and was used by irresponsible lawyers like Matt DePerno.”

Trump’s speech lasted approximately 90 minutes, where he talked about many of his typical rally topics, including the 2020 presidential election, COVID-19 mandates by Democratic governors, high crime rates in cities with Democratic mayors and comparing the unemployment rates between his time in office and under Biden.

“What we need to bear in mind is that public trust can be lost in an instant and it will take years to regain that trust,” said Byrum. “It is my hope that exposing his lies for what they are, we can start to rebuild the trust that he took from this country.”

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Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Dem officials do 4-hour livestream fact-checking ‘big lie’ claims during Trump rally

Ahead of Trump rally, top Michigan official says her state is 'ground zero' for threats against democracy

The spread of misinformation about the 2020 presidential election isn’t going to quiet down until those who have been spreading “the big lie” face consequences, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday during a press conference.

The big lie is a conspiracy theory pushed by former President Donald Trump and his supporters that falsely claims the 2020 election was rigged against him and there was widespread voter fraud.

Benson, a Democrat, held a press call ahead of Trump’s upcoming Saturday rally in Macomb County for his endorsed secretary of state and attorney general candidates, Kristina Karamo and Matt DePerno, who both push election fraud conspiracies.

“The threats against our democracy are truly a five-alarm fire and in that fire, Michigan is ground zero,” Benson said. “And it’s a fire that consists of a national coordinated effort … where partisan politicians and others are lying to voters about the 2020 election results and about what’s at stake in order to carry out this national, multifaceted, multi-year, coordinated and sophisticated effort to potentially overturn the results of a legitimate presidential election or other elections.”

President Joe Biden beat Trump by 154,000 votes in Michigan, which has been confirmed by over 250 state and local election audits.

Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, a liberal advocacy group, and Let America Vote Fund, joined Benson Wednesday to discuss the “Democracy Defenders” program, which will spend $7 million in key attorney general and secretary of state races across the country, including in Michigan.

Benson will face one of three likely GOP opponents. Karamo, a teacher from Oak Park who has called for a so-called “forensic audit” and spoken at a QAnon conference. State Rep. Beau LaFace (R-Iron Mountain) and Cindy Berry, Chesterfield Township clerk, are also running for the Republican nomination for secretary of state which will be determined at a Michigan GOP convention on April 23.

“For the first time, we now have candidates running for secretary of state and attorney general who actually deny the 2020 election results, who are trafficking in the big lie and perpetuating conspiracy theories that threaten and undermine our democracy. This is dangerous, they could have disastrous consequences in Michigan and states around the country,” said Muller.

DePerno is battling against former state House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.) for the GOP attorney general nomination at the convention next month. The winner will face off against Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel in November.

DePerno has said that if he is elected, he would “lock up” Nessel for referring the fraudulent Michigan Trump electors to the Department of Justice for investigation, echoing a common threat Trump has made against Democrats.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Michigan GOP state senator gets probation for inappropriately touching a nurse

State Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek) has been sentenced to a year of probation and fined $1,130 for inappropriately touching a nurse practitioner when he was sick with COVID-19.

On Aug. 14, Bizon, a physician, visited the Oaklawn Medical Group to seek treatment for COVID-19, when he allegedly “intentionally grabbed her with his right arm/hand, by her waist, pulled her into his body, squeezed her hip with his right hand, and told her he is an otolaryngologist,” according to the police report.

Bizon faced a misdemeanor assault and battery charge, which he pleaded guilty to last month in Calhoun County.

Among the fine and his yearlong probation, which prohibits him from using drugs or alcohol, he is also required to take a mandatory mental health assessment and is not allowed to contact the nurse or her clinic.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has previously stated that he does not plan to take any punitive action against Bizon. Shirkey’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether or not that is still the case.

Bizon ran an ear, nose and throat practice in Battle Creek until 2019. He was first elected to the state Senate in 2018 and represents Calhoun, Barry and Ionia counties.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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Michigan Dems introduce 'child grooming' bill amid sex abuse investigation of former GOP lawmaker

Amid allegations against former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), who is accused of sexual assaulting his sister-in-law starting when she was a child, a new bill introduced in the state House would make evidence of grooming admissible in court.

House Bill 5767, introduced by Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), seeks to explicitly allow evidence of grooming to refute a claim of consent in sexual assault or abuse cases.

Grooming is manipulative behaviors that an abuser uses to gain access to a potential victim and coerce them into either agreeing to the abuse or believing it isn’t abuse.

Details surface of former Speaker Chatfield’s alleged sexual abuse of sister-in-law

Kathryn Robb, the executive director of Child USAdvocacy, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization that advocates against child sexual abuse, said grooming often shows up when there is an “emotional connection that makes the kid feel like special in the eyes of this teacher, coach, clergy member” or other important adults in the child’s life.

“The vast amount of children, as high as over 90% of kids that are sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday, know their perpetrator and often know the perpetrator very well,” said Robb. “So they’re in a position of both power and trust. … What they do is they try to make the kid feel comfortable, they slowly pull them in to this space that escalates from gift giving, time alone, to maybe a touch on the knee or the leg that escalates further to very explicit sexual assaults.”

Last month, Chatfield’s 26-year-old sister-in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, accused him of sexually abusing her beginning when she was 15 years old. Jamie White, Rebekah Chatfield’s attorney, said the assaults continued until about July 2021.

Chatfield has denied all allegations of assault, but his attorney said the two had a consensual “affair” starting when she was an adult.

Currently, under Michigan’s Rule of Evidence (MRE) 404b, the use of character evidence in courts is generally prohibited, but the rule has some exceptions, “such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme or plan.”

LaGrand told the Advance that HB 5767 would eliminate the gray area and debate around grooming evidence in sexual assault cases.

“This bill is important because more and more information is coming to light that shows us how often people in positions of power groom their victims long in advance with intent to ultimately proceed to sexual assault. Things that start as innocent comments are laying the groundwork and normalizing what ultimately becomes unwanted advances,” LaGrand said.

“It’s unacceptable and repellent when offenders claim that their victims consented when they have worked for long periods of time to normalize unwanted advances, and then create what they can argue is an appearance of consent.”

According to Rebekah Chatfield, who shared her story with Bridge Michigan early this year, Lee Chatfield began sexually assaulting her when she was a student at Northern Michigan Christian Academy in Burt Lake, where Lee Chatfield was working at the time. The age of consent in Michigan is 16, but it rises to 18 when the perpetrator is an educator at the school.

Robb said victims of grooming are often in a “disadvantaged social position,” meaning they have unsteady relationships at home, struggling with mental health or living in poverty.

Rebekah Chatfield said that at the time the abuse began she was going through “a traumatic and vulnerable time” in her life.

Last week, the police aided the house of two former top Chatfield staffers, Rob and Anne Minard. MSP public affairs manager Shannon Banner said the department is working in conjunction with the attorney general’s office as part of an ongoing investigation, but would not specify any details about the police’s investigation at the Minards’ house.

HB 5767 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. More than 30 Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, but there are no co-sponsors from the Republican Party, which controls both the House and Senate.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

This Michigan 'freedom convoy' was a complete dud

A right-wing protest against COVID-19 mandates and supporting election fraud conspiracies at the Michigan Capitol building off the blockades at the border that shut down the Ambassador Bridge for a week has failed to gain traction for the last week.
Around 10 people showed up to the Capitol building Sunday afternoon for what was billed as the “Lansing Freedom Convoy.” The group has called on “all our good men” to park their cars in downtown Lansing and demand “honest elections,” “a voter-run audit and canvass” and for police to “arrest and charge all criminals in government, media and medicine.”

There currently are few COVID-19 protocols in Michigan, with no statewide mask mandates since June 2021 and every county lifting its requirement.

The group has also been hosting daily “slow rolls” around the Capitol building last week, but these daily events also only had a small number of participants.

Earlier this month, another right-wing rally questioning the results of the 2020 general election had a smaller than anticipated crowd. Organizers for that rally called on thousands of people to flood the building and demand a “forensic audit” of the election, which didn’t happen.

Despite the fact that President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan, many GOP activists and officials have been pushing election fraud conspiracies for over a year.

The “freedom convoy” in Lansing is allied with protesters who shut down the Ambassador Bridge and other border crossings earlier this month. That protest, which started with truckers blasting horns in Ottawa, opposed a Canadian vaccine mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or they face a testing and quarantine requirement.

According to a report from the Anderson Economic Group, the protest at the Ambassador Bridge cost the auto industry about $300 million, including $145 million in lost direct wages and $155 million in losses to automakers, including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota.

That protest was backed by 30 GOP state lawmakers and several Republican gubernatorial candidates, including former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and chiropractor Garrett Soldano.

Another convoy is being organized across the U.S. with the intention of disrupting Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1 in Washington, D.C.

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Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Right-wing Michigan 'convoy' fizzles as few show up to protest election results and COVID-19 mandates

A right-wing protest against COVID-19 mandates and supporting election fraud conspiracies at the Michigan Capitol building off the blockades at the border that shut down the Ambassador Bridge for a week has failed to gain traction for the last week.

Around 10 people showed up to the Capitol building Sunday afternoon for what was billed as the “Lansing Freedom Convoy.” The group has called on “all our good men” to park their cars in downtown Lansing and demand “honest elections,” “a voter-run audit and canvass” and for police to “arrest and charge all criminals in government, media and medicine.”

There currently are few COVID-19 protocols in Michigan, with no statewide mask mandates since June 2021 and every county lifting its requirement.

The group has also been hosting daily “slow rolls” around the Capitol building last week, but these daily events also only had a small number of participants.

Earlier this month, another right-wing rally questioning the results of the 2020 general election had a smaller than anticipated crowd. Organizers for that rally called on thousands of people to flood the building and demand a “forensic audit” of the election, which didn’t happen.

Despite the fact that President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan, many GOP activists and officials have been pushing election fraud conspiracies for over a year.

The “freedom convoy” in Lansing is allied with protesters who shut down the Ambassador Bridge and other border crossings earlier this month. That protest, which started with truckers blasting horns in Ottawa, opposed a Canadian vaccine mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or they face a testing and quarantine requirement.

According to a report from the Anderson Economic Group, the protest at the Ambassador Bridge cost the auto industry about $300 million, including $145 million in lost direct wages and $155 million in losses to automakers, including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota.

That protest was backed by 30 GOP state lawmakers and several Republican gubernatorial candidates, including former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and chiropractor Garrett Soldano.

Another convoy is being organized across the U.S. with the intention of disrupting Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1 in Washington, D.C.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

AG says there is enough evidence to charge fake Trump electors

Attorney General Dana Nessel says there is “absolutely” enough election fraud evidence to charge the 16 false electors who attempted to submit a 2020 Electoral College certificate for former President Donald Trump in December 2020.
The Democrat asked the feds last week to investigate the 16 fraudulent signees in Michigan, as well as a larger conspiracy that she believes spans across multiple states. The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol also is reportedly probing the issue.

During a press conference Tuesday, Nessel said she is committed to holding the slate of Republicans accountable if the federal government doesn’t intervene.

Will false Trump electors’ attempt to hijack the Michigan vote be punished?

“I feel confident that we have enough evidence to charge should we decide to pursue that,” Nessel said. “I think that it’s a better idea for the feds to pursue this. … It is not as though we have made a determination that we are certainly not going to charge. I am just sort of waiting to see what it is that they’ll decide to do.”

In December 2020, Michigan’s Electoral College unanimously voted for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes.

The 16 fraudulent signees include Michigan RNC National Committeewoman Kathy Berden, who served as chair; Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock; and Stan Grot, the Shelby Township clerk at the center of a payoff scandal at the Michigan GOP alleged by former Chair Laura Cox.

Other signatories were: Hank Choate, Rose Rook, Mayra Rodriguez, Clifford Frost, John Haggard, Kent Vanderwood, Timothy King, Michele Lundgren, Marian Sheridan and Mari-Ann Henry. Two of the GOP delegates didn’t show up and were replaced. James Renner replaced Gerald Wall and Ken Thompson replaced former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

Some fake electors and Trump supporters attempted to enter the Capitol building as the Electoral College was casting votes for Biden, but were denied entry.

Nessel said she is hoping the federal government investigates this because she doesn’t have jurisdiction over the six other states that had “seemingly identical” false certificates showing Trump as the winner. Those states are Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which were all won by Biden.

“It’s clear to me that this was not independent rogue actors that were unknowingly doing the same thing as they had done in many other states,” Nessel said. “From a jurisdictional standpoint, we think it’s important because it allows for the federal authorities to determine if there was a conspiracy that was a multi-state conspiracy.”

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Michigan Democrat to go to trial after judge decides April arrest was ‘lawful’

State Rep. Jewell Jones (D-Inkster) is facing trial for numerous criminal charges after a Livingston judge ruled Friday that Jones’ arrest last spring was lawful.

Jones was arrested in early April when he was driving “erratically” on I-96 in Handy Township.

He is being charged for resisting and obstructing a police officer, operating a motor vehicle with a high blood alcohol content, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, possession of a weapon while under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving.

Judge Michael Hatty ruled that “the detention of the defendant is permissible, it is lawful,” considering all the charges against Jones.

Jones’ lawyer, Bryon Nolen, argued that the state lawmaker should not be charged because the arrest was “unlawful.” Nolen argued that Jones was wrongfully arrested when police apprehended him on the side of the highway.

“The prosecution continues to choose time and time again to focus on speculation and rhetoric, embellishing the facts, leading to the misrepresentation of this entire situation,” Jones posted on Instagram Saturday.

Jones was stripped of his committee assignments in September after attempting to sneak a handcuff key into jail. Jones was sent to jail for committing his third bond violation.


Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

‘We will not be defined by this tragedy’: Thousands mourn four Oxford students during vigil

While thousands gathered in downtown Oxford Friday night for a vigil to honor the four Oxford High School students who were murdered in Tuesday’s shooting, the message from community and state leaders was about the community’s resilience.
“This community is a rare, rare thing,” said U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) to a crowd of Oxford students, parents and community members. “I represent a lot of people and not every community could do what this community has done. You have not hesitated. And I want you to lead. Lead in your households; lead in your community; lead in your school. Do not hesitate.”

Since the shooting, the Southeast Michigan community has raised thousands of dollars for the victims and their families, held numerous vigils and memorials and offered each other support to mourn together.