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Ingham County prosecutor wisely charges mentally ill man with lying to police

by: Eric B.

Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 13:48:59 PM EST

Is it me, or does this smell like someone trying to avoid becoming the defendant in a lawsuit?

Seven months after police obtained what turned out to be a false confession from a mentally ill man in a murder case, prosecutors are still pursuing a felony lying to police charge against him.

At the same time, another man has been charged with murder and ordered to stand trial in the case.

During his ordeal, Kosgar Lado, a 21-year-old Sudanese refugee, has been trapped in a criminal justice system ill-equipped for easily correcting mistakes.

The Lansing resident and onetime Eastern High School student endured a month in isolation last summer at the county jail. His mental health deteriorated to the point that he had to be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital in October. Since then, he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The story goes on to say that no one is certain whether Lado already suffered from mental illness, or whether that mental illness started while he was a guest of the Ingham County jail. It's usually not difficult to figure out why a public official is behaving oddly in a certain circumstance, but I'll be damned if this makes sense in any way other than that someone did something very wrong and that the prosecutor is pressing charges to prevent that wrongdoing from turning into an out-of-court settlement or, even worse, a costly civil rights trial.

What isn't speculation is that pressing criminal charges of lying to police against a diagnosed schizophrenic is the very definition of cruel, stupid and unproductive. Not to mention a colossal waste of money and other resources.  What's also certain is that the Ingham County prosecutor is now compounding the injustice done Kosgar Lado. FIrst, there was arresting him and wrongfully charging him for murder and holding him in isolation that has almost certainly worsened his mental illness. Now there is this. You would think a phrase like, "released with our apologies" would be more suitable.

Eric B. :: Ingham County prosecutor wisely charges mentally ill man with lying to police
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It's actually weirder than that....
Apparently the only "lie" was agreeing with the police that he had committed the murder, that is, confessing.  He's being prosecuted because under pressure from the police he incorrectly agreed with them that he was guilty.  Since the police were wrong, the prosecutor says now that he's guilty of a felony.

I been to law school, and I have to say this prosecution leaves me baffled.  Are they saying that a citizen has an affirmative duty to stand up to police pressure and refuse to buckle?  Even when they say "We know what you did."?  Even when they tell him that continuing to deny his guilt is only making things harder for everybody?  Even when they tell him they "understand what you're going through"?  Even when the defendant is a mentally ill refugee from a lawless Third World country?

Police question guilty people all the time, and they deal with lies routinely.  What made this case unique was the defendant's innocence, which they say makes his lying a crime.

There's no suggestion that Lado was trying to trick anybody, or hide anything, or get any advantage for himself.  He just wasn't up to the task of resisting police interrogation techniques, so he broke down and confessed.  

If the prosecutor gets away with this, I'll be surprised.  It's certainly strong evidence for the lawyer's advice not to say anything to the police after an arrest - after all, if you really ARE innocent, you could be prosecuted for failing to convince them.

That's why I think there's something else going on here
I can't for the life of me imagine why the prosecutor would charge a felony here, except that letting him go would leave the office or the police or the jail vulnerable to a lawsuit.

At the very least, what'll happen is that the police find their jobs more difficult because people won't talk.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
Stuart Dunnings...
Has he ever seen a suspect who he thought was innocent? Or a cop who was guilty of anything?  

Your point leads to more weirdness.
Maybe new training in interrogation techniques should emphasize the need to be alert to the possibility, after a suspect breaks down and confesses, that he's secretly innocent but still liable to prosecution.  It would put both members of the good cop/bad cop team on an equal footing - each would be trying to make a case, one for prosecuting the guilty, the other to prosecute the innocent.

More evidence for the cynical view that "nobody is REALLY innocent", since even if you are, you're only one confession away from being prosecuted.  Franz Kafka never thought of it as a plot device, but he should have.

[ Parent ]
Dunnings has prosecuted quite a few cops; just ask the Lansing Police Department if you have any doubt.  

Whatever is going on with this case, he's is certainly not some over-zealous law-and-order type you find in more conservative communities.  This looks like a big f%ck-up, but it's been the exception not the rule here in Ingham County.

[ Parent ]
Holding a bogus criminal charge over a mentally ill man's head is not justice
Eric, thanks for bringing more attention to this case.

I apologize in advance for the long post. All the comments made here are on point, and I invite those outraged by this abuse of prosecutorial power to sign a petition that sends emails to Prosecutor Dunnings. It's at Click For Link.

It's believed that media coverage and public pressure before yesterday's hearing is likely what saved Lado from being condemned to a year in the Ypsilanti state hospital, where we all know he would have been warehoused/hidden away, not given effective treatment.

It seems important to Dunnings, who previously helped wrongly convict another vulnerable African American man of a murder, that he retain control over this case. Whether to fend off a civil case or be able to reject FOIA requests because the case is "open" - who knows. It may be as simple as him refusing to publicly admit he was wrong.

Regardless, Dunnings has had adequate information since early on to dismiss the charge against Kosgar, who never should have been caught up in our predatory criminal justice system. Kosgar's only crimes were 1. walking while black and 2. trying to tell the police what they wanted to hear. Dunnings keeps changing his reasons for not dismissing the felony charge of lying to police (aka having a false confession extracted by police)  - none of them valid.

The family accepted the lesser evil at the hearing yesterday, but the threat of four years in prison still unjustly hangs over Kosgar's head.

My understanding is that the "deal" calls for him to essentially "behave" in treatment for a year, and then the charges will be dropped. Who will decide what that standard is? He is already in treatment and the mental health issue should stand separate from the criminal one.

Now Kosgar is caught in a spiral of pressure and scrutiny that can exacerbate mental illness, even as his family and allies are already committed to getting him the treatment and community support he needs.

As troubling as Kosgar's case, it's more troubling that we seem to have a prosecutor with a pattern of abusing his power, and the most vulnerable citizens are the ones who suffer.  

Link to petition
Sorry, that link in the previous comment may not work. Try this: http://www.change.org/petition...

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