Prosecutor knocks bill to pay for Michigan COVID-19 nursing home investigation

The top law enforcement officer in Genesee County says state lawmakers do not properly understand how the justice system works
Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 5:46 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (3/29/2021) - “Totally inappropriate, almost absurd” -- the thoughts Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton had when learning Michigan’s Senate passed a recent bill.

“You don’t give money to a county prosecutor and say hey go find a crime,” Leyton added.

The bill, now headed to the Michigan House of Representatives, makes hundreds of thousands of dollars available to any county prosecutor who investigates Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s and the state health department’s nursing home policies.

In the last year it’s believed a large number of COVID-19 deaths are connected to long-term care facilities.

Senators introduced the bill after the Attorney General refused to open an investigation.

Genesee County’s top law enforcement official said no prosecutor should take the money.

Leyton explained his decision to not investigate nursing home deaths in Michigan isn’t political. He said what state lawmakers are asking for simply isn’t how the justice system works.

“Well, I don’t have any investigators,” Leyton said.

A case doesn’t come to his Office until the local police, Sheriff’s Department or Michigan State Police investigate a crime, gather evidence and then bring him a warrant request for charges.

“Then we review it for probable cause and make a determination if we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Leyton explained. “That’s how the system works. That’s how the criminal justice system operates, not with a $250,000 bounty from the Republican-controlled State Senate.

Leyton isn’t sure what that money would be used for, but he said the Michigan lawmakers are doing things backwards.

“They have the cart before the horse,” the Prosecutor said. “It doesn’t work that way. You’re supposed to have, you know, a crime and then maybe the money flows after that. I’d be happy to take the $250,000 and use it towards reducing the 1000 cases that have backed up because of COVID, but certainly not for this reason.”

The Democrat hasn’t looked closely at Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s nursing home policy, but said he trusts the Attorney General’s judgment in not pursuing an investigation.

Many believe it was former Governor Rick Snyder’s policies that landed Flint in a water crisis. And that same AG’s Office criminally charged him in January. So ABC12 asked Leyton to compare the two. He said he isn’t privy to their evidence, so he can’t comment on if Snyder should or should not be facing charges.

“I would say this in response to that question -- It is a slippery slope when you start accusing elected officials of criminality, based upon policy decisions. I think you have to have more than that to sustain probable cause that a crime was committed,” Leyton said.

The State Senate’s bill now goes to the House for a vote. If the House passes it, the Governor has to sign the bill for it to become law.

It’s expected she’ll veto it.

The Genesee County Prosecutor said if you believe you’re the victim of a crime, report it to your local police agency so they can investigate.

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