State Roundup

Ann Arbor
Priest urges parishioners to arm themselves

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - A Catholic priest in Michigan is urging his parishioners to arm themselves and earn a concealed pistol license.

The Detroit Free Press reports the Rev. Edward Fride cited recent crime in the area in a letter to parishioners at Christ the King in Ann Arbor. During Mass last month, Fride announced a concealed pistol license class at the church.

The letter was titled "We're not in Mayberry Anymore, Toto," references to "The Andy Griffith Show" and the dog from "The Wizard of Oz." He wrote: "How to balance faith, reality, prudence, and trust is one of those critical questions that we struggle with all our lives."

The Diocese of Lansing oversees the parish and bans weapons in church. It says a concealed pistol class is inappropriate for church property.

Audit: Anti-blight programs need more oversight

DETROIT (AP) - An audit says the U.S. Treasury Department needs better oversight of federally funded blight removal programs in six states including Michigan.

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press report the audit from Special Inspector General Christy Romero reiterates concerns she offered in January. Romero says the Treasury Department should keep a closer eye on funds initially set aside for helping homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Mark McArdle, the department's chief homeownership preservation officer, says the suggestion that the department should manage day-to-day implementation of each state effort doesn't reflect how the program is supposed to work.

Romero's office has been auditing $372 million committed to anti-blight efforts. Michigan was approved for $175 million for blight removal, mostly in Detroit. Other approved programs are in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and South Carolina.

City to require renters to keep homes crime-free

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) - A new ordinance in Saginaw will require renters to pledge to keep their homes free of crime and puts landlords on the hook for making sure tenants obey the rules.

The ordinance, dubbed the "crime-free lease addendum," was approved Monday, The Saginaw News reported. It will require renters to agree that neither they nor their guests will "engage in criminal activity." Violations could mean eviction.

Landlords could face fines of $300 to $500 for violations. Councilman Demond Tibbs, an assistant Saginaw County prosecutor, led work on the ordinance and said it is a tool for city government to use to help make neighborhoods a better place to live.

"I think that's how it should be looked at," he said.

Mark Oberschmidt, a city resident and landlord, was the only person to speak against the proposal, calling it an unnecessarily complicated ordinance that would unfairly penalize landlords and be impossible to adequately enforce.

"I'm not here because this will affect me," Oberschmidt said. "It simply makes doing business more complicated and expensive. We are going down a slippery slope when you try to fine someone for someone else's behavior."

The ordinance takes effect April 30. It sets up rules for "quality of life violations" such as drug-related activity, criminal gang activity, assault or malicious destruction of property, within a one-year period. Landlords who don't work to evict repeat offenders could face fines.

Those in support of the ordinance included several representatives from Saginaw neighborhood associations and at least one landlord. Deanna Virciglio said those groups have worked for years to implement ways to hold renters and their landlords accountable.

"This ordinance will increase Saginaw property values, encourage responsible tenant behavior, it will be a tool for code enforcement, rental property maintenance and eviction, if needed," Virciglio said.

Ann Arbor
Man accused of smuggling turtles seeking plea deal

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - A trial has been postponed until June so prosecutors can try to negotiate a plea deal with a Canadian man who was caught with dozens of turtles inside his pants.

A trial set for next week has been moved to June 16 in Ann Arbor federal court.

Kai Xu was arrested in September while returning to Windsor, Ontario, with turtles. The government says it was a typical practice. Agents say Xu ordered turtles online and would travel to the U.S. to pick them up or ship them to China.

In September, Hong Kong authorities discovered a package of more than 300 turtles worth more than $30,000. An alleged accomplice was caught at Detroit Metro Airport bound for China with hundreds of turtles. Turtles are worth much more in China.

Royal Oak
Celebration marks change of church to minor basilica

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) - A celebration takes place this week to mark the elevation of a historic Catholic church in suburban Detroit to the status of minor basilica.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Mass is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at National Shrine of the Little Flower that will be led by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron. The parish choir, plus chorus groups from its two schools, will perform.

The Shrine of the Little Flower is one of 82 minor basilicas in the U.S. The other one in Michigan is the Basilica of St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids.

The church was founded in 1926 and is named for St. Therese of Lisieux. The French nun known as the "Little Flower" became a saint in 1925.

St. Joseph
Ex-official gets 2 years, 10 months plus in prison

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) - A former Berrien County commissioner with a gambling problem has received a prison sentence of 2 years, 10 months to 20 years after pleading guilty for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from service agencies.

Berrien County Judge Sterling Schrock issued the sentence Monday to 62-year-old Bob Wooley.

Schrock also ordered the Coloma man to pay $317,000 in restitution to the North Berrien Senior, where he served as director. And the judge ordered Wooley to make an as-yet-undetermined amount of restitution to North Berrien Fire Rescue, where he was treasurer.

Wooley's lawyer says his client stole the money to cover his gambling expenses.

Wooley quit the county commission on March 20, the same day he pleaded guilty.

Court upholds big drug bust tied to bad light on SUV

COLDWATER, Mich. (AP) - A man busted in southern Michigan with 28 pounds of cocaine will stay in prison after an appeals court said a broken light was enough for a trooper to stop him in Branch County.

Steve Dent claimed police had no reason to pull him over in 2007 because the defective light was not a headlight. It also was daytime.

But an appeals court last week said seizures can be legal even if an officer makes a "reasonable factual mistake." It affirmed an earlier decision by Detroit federal Judge Avern Cohn.

And Dent? He'll have much time to think about the light on his SUV. Cohn sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

Published: Wed, Apr 22, 2015


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