Justice in America is best when everybody is treated by the same rules no matter whether those people are important or insignificant. It's a failure when certain people receive privileged treatment for infractions and crimes where other ordinary people would be punished in application of the law. This is so foundational that it is codified by four simple words etched on the building containing the country's highest court: Equal Justice Under Law.
To illustrate that inequality can happen in Ludington, I want to look at a recent police incident report I received via a Freedom of Information Act request and leave out the names of the people involved simply because the relevance is secondary to the point that the key person, who I will refer to with the gender neutral name, Pat, is well connected in the community. Pat makes that abundantly clear when he/she threatens the arresting officer with death from above. The narrative comes from what can be found on the police report.
The Incident, Part One: Disorderly Person
This summer, Pat had imbibed quite a bit of adult beverages at a local drinking establishment. Pat was causing such a commotion on the street that Pat's adult child who lived nearby, came over to see what was happening. Pat had wanted to drive home but was obviously plastered and had others trying to prevent her from doing so. Pat's child, with help from a sibling, eventually was able to urge Pat into the car as a passenger and prepared to drive Pat home. Pat was so out of it that he/she opened the door and wandered out of the car at one of the stop signs or lights on the way home, and had to be corralled back into the vehicle.
In the meantime, the spouse of Pat's child was concerned that Pat was not in the right frame of mind and might be assaulting Pat's two adult kids, so they called 911 and they sent Officer Mike Haveman from the Ludington Police Department over to Pat's house to make sure things went safely. Pat's spouse, call them Robin, met Haveman outside of the house and waited, since Pat's ride home took longer due to the surprise escape attempts.
Robin told Haveman that Pat was out of control and the officer overheard some of the struggle and 'hysterical screaming' of Pat in the ride home over the phone. When Pat arrived, Haveman approached Pat in the car. Noticing Pat smelling strongly of alcohol with glassy and bloodshot eyes, Haveman noticed Pat acting hysterical and screaming "F&*k you" at the rest of the family whenever they tried to talk. Pat was told repeatedly by Haveman to stop screaming as it was then after midnight in a nice residential district in Ludington.
Since Pat would not let any family member talk without screaming profanities or yelling that they were lying, Haveman suggested Pat sit in the patrol car and this was agreed to. Haveman got their side of the story, and they acknowledged Pat was drunk and out of control. Since Pat had been drunk and creating a major disturbance in public, Haveman decided on arresting Pat.
That didn't sit well with Pat when the officer opened the door and got the handcuffs out for the disorderly conduct arrest. He managed the maneuver and went to drive Pat to the jail.
Intermission- dispositions of other recent disorderly conduct arrests in the area involving a public disturbance or fighting theme as was alleged here
Howard Mark Larson, 33; pleaded guilty Aug. 27 to disorderly person jostling and was sentenced to 19 days in jail with credit for 19 days served; 90 days discretionary jail for one year; must have an anger management evaluation at Community Mental Health; no drugs/alcohol; must continue current counseling program; and $385 in fines/costs
Danny Jo Shannon, 36; MCSO; disorderly person – drunk. Pretrial: July 23 at 11:30 a.m. Bail: $1,500/10 percent.
Tabitha Nicole Vigansky, 37, was found guilty June 12 of disorderly person – drunk and was sentenced to outpatient treatment; 90 days discretionary jail for one year; no alcohol/drugs; subject to random PBTs and drug tests
Neal Barton Guss, 27; July 4; disorderly conduct/disturbing the peace. Pretrial: July 29 at 3 p.m. Bail: $2,500/10 percent.
As you can see, these young, seemingly unconnected people have been charged with disorderly conduct over this last year much like Pat and given some penalties including 90 days discretionary jail time, up to 19 days served, treatments for their problems, and had up to $2500 bail. Being a disorderly person in Michigan is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.
Earlier this summer, I noted some questionable 'disorderly conduct' arrests where people were noted as walking funny, swearing at officers, or somehow annoying them at accident scenes by offering a ride to a friend. Pat's arrest had the two elements of being disorderly clearly present: drunkenness and creating a public disturbance.
LPD Officer Mike Haveman arriving at the Mason County Jail with Pat in the backseat
The Incident, Part 2: Disorderly Backseat Behavior
This part of the incident was recorded by Haveman's dashcam. Pat is in the back of the car maintaining total innocence; when Haveman keeps driving, Pat starts bashing the screen between the front and back of the patrol car with the handcuffs, you can see one hand has slipped the cuffs and it chips and scratches the screen.
After being warned of the dangers of damaging police property, Pat screams some more and then says:
"Wait until I talk to Mark Barnett, he's going to f$%king kill you! He's going to annihilate you bitch! He's going to f%$k you up; Lisa and Mark are my best friends."
Mark is the LPD chief, Haveman's superior, his wife's name is Lisa. After calling Officer Haveman "stupid", a "f$%kwad" and a "f%$king trooper", the video ends with an out of control Pat at the jail's garage appealing to an empty car: "I'm a good person. You don't get it."
The Incident Part Three: Disorderly Conclusion
Despite the threats to Officer Haveman and his career, and in spite of the original charge of disorderly conduct, which seemed warranted from Pat's midnight profanity-laced scream rampages downtown and in front of the family's house, and scraps with the kids, can you guess what happened with Pat?
Court records show a Malicious Destruction of Property (MDOP) charge (for the screen) was considered by the court that Monday on Pat's arraignment. On Tuesday, County and City Prosecutor Paul Spaniola (connected with Mark and Pat) said a warrant would not issue for that charge, the screen wasn't damaged enough, and it was arranged on Thursday that Pat would be liable for $285 in court costs only for an unspecified reason, an amount which still hasn't been paid on 50 days later. Everything was dismissed. Those records indicate she effectively served no time in jail, and never had to post bail.
For some reason the two local sources of court news, the City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) and the Mason County Press failed to list Pat in their usually-complete roster of arraignments and dismissals, not even an obscure reference in weekend arrests, which would have been passed along by Chief Barnett. Could Mark have pulled some strings to suffocate this story?
All of those other young people noted in the intermission, charged and suffering worse consequences than Pat for the same offense, who will have those charges attached to their name come up forever when anybody does a search on them, were not besties with Chief Barnett nor somebody whose pedigree allowed them undue privilege.
Yet, Pat was not through. To be continued...
I'm thinking the spouse was well aware of the capabilities of Pat, perhaps from past instances where they had been present or ones that they heard of. The police report only includes family witness accounts of what went on at or around the local drinking establishment after Pat had already raised quite the commotion, enough to be heard almost a block away. The spouse's concern seems to have been well-founded and well-intentioned, and I hope the in-laws forgive them for their part in this.
It seems that this article is about the inequality in handling similar violations. To that end, I have no comment.
I did enter this forum to say this:
Alcoholism is a nasty, ugly disease. It will swallow your family, and your life. We, as a society, need to do better for those who are suffering from this disease. Sober living facilities, Mental health facilities, and support for the addict are all important factors when trying to overcome this disease.
Some of you may have never been affected by addiction, you may not understand it is a disease, not unlike cancer, or diabetes. Treatment is required to cure the disease. Mason County and the surrounding area are lacking in medical professionals that are able to treat addiction. Making these services available to the low and middle income population at no or low cost imperative.
I don't know who Pat is, but I would encourage them to contact AA, and for the family to contact Al-non. Reach out, get the support you need. For others reading this post that might be suffering, know that AA is out there and is able to help.
Click below for a list of meeting times and locations.
Thanks for that message and information, Dan. Let's all hope that Pat can turn his/her life around by seeking help and in eventually overcoming whatever problems they may be dealing with.
Good points all. I feel very sorry for her family. She has caused much pain to them not to mention she almost ran down X while he was riding his bike. I hate to get into the weeds about this but Alcoholism is not a disease, it is a disorder. The disease label was attached to make it easier to obtain funding and treatment for the alcoholics. I don't know if it is still the case but alcoholics were able to receive welfare and food stamps along with health care and SSI because it had been labeled as a disease. Everyone knows or has friends or family that are alcoholics so it has touched most everyone. Like any addictive substance it can be a mountain to overcome and the alcoholic has dragged many innocent people down with them. But in this case the City leaders have made an effort to cover up the story and in my opinion this is a much more serious offense than an intoxicated person creating a scene.