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Sam v. County of Wayne

April 29, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerald E. Rosen Chief Judge, U.S. District Court

Mag. Michael Hluchaniuk


At a session of said Court, held in the U.S. Courthouse, Detroit, Michigan on April 29, 2010 PRESENT: Honorable Gerald E. Rosen Chief Judge, United States District Court


Plaintiff Martin Sam brought this § 1983 action on January 25, 2010 against Defendants Wayne County, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, and Assistant Prosecutors Lisa Raymond and Raeighen Woods, alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, he alleges that he was offered a plea deal under a statute that had not yet been made law when he committed the underlying offense. He accepted the deal and was incarcerated for one year before the mistake was acknowledged. In lieu of filing answers to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, primarily on absolute prosecutorial immunity grounds. Plaintiff has not filed a timely response.

Having reviewed the Complaint, Defendant's written submissions in support of this motion, as well as the remainder of the record, the Court finds that the pertinent facts, allegations, and legal issues are sufficiently presented in these materials, and that oral argument would not assist in the resolution of this motion. Accordingly, the Court will decide Defendants' motion "on the briefs." See Local Rule 7.1(e)(2), U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan. This opinion and order sets forth the Court's rulings on this motion.


On September 21, 2006, Plaintiff Martin Sam was involved in a roll-over accident while driving his vehicle on northbound I-75, near I-94 in the City of Detroit. His blood alcohol level was 0.13, well above the legal limit. Plaintiff and his wife, Jennie Sam, were injured in the accident. They were both hospitalized. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office initially charged Plaintiff with operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUIL) causing serious injury. Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.625(5). In addition to this charge, Plaintiff was notified of the prosecution's intent to seek Habitual Offender Fourth Offense enhancement, which would elevate his sentence to life in prison based on five prior felony convictions. Plaintiff also had two prior convictions for driving while impaired.*fn1

On November 7, 2007, the date set for Plaintiff's trial to begin, Defendant Lisa Raymond, an assistant prosecutor for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, offered Plaintiff a plea agreement, which called for Plaintiff to plead guilty to OUIL, Third Offense, Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.625(1), and Habitual Offender Fourth Offense, in exchange for dropping the OUIL causing serious injury charge. Raymond stated on the record that she was offering the plea deal in part because Plaintiff's wife, the victim in the car accident, refused to testify against her husband or cooperate with the prosecution. (Compl. Ex. A. at 3-4.) Plaintiff, represented by counsel, accepted the plea deal and acknowledged his five prior felony convictions.

At the sentencing hearing on November 29, 2007, Plaintiff testified on his own behalf and acknowledged that his wife had refused to cooperate with the prosecution. His wife, his AA sponsor, and his family court attorney served as character witnesses. Defendant Raeighen Woods, an assistant prosecutor for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, spoke on behalf of Wayne County: "Mr. Sam obviously doesn't want to take responsibility for his actions." (Compl. Ex. C at 14.) She then went on to enumerate Plaintiff's prior convictions, from 1987 through 2004. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Callahan heard the testimony, as well as arguments from the attorneys.

He ultimately committed Plaintiff to the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections for a minimum of 30 months to a maximum of 60 months. (Compl. Ex. C at 17-18.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff appealed his plea-based conviction. He argued that his conviction for OUIL, Third Offense, was illegal because his prior drunk driving offenses fell outside the ten-year period of time permitted by the statute. Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.625. Although drunk driving laws were amended on January 3, 2007 to permit prosecutors to consider any drinking convictions within the offender's lifetime, this amendment did not take effect until three months after Plaintiff's drunk driving offense.*fn2

The Michigan Supreme Court overturned Plaintiff's conviction on November 26, 2008, in light of the prosecution's admission that it could not have prosecuted the defendant for OUIL, Third Offense, under the terms of the statute at the time of Defendant's offense. (Compl. Ex. B, Ord. of Mich. S.Ct.) The case was remanded for further proceedings to Wayne County Circuit Court. Plaintiff was ultimately released from jail and, on February 17, 2009, Judge Callahan entered an order of dismissal of the case, without indicating whether the dismissal was granted with or without prejudice. (Compl. Ex. D, Ord. of Dismissal.) There is nothing in the record to indicate whether Wayne County intends to re-prosecute Plaintiff.

Plaintiff claims that as a result of the erroneous plea offer of OUIL, Third Offense, Habitual Offender, Fourth Offense, he was harshly sentenced and spent one year in jail until the Supreme Court overturned his conviction. ...

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