Testimony began Monday in the case regarding the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission’s complaint against 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan.

The hearing, held in 16th District Court in Livonia and presided over by Special Master William J. Giovan, addressed allegations against Brennan listed in the JTC’s complaint. The main issue in the complaint is Brennan’s relationship with former State Police Detective Sean Furlong, who served as the chief prosecution witness in the 2013 double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski, who was convicted and sentenced to life by Brennan. They insist the relationship began after the trial, but documents from Brennan’s 2017 divorce indicate it began long beforehand.

JTC Executive Director Lynn Helland says there are three main themes in the allegations listed in the complaint, those being false statements, abuse of power and conflict of interest. Brennan was Helland’s first and only testimony of the day and he pursued the conflict of interest allegations during a few separate lines of questioning. Helland asked Brennan about the phone calls and texts that were exchanged between her and Furlong during the Kowalski trial. When discussing the phone records and asked about the frequency of the exchanges, Brennan said she couldn’t rely on her memory, noting that she’s over 60 years old. She said she didn’t believe she had texted with Furlong during the trial, but Helland pointed to phone records that indicate the pair texted 13 times and spoke on the phone on three occasions. Brennan said that “surprised” her.

It was learned Monday the JTC plans to add complaints of destroying evidence to the charges of misconduct. Brennan is accused of attempting to delete “electronic evidence” off of her cellphone prior to her divorce proceedings. Helland questioned whether Brennan had asked staff members if they knew how to delete stuff from her phone. During testimony that occurred six weeks after the alleged incident, Brennan says she asked staff members that “jokingly”. Throughout Monday’s hearing, Brennan frequently cited lack of memory when answering Helland’s questions. Brennan says she doesn’t even remember the conversations with her staff in which she supposedly asked them how to delete information from her phone. Helland cited testimony from Brennan’s divorce proceedings in which Brennan admits she asked her court recorder to skip court to research how to delete information.

Helland’s questions also focused on allegations that Brennan asked her staff to perform personal tasks for her during working hours, which she disputes, adding that if they did so, she had no knowledge of it.

Brennan was asked why she didn’t immediately recuse herself from her own divorce proceedings as well. She says she was a “basket case” the day she found out her husband was filing for divorce and that he had hired an attorney who she claims has attacked her in “every which way”, suggesting her state of mind at the time was a factor.

The hearing resumes in 16th District Court Tuesday. (DK)