A retired Livingston County judge has filed for a special prosecutor to be appointed and a grand jury to be created concerning an embattled local judge.

Former Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Burress filed a petition Monday to impanel a citizen’s grand jury to investigate 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan. In the filing, Judge Burress cites the issues surrounding Brennan’s admitted relationship with former State Police Detective Sean Furlong, who served as the chief prosecution witness in a 2013 double-murder trial that she presided over and resulted in the conviction and life sentence of Jerome Kowalski. Burress points to testimony from Brennan’s 2016 divorce proceeding that indicates she and Furlong were engaged in a sexual relationship before, during and after the trial.

Burress says prior to the Kowalski trial, “the Livingston County legal community was awash with rumors” of an improper relationship between the two and that if Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt was unaware of the rumors, he was “likely one of only a few in the legal community who was,” pointing out that Shawn Ryan, an Assistant Prosecutor in Vailliencourt’s office, was part of the social circle that included the judge. Furthermore, he says Brennan’s former law clerk, Jessica Yakel, has testified that she routinely performed the services of a personal assistant, while on county time, including paying the judge’s bills, having her vehicle serviced, fixing her television set and even staining her deck.

Burress notes that all of this information was presented to the Judicial Tenure Commission more than a year ago, which confirmed that it is investigating Brennan, something that it rarely publicly acknowledges. The filing also notes that the Michigan State Police have been investigating Brennan, including executing search warrants and seizing computers last year from her courtroom and home. Taken together, Burress contends the allegations “reveal the possibility of violations of criminal laws…involving perjury, misconduct in office,” and obstruction of justice. He asks that as the Judicial Tenure Commission and State Police investigations are “proceeding at a glacial pace” it is in the “interest of justice and to protect the integrity and respect for our legal system” that a grand jury must be authorized, “in order to complete a proper investigation.”

Vailliencourt has responded to say that shortly after he filed his first request with the Judicial Tenure Commission regarding Judge Brennan in early February of 2017, he also requested that a separate criminal investigation be conducted by the Michigan State Police in order to determine what the facts are, as opposed to rumor, speculation, and innuendo. He says there were, and continue to be, multiple potential conflicts of interest when a sitting judge is investigated. In this case because the investigation could impact the validity of a murder conviction, Vailliencourt says he wanted there to be no question about the independence and integrity of the investigation – adding he, like everyone else in this community, is anxiously awaiting answers from the State Police investigation as justice demands it.

The full response from Vailliencourt and the petition filed by Burress are attached. (JK/JM)