Democratic Candidate Says County Prosecutor Flipflops On Enforcement
May 18, 2020
By Jessica Mathews & Jon King / firstname.lastname@example.org
Livingston County’s prosecutor is refuting an allegation from a political challenger that he has flip-flopped regarding his responsibility to enforce Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.
Ragan Lake is an assistant Wayne County prosecutor and the only Democrat seeking the nomination for Livingston County prosecutor. On Friday, she issued a press release alleging Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt first told MLive.com that the governor’s orders were vague and not legally enforceable. She said he then issued a statement as head of the Prosecutors Association of Michigan not long after saying the executive orders were valid and should be enforced. Lake said “Vaillencourt seems to change his mind depending on which group he thinks is listening. When he feels there are individuals who believe the orders shouldn’t be enforced, he says it’s fine to ignore the orders. But when he’s with his fellow prosecutors from across the state who know better, he changes his tune.”
Vailliencourt has since provided more information to the community through a Facebook video about his stance. He says while all sides are awaiting a court ruling following a hearing that was conducted Friday. He said just because the orders are presumptively valid does not mean that the Governor’s extensions are legal - that is for the courts to decide. However, Vailliencourt says that doesn’t mean there is not confusion from a legal perspective. As the statement from the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan indicated, Vailliencourt says prosecutors can still review executive order violations on a case-by-case basis to determine if criminal charges are appropriate and that’s what he has carefully been doing from the beginning. But he added that part of that review is assessing if legal challenges could be made to those charges and if the law is clear enough to provide adequate notice to people of what is being prohibited. Vailliencourt says it is because of these ambiguities and concerns that he has not filed any criminal charges for violation of the orders.
But Lake said Livingston County needs a prosecutor who won’t politicize the law and that while criminal prosecution may not be the best way to proceed, alleged violations of executive orders should still be reviewed as they arrive to determine whether a violation has occurred and whether and how that person should be held accountable.
While Lake is the only Democrat in the race for prosecutor this November, former Circuit Court Judge David Reader previously announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination on the August 4th primary ballot.
The full releases from Lake and Vailliencourt are attached.