Michigan Lawmaker With Criminal Past

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A newly elected lawmaker with a criminal past will likely take office in January, now that Democrats have won control of the State House.

Democrats support Democrat Bert Johnson's intention to take office when the new House convenes in January, said Dan Farough, a spokesman for House Speaker-elect Andy Dillon, D-Redford.

Current House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, had promised to block Johnson, of Detroit, from taking office because of a 1993 armed robbery to which he pleaded no contest.

"Bert Johnson will be seated," Farough told the Detroit Free Press for a Wednesday story. "This was a political issue drummed up during campaign season to divide people."

The Michigan constitution bars people from the Legislature who have been convicted of a felony "involving a breach of public trust" within the previous 20 years.

Johnson pleaded no contest in a 1993 armed robbery at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Oakland County's Bloomfield Township, where Johnson caddied. A golf cart shack was robbed at gunpoint and cash was stolen.

A no contest plea isn't an admission of guilt, but is treated that way for sentencing purposes.

Johnson, 32, said he is relieved he can take office, but is focused on key issues such as the economy and insurance costs. "If I decided to get trapped in politics, I wouldn't be much of a public servant," he said.

DeRoche or another lawmaker still could force a vote to block Johnson, but DeRoche hasn't decided whether to press the matter, a spokesman said.


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