Judge Aquilina will not sentence Stuart Dunnings III

Published: Sep. 14, 2016 at 12:59 PM EDT
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Another judge will have to decide the sentence for Former Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings.

Working in the same building, associating with the same people, and even parking in the same lot.

These are reasons why Stuart Dunnings' lawyers believe Judge Rosemarie Aquilina should not be the one sentencing him.

"I think it would be in the best interest of the public to have a neutral and detached magistrate," said G. Micheal Hocking, Dunnings' lawyer.

Dunnings' is facing five years in prison for misconduct of a public official after agreeing to a plea deal.

"Clearly the defendant's admitted conduct cast a stain on the criminal justice system in this county," Hocking said Wednesday in court. "We're not going to stand here and say that that did not happen."

Hocking was both a prosecuting attorney and circuit court judge both in Eaton county. Those perspectives are why he believes Judge Aquilina should step away from the case

"I believe that I am a neutral un-detached magistrate. However, I also know the court rules," Judge Aquilina said. "I know the rules of ethics and your most critical one is the appearance of improproety."

She says she knows Dunnings' staff better than she knows him because she's never spoken to him.

"I have very little to say about Mr. Dunnings. I cannot pick up any kind of photograph and even in a crowd of people pick out who his children are of his wife. I've never met them," said Judge Aquilina.

After defending herself Aquilina finally signed an order disqualifying herself, "to avoid that appearance of impropriety of which has been set in language that is widespread in it's meaning. I will recuse myself," said Judge Aquilina.

A decision she did not want to make, "I have always felt, which is why I retained this case -- one of the reasons, that each county should handle it's own problems. That's why we have jurisdictions. I understand the appearance of impropriety but I believe I can be fair and impartial."

Dunnings' sentencing has now been moved to November 10 but a new judge could change that.

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