On Wednesday, June 15th, 2022, a judge ordered Law Office of John Freeman client Christopher Cluley bound over to circuit court. This is the latest event in Cluley’s now 2-plus year legal battle, in which the former Isabella County Sheriff’s Deputy is accused of pushing and hurting an inmate. This case has garnered a great deal of media attention.
As reported by the Morning Sun, the judge’s orders followed a five-day hearing in which a judge reviewed the evidence to determine whether it was sufficient for the suspect to be sent to trial.
During the hearing, Attorney John Freeman made a number of arguments. Cluley’s charges are not about the alleged attack on the inmate, but that he allegedly falsified reporting about the incident and allegedly violated the internal policies of the Isabella County Sheriff’s Office. Mr. Freeman argued that prosecutors had not proven that Cluley’s actions constituted corruption. He also argued that the charges were inappropriate, and the more fitting charge for the incident described by prosecutors would be misdemeanors. Further, he argued that the two charges violate Cluley’s protection against multiple prosecutions, and that at the end of the day the suspect’s actions were alleged violations of policy, not of the law.
“The case itself is the kind where every law enforcement officer and corrections officer in the state of Michigan needs to pay attention to. What it shows is a willingness of the Attorney General’s Office to use employer policies as a basis for a five-year felony charge merely because of the fact that somebody is a public official. The policies they’re using are internal, department policies that don’t have the weight of law.” – Attorney John Freeman, quoted in MLive on the case
Despite these arguments, the judge decided there was enough information to merit a trial. Now the matter heads to Circuit Court, where eventually, it may be argued in front of a jury. Mr. Freeman is currently evaluating the details of the Court’s 14 page opinion and will be deciding, along with his client, what the next steps should be. One thing is certain, public officials, including every law enforcement and corrections officer in Michigan should pay attention to this case. Prosecutor’s deciding what internal office policies should be used as the basis for a 5 year felony charge is a slippery slope. The legislature, not prosecutors, is supposed to decide what is and is not a crime. The chilling impact this decision may have on law enforcement in Michigan may be profound.
What Has Happened Up To This Point
As reported by The Morning Sun, the Monday, March 7th hearing was dominated by Freeman’s questioning of the man who was the jail administrator at the time. Questions centered around the defense that the accused action’s were justified and that the harm suffered by the alleged victim was in part the result of the man’s pants falling down.
Other themes of the questioning included whether the accused was targeted selectively and the internal investigation was rushed.
This was the second day of the hearing after kicking off in November. The next date is Friday, March 11th, at which point the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.
An Officer Charged With Aggravated Assault And Misconduct In Office
ABC News 12 in Flint initially reported on the case, which has continued to attract media attention. The officer, Christopher Cluley, allegedly pushed an inmate, causing the inmate to suffer a serious injury. The allegations further state that Cluley did not get medical attention for the injured inmate, and later lied about the incident. Cluley faces the following charges:
- One count of aggravated assault, a misdemeanor
- Two counts of misconduct in office, a felony
Freeman says, “We 100 percent dispute the accuracy of the allegations,” citing the officer’s longstanding career in law enforcement.
At a time when law enforcement officers are under the magnifying glass, it comes as no surprise that this case is generating media attention. However, media attention adds a layer of complexity to a criminal defense case. In these days of social media, news can spread quickly and become distorted. Can the jury be shielded from coverage of the case? Over the course of his 28-plus year career, John Freeman has handled many high profile cases in state and federal court. He is experienced in dealing with media attention.
Further, the fact that attorney Freeman is trusted by members of law enforcement when they find themselves on the other side of the criminal justice system speaks to his reputation. In this case, the prosecution has dredged up past incidents from the officer’s lengthy career, pointing out a situation in 2008 in which the officer was wrongly accused of using excessive force on an inmate. Freeman points out that Cluley was vindicated in that incident and got his job back.
More information will be provided as the case progresses.