State Roundup

Lansing: State senator wants to lift gun restrictions 
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan lawmaker introduced a proposal Tuesday that would lift restrictions on where residents with the proper licenses could carry concealed weapons.

The legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike Green, a Republican from Mayville, would repeal so-called “no carry” or “gun-free” public zones. Those include sports stadiums, schools, university dorms and classrooms, day care centers, churches, hospitals and casinos.

Similar proposals in recent years have not gained much momentum in the Michigan Legislature. But sponsors are taking another crack because more than half of the members of the House and Senate are new to their current seats this year, and Republicans control both chambers.

Green was a key sponsor of laws approved in 2000 that made it easier to get a weapons permit in Michigan. Green said gun-free zones were included in the original legislation to help ensure its passage, but experience has shown they are not needed.

“We are constitutionally able to defend ourselves when we need it, yet we lose our constitutional right when we walk into the door of a gun-free zone,” Green said.

His plan is already facing opposition. Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said in a statement that the previous legislation was working and the proposed repeal “causes me a great deal of concern for the safety of our schools and hospitals.”

Green’s bill also would get rid of local gun licensing boards. The Secretary of State’s office would take over permits for concealed weapons.

State law related to who could get concealed weapons permits would not change under Green’s proposal. Permits should be issued if applicants are at least 21 and haven’t been convicted of a felony or selected misdemeanors. Permits can be denied in cases where applicants have a history of mental illness.

More than 250,000 people in Michigan have concealed weapons permits.

The bills are Senate Bills 58-59.

Berkley: City to investigate racy picture of officer, woman
BERKLEY, Mich. (AP) — Officials in the Detroit suburb of Berkley have begun an internal investigation into a picture that shows a police officer in uniform next to a naked woman.

The Oakland Press of Pontiac reports Wednesday that the photo was mailed to the newspaper following a story last week about an investigation into a Berkley police officer’s personal Facebook page.

Berkley City Manager Jane Bais-DiSessa says the matter is under review and “quick action” is planned. She says the photo was taken four to five years ago.

The city says the photo doesn’t appear to be related to the Facebook case. The page included pictures of officers’ faces pasted on bodies of cowboys and scantily clad men.

Bay City: Police: Whippings at school began as only horseplay
BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say charges could be brought after apparent locker room horseplay between two groups of girls at a Bay City middle school led to some whipping others with belts.

The Bay City Times reports a 12-year-old girl was taken to a hospital with a cut to the head after being hurt Jan. 6 at Handy Middle School. Principal Matt Schmidt says members of the eighth-grade pompom and seventh-grade cheerleading teams were involved. Schmidt says the students involved were disciplined.

Police Lt. Mark Turner says what began as roughhousing involving the 12- and 13-year-old girls grew out of control.

The police report lists three victims and two suspects. Four other girls were interviewed as witnesses. The case was to be sent to prosecutors for review.

Detroit: Man reported missing 3 weeks found dead in car
DETROIT (AP) — An Oak Park man who vanished three weeks ago has been found shot to death in his snow-covered car in Detroit.

The body of 39-year-old James Mullen was found Tuesday in his sport-utility vehicle on Detroit’s southwest side. WJBK-TV reports that detectives said Mullen, who went missing Jan. 6, had been shot to death and that they believe his body had been in the car for weeks.

The station reports that neighbors thought something could be wrong because they had noticed the unfamiliar snow-covered SUV sitting in the same spot for weeks. But it wasn’t until the snow began melting away that someone looked inside it and saw Mullen’s body.

Nearby resident Gracie Brooks told WJBK that she feels sorry for Mullen’s family.

Kentwood: Man pleads guilty to wearing Purple Heart award
KENTWOOD, Mich. (AP) — A Vietnamese man has pleaded guilty to pretending to be an immigration official in a scheme to collect cash from immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.

Forty-two-year-old De Hieu Tran also pleaded guilty Tuesday to wearing a Purple Heart award given to those in the Armed Forces who are injured or killed. Prosecutors said Trans also claimed to be a U.S. Marine.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Tran is subject to deportation after he completes his sentence. He faces up to three years in prison for impersonating an agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs, and one year for unauthorized wearing of a Purple Heart.

Tran’s attorney, Scott Mertens, says his client did not believe he was subject to deportation prior to the criminal charges.

Lansing: Businessman charged in studio funding scheme
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Grand Rapids businessman faces felony charges alleging that he tried to fraudulently obtain a $10 million Michigan film tax credit.

Forty-eight-year-old John C. Buchanan, Jr., is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit false pretenses and one count of attempted felony false pretenses. If convicted on both charges, Buchanan could face up to 10 years in prison.

He’s the second person charged in connection with the so-called Hangar 42 film studio. Joseph Peters of Ada, Mich., was charged in August with fraudulently seeking a state tax credit by falsely claiming his company bought a building for $40 million for a planned studio.

Prosecutors say Buchanan directed the scheme by orchestrating an inflated property appraisal and oversaw the drafting of a phony land contract documenting the sale.

Lansing: Dentist faces  sexual assault charges, prison
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan dentist remained in jail Tuesday on criminal sexual conduct charges involving a former male child patient.

Wendell Alan Racette. 64, faces a court hearing on the first- and second-degree charges Feb. 3. The Delta Township man faces up to life in prison if convicted.

The Lansing State Journal reported Tuesday that authorities say the charges stem from incidents between late 1996 and mid-2000 at Racette’s former Lansing office. The patient was between the ages of 5 and 10 at the time.

The former patient is now 20 and contacted police in December. Racette was arraigned on the charges Monday and was being held in the Ingham County jail.

The newspaper reported Racette’s license had been revoked by the state in 2001, soon after the dentist pleaded guilty to committing Medicaid fraud and treating a patient while his license was suspended.

His license was fully reinstated last year. Chris Bergstrom, Racette’s attorney, said the dentist most recently practiced one day a week in Mount Pleasant.

Bergstrom told The Associated Press on Tuesday that “all the allegations are categorically and emphatically denied,” but declined further comment.

The Lansing State Journal reported that officials said Racette was accused of sexual abuse twice in the 1990s, but no charges were filed. Those accusations, Lansing police Detective Elizabeth Reust said, “make us concerned there may be more victims.”

The newspaper said that in 1997 a state attorney general’s investigation found Racette performed shoddy work on four children between 1982 and 1994, including keeping braces on a young girl for seven years.

Grand Rapids:Man pleads guilty to defrauding feds
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan man who runs a phone and Internet technology services company has pleaded guilty to charges of defrauding a federal program that subsidizes Internet costs for school districts.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Jeremy R. Sheets of Crystal pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Grand Rapids to wire fraud.

Prosecutors alleged that Sheets offered donations and goods and services to at least two school districts for choosing his company, Crystal Microsystems, as their “E-Rate Program” vendor. That program pays between 20 percent and 90 percent of a school district’s Internet costs, depending on their economic status.

Federal documents don’t detail the amount the E-Rate program was defrauded or name the two school districts involved, but prosecutors alleged the fraud lasted six years and began in December 2001.