Judge Says She Faced Retaliatory Investigation

     (CN) – A Michigan judge has brought a federal complaint against the sheriff of Ingham County and his deputy, saying they subjected her to an illegal investigation to get back at her for letting a reporter see footage of an attempted courtroom shanking.
     The melee occurred just over a month ago in the state’s 30th Circuit Court.
     On Aug. 2, Joshua Harding, 35, wielded a metal shank moments before the jury was to announce Harding’s conviction for abusing a 10-year-old girl.
     As captured by the court’s closed-circuit recording system, Harding lunged at the state prosecutor, but his attack was thwarted by a police officer.
     Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina brought her lawsuit on Sept. 23 in U.S. District Court. Just a day earlier, the Michigan attorney general announced charges against Harding related to the attempted stabbing.
     Also on Sept. 22, Ingham County Sheriff Gene “Wriggelsworth released or authorized the release of the fact that he had been investigating [Aquilina] for obstruction of justice,” the complaint says.
     Aquilina says she first learned about the investigation on Aug. 14 — just over a week after she let a reporter with the Lansing State Journal view the court’s footage of the attempted stabbing in her chambers, and record the video using his own device.
     The complaint says Charles Buckland, a deputy sheriff in Ingham County, told Aquilina he was investigating her release of the recording, but that he declined “to identify what crime he was investigating.”
     “Granting permission of the media to record a recording of an event that occurred in a room that is open to the public by law cannot support any valid criminal charge,” the complaint also states.
     Aquilina says Buckland ignored ensuing calls and a letter from her attorney about the investigation, but that Buckland interviewed her judicial assistant and her law clerk.
     “Between August 17, 2016 and September 22, 2013, defendants Buckland and Wriggelsworth submitted a warrant request to Ingham County Prosecutor Gretchen Whitmer seeking criminal charges against plaintiff for the common law offense of obstructing justice,” the complaint states.
     Clinton County Prosecutor Charles Sherman took over the possible case against Aquilina. The local NBC affiliate reported Tuesday that Sherman officially declined to charge Aquilina with obstruction.
     The judge says she has a few ideas why she has been targeted.
     Such conduct by Buckland and Wriggelsworth “is motivated out of embarrassment for the shank attack, retaliation for First Amendment protected activity, and to improperly cause recusal of a properly assigned judge presiding over a case in which defendant Wriggelsworth is a defendant,” the complaint states.
     Aquilina notes that she randomly caught a case earlier this month in which Wriggelsworth is accused of discriminating and retaliating against corrections officer Meko Moore.
     “There is only one jail facility and the inmate that tried to stab the assistant prosecutor would have been housed in the jail where Mr. Moore works,” Aquilina’s complaint states.
     Soon afterward, an attorney for Wriggelsworth requested a meeting with Aquilina and Moore’s counsel, the judge says.
     The complaint says this attorney wanted to discuss recusing Aquilina “because the sheriff’s office ‘was or may be’ investigating ‘certain circumstances’ that occurred recently.”
     “Wriggelsworth incorrectly or falsely informed his attorney that the incident happened in [Aquilina’s] courtroom when the August 2, 2016 incident happened in the courtroom of the Hon. James Jamo,” the complaint states.
     “The attorney stated that ‘the sheriff requested’ that the attorney seek recusal of plaintiff from the case where he was a defendant.”
     Aquilina wants damages for First Amendment retaliation and false-light invasion of privacy. She says news of the investigation against her has been humiliating and stress-inducing, and that “anger” over it interferes with her judicial duties.
     The judge is represented by Lansing-based attorney Nicholas Bostic.
     Sheriff Wriggelsworth has not returned a request for comment.

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