Thursday, August 2, 2001

Chief Douglas Wright - Benton Harbor PD



Benton Harbor Police Chief Douglas Wright, charged with domestic violence.



Ex-chief to get $30,000 payment
Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2003 12:00 am
Updated: 6:10 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
By LYNN STEVENS / H-P Staff Writer
The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/ex-chief-to-get-payment/article_6292a1c0-a0b4-585a-a00b-b18c2b715481.html

BENTON HARBOR -- City commissioners on Monday night approved a $30,000 settlement for former police Chief Douglas Wright.

The amount corresponds to the 3-month severance package the city pays fired department heads.

Wright was fired in November 2001, two days after he was charged with trying to obstruct a police investigation into domestic violence.

He allegedly beat and tried to choke his wife in their home on Aug. 2, 2001. The case was dropped in April 2002 after Wright's wife, Lucy, refused to testify.

In November 2002, Wright sued the city for wrongful discharge. He sought nearly four years of back pay.

His contract with the city was to run through June 30, 2005.

But the contract, which Wright himself had written, specified conditions under which he could be fired without paying off the remainder of the contract term. One of those was being charged with a crime.

Wright's lawyer, James Waters, wrote in his lawsuit that the contract provision was void because that language was a clear violation of state and federal policy.

Waters, a former city attorney, and the city's current attorney, Charlette Pugh Tall, have been negotiating the suit since fall.

A settlement conference was scheduled for last week before Judge Scott Schoefield in Berrien Trial Court. Had negotiations failed, the case was to go to trial Dec. 30.

Tall asked for a closed meeting Monday night to discuss it with commissioners.

After the closed session, which Commissioner Joan Brown did not attend, all the commissioners approved the settlement.

Mayor Charles Yarbrough said he cast his vote with reservations. Commissioner Ricky Hill said he was voting reluctantly.

Commissioners Steven McCoy and Ralph Crenshaw said they were not completely happy with the settlement, but voted for it as a cost-effective means of dealing with the lawsuit.

They have another suit to deal with soon. Former city manager Joel Patterson in October filed a wrongful discharge claim under the Whistleblower's Act.











Former Benton Harbor police chief sues city for firing
Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 12:00 am
Updated: 5:44 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011
By LYNN STEVENS / H-P Staff Writer
The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/former-benton-harbor-police-chief-sues-city-for-firing/article_9ef65b5e-be0e-5c7b-9c91-36e8ad78fd1c.html

ST. JOSEPH -- Former Benton Harbor Police Chief Douglas Wright has sued the city claiming he was wrongfully fired in November 2001.

City Manager Joel Patterson fired Wright two days after he was charged with trying to obstruct a police investigation into whether he had assaulted his wife on Aug. 2, 2001, at the couple's home.

Charges against Wright were dropped in April. Berrien County Prosecutor James Cherry said the obstruction charge would be too difficult to prove, and Wright's wife, Lucy, refused to testify on the domestic violence charge.

But under the five-year contract Wright had written himself, even being charged with a crime was grounds for firing without pay.

In the lawsuit, Wright's lawyer, James Water of Muskegon Heights, said the contract language "is a clear violation of state and federal public policy and is void."

Water also claimed the firing was a violation of the city charter, city codes and denial of due process. He also wrote that Patterson had a personal vendetta against his client over a motor vehicle accident claim.

Wright was hired in June 2000 by then-city manager Ron Singleton. He was chosen from a field of more than two dozen applicants. His contract ran through June 30, 2005.

The suit asks for back pay and fringe benefits, reinstatement as police chief or pay for the unexpired years of Wright's 5-year contract, and compensation for pain, mental stress and emotional anguish. It also asks for compensation for damages to Wright's reputation and for impeding him from finding another job by knowingly making false and defamatory statements after his firing. Finally, it seeks payment of court costs, interest and attorney fees.

The case has been assigned to Judge John Fields. City Attorney Charlette Pugh Tall earlier this month filed an appearance on behalf of the city. Neither Pugh Tall or Patterson could be reached for comment.

Wright has demanded a jury trial, but no trial date has been set.

Wright was paid a salary of $60,000 per year and received two weeks of paid vacation.









Wright charge dismissed
Posted: Friday, April 5, 2002 12:00 am
Updated: 5:23 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
By JIM DALGLEISH / H-P City Editor
The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/wright-charge-dismissed/article_77460afa-7c9f-5010-8680-7c0f978bb5e9.html

ST. JOSEPH -- With his chief witness refusing to testify, Berrien County Prosecutor James Cherry has dismissed the domestic violence charge against former Benton Harbor police Chief Douglas Wright.

Cherry said Thursday that Wright's wife, Lucy, refused to return to Michigan to testify in the trial that was to begin Thursday. Until then, Cherry said, Lucy Wright had made repeated assurances she would testify.

Wright was arrested after allegedly beating his wife Aug. 2, 2001, at the couple's Benton Harbor home. City Manager Joel Patterson suspended Wright shortly afterward and fired him in November.

Douglas Wright's lawyer, Tat Parish of Watervliet, said Thursday that Lucy Wright's refusal to testify suggests there wasn't much of a case to begin with.

"He was quite wrongly fired as a result of it," Parish said. "He suffered greatly."

Parish said his client, who remains in Benton Harbor, is applying for other jobs.

"(The charge) has been a big burden on him," Parish said. "It's awfully hard to get a job in police work with a criminal charge hanging over your head."

Parish declined to comment on whether Wright would sue the city over his firing.

The city hired Wright as chief in June 2000. He had worked as deputy chief of public safety at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Before that he was the Gary, Ind., police chief.

Thursday's dismissal of the domestic violence charge ends a prosecution stalled by procedural problems. Cherry initially disqualified himself from the case, citing his professional relationship with Wright and the police department. Cherry asked that a special prosecutor be appointed, and Berrien Chief Trial Court Judge Paul Maloney then asked the Allegan County prosecutor's office to act in Cherry's place.

That office charged Wright with domestic violence and felony obstruction of police. The latter charge stemmed from the prosecution's allegation that Wright tried to keep police from responding to the call at the couple's home.

But Berrien Trial Court Judge John Hammond dismissed the charges, saying Cherry didn't have enough legal reason to bring in an outside prosecutor.

Cherry argued otherwise. But the point may have become moot because Wright had been fired by the time Hammond ruled.

So Cherry filed the domestic violence charge against Wright but dropped the obstruction charge, saying it would be too tough to prove in court.

Cherry on Thursday would not divulge Lucy Wright's whereabouts, saying only that she is not living in a state bordering Michigan. He said his office offered her transportation and lodging.

"However, in spite of repeated efforts to encourage her appearance, Mrs. Wright has chosen to forego the opportunity to testify," Cherry wrote in a press release.

Had he been tried and convicted of domestic violence, Wright could have served up to 93 days in jail.











Cherry recharges former Benton Harbor police chief
Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2002 12:00 am
Updated: 5:41 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
By LYNN STEVENS / H-P Staff Writer
The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/cherry-recharges-former-benton-harbor-police-chief/article_892aae1d-c59c-5c03-b592-16e2ecf9e1eb.html

ST. JOSEPH -- Former Benton Harbor Police Chief Douglas Wright has been charged again with domestic violence in an alleged attack on his wife last year.

But Wright won't face a felony charge of obstructing police in the alleged Aug. 2 incident at his city home.

Berrien Trial Court Judge John Hammond had dismissed charges of domestic violence and attempting to obstruct a police investigation against Wright because of procedural errors. Hammond said Berrien County Prosecutor James Cherry had improperly called in a special prosecutor from Allegan County.

Cherry issued a statement Monday saying he will recharge Wright with domestic violence in the alleged attack on his wife, Lucy.

In Michigan, domestic violence is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 93 days in the county jail and a fine of $500.

"Unlike the decision by the Allegan County prosecutor," Cherry announced, "I have chosen not to charge Wright with attempting to obstruct justice under the common law. The likelihood of gaining a conviction on this particular charge does not justify the additional time and delay that would be required to bring that charge to trial."

Cherry estimated that the domestic violence charge will be brought to trial within four weeks.

In his statement, Cherry explained he initially disqualified his office from reviewing police reports on the incident because at the time Wright was still Benton Harbor's chief of police.

"The very act of reviewing such reports calls into question claims of favoritism and patronage on one hand, and jeopardizes working relationships on the other," Cherry wrote.

Since that time, Benton Harbor removed Wright from the job. Cherry wrote that the change in job status made action by his office feasible.

"We're happy the felony charge has been dropped," said Wright's lawyer, Tat Parish of Watervliet. "We're disappointed they've chosen to pursue a misdemeanor charge we think is not well founded,"

Parish said Monday afternoon he understands a warrant has been issued for Wright's arrest, and he was making arrangements with Wright to turn himself in for arraignment, as he did the first time charges were brought in the case.











Hammond wrong to dismiss charges
Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2002 12:00 am
Updated: 5:28 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011
The Herald Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/hammond-wrong-to-dismiss-charges/article_85853879-9519-5b43-ae23-44c16ff57002.html

I am appalled at the decision Berrien County Judge Hammond made in dismissing domestic violence charges against former Benton Harbor Police Chief Douglas Wright.

Recently, so many domestic disputes have led to harm and murder. It would seem that the judge would take this opportunity to set an example with someone who is supposed to uphold the law. It is obvious that Wright needs some counseling or anger management.

Prosecutor Jim Cherry did the right thing by immediately distancing himself and Berrien County from the case, to prevent favoritism or other issues from occurring. Apparently this didn't work and someone else called in a favor, or so it seems. It's one more discouraging instance in our legal system.

A person who works for the system isn't tried by the system when he does something wrong. The average person would have to go to court, be labeled for domestic violence, go to counseling and anger management sessions, be evaluated for drug/alcohol abuse and be put on probation. Prosecutor Cherry absolutely did the right thing, but Judge Hammond made a very disappointing and questionable move.

Marlena L. Ballard










Charges against former chief thrown out
Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002 12:00 am
Updated: 5:38 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
By LYNN STEVENS / H-P Staff Writer The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/charges-against-former-chief-thrown-out/article_817ad42a-7a41-59ca-aeea-bd95aa33f2cd.html

ST. JOSEPH -- Former Benton Harbor Police Chief Douglas Wright may never have to face criminal charges for allegedly beating his wife, then attempting to obstruct a police investigation of the assault.

Berrien Trial Court Judge John Hammond dismissed the charges Thursday after finding a special prosecutor was improperly appointed.

Hammond ruled Berrien County Prosecutor James Cherry acted too soon when he asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to review the police report and decide if charges should be filed. He also said Cherry had no conflict of interest that would require a special prosecutor.

"Either the prosecutor must be incapable of performing the duties of his office or disqualified by reason of a conflict of interest," Hammond said. "For example, he has had a stroke, or other physical limit. No one's saying that here.

"Or, an example was the prosecutor, until a few days before, had been the defendant's defense attorney on the same case. That was a clear case of conflict of interest.

"The statute, as interpreted by our state Supreme Court, said this applies only to a case in progress. It has nothing to do with instigating a case."

Cherry had asked for a special prosecutor to review the Aug. 2, 2001, incident because he said he had worked closely with Wright since his hiring as police chief in June 2000. Cherry said he did not want his personal relation to color the investigation.

Chief Trial Court Judge Paul Maloney on Aug. 24 asked the Allegan County prosecutor's office to act in Cherry's place.

In December, Wright's attorney, Tat Parish, asked Hammond to dismiss the case because of Maloney's timing. He said appointing a special prosecutor three months before any charges were brought against Wright was legally incorrect.

At that hearing, Parish said, "There is a requirement, set by statute, how and when you appoint a special prosecutor. It appears that wasn't followed."

Cherry declined to comment today beyond a written statement. In it he said, "Prosecutors have long been in a "Catch-22" with regard to complaints made against high ranking county, township and municipal police officials. This remains an unsettled area of the law…"

He noted that a state Senate bill clarifying the procedure is still pending in the Legislature nearly a year after it was introduced.

"Had I decided to review the police reported prepared in this incident and determined them to be insufficient to support a criminal complaint, the integrity of the criminal justice system would have been called into question by claims of favoritism and patronage. Had I reviewed the police reports and authorized charges, I would have jeopardized essential working relationships between my office and, potentially, the entire Benton Harbor Police Department."

He called asking for an outside prosecutor a "long-established, although informal, practice used by myself and my predecessors."

At the December hearing, Hammond had told both Parish and Allegan County Assistant Prosecutor James Champion he realized dismissing the case could cause enormous change to the way the Berrien County Prosecutor's Office has operated for many years. But Hammond said that did not matter.

"If you're wrong, you're wrong," he said.

Wright's wife, Lucy, said last August she thought that because her husband was a police chief, he would never have to face trial for domestic violence. However, Wright's contract with the city of Benton Harbor specifically allowed the city to fire him without severance if he were ever charged with any crime. He was fired after being charged in November.










Was Wright wronged by prosecutor decision?
Posted: Friday, December 7, 2001 12:00 am
Updated: 5:09 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
By LYNN STEVENS / H-P Staff Writer
The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/was-wright-wronged-by-prosecutor-decision/article_6db68f35-27bf-564b-a659-31d981b87029.html

ST. JOSEPH -- Questions over how Berrien County appointed a special prosecutor has put a crimp in the criminal case against former Benton Harbor Police Chief Douglas Wright.

Wright is accused of attempted obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to keep city police from investigating whether he assaulted his wife, Lucy, Aug. 2 at his city home. Wright additionally faces a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Wright maintains he is innocent on both counts.

But neither allegation came up at Thursday's preliminary hearing before Berrien Trial Court Judge John Hammond. Instead, the judge, assistant prosecutor James Champion, and Wright's attorney, Tat Parish, disputed whether the Berrien County prosecutor misinterpreted state laws in appointing Champion - who is an assistant prosecutor in Allegan County.

Parish asked Hammond to dismiss the case because Berrien County Prosecutor James Cherry requested that a prosecutor from another county handle the case because he had worked closely with Wright and he wanted to avoid even the appearance of bias.

Parish's argument surprised the judge and Champion.

Hammond briefly recessed the hearing to look for legal precedents. Minutes later, he returned to the courtroom to summarize several previous rulings that seemed to support Parish's claims.

Parish argued those examples proved that the change of prosecutors was made incorrectly. He said Cherry asked for a replacement, and Chief Berrien Trial Court Judge Paul Maloney signed the order for a replacement Aug. 24, nearly three months before any charges were brought against Wright.

"The court did not have the authority to appoint a special prosecutor to aid the investigation," Parish argued. "I don't know of anything that gives the chief judge this power. The preliminary issue is: could Judge Maloney or could any judge have signed the order?

"Second, does the Allegan County Prosecutor have the authority without an order of this court to proceed in this matter?"

Hammond asked him, "You're saying the mere fact the case is a political hot potato does not justify dumping it off onto somebody else?"

"He might be justified, but he hasn't done it the right way," Parish responded. "There is a requirement, set by statute, how and when you appoint a special prosecutor. It appears that wasn't followed.

"The other thing is whether a felony charge of obstructing justice could not be brought under (the law cited by prosecutors) or should be brought as a misdemeanor charge."

Parish said Wright is charged under a law that does not apply. Instead of charging him under the modern misdemeanor charge of attempted obstruction of justice, they charged under common law that he used his office as chief of police to obstruct a police investigation.

Parish said common law is a catch-all relying on judges' rulings before 1787 that cover offenses that would be indictable, felony crimes. In an era without police departments, attempting to obstruct police investigations would have been impossible, Parish said.

He said common law applies only if there is no modern law covering the same thing, but there are at least two laws dealing with obstructing justice under modern law and both are misdemeanors.

"We're saying they cannot use that old, archaic law when there are at least two laws passed by the Legislature that would cover this. It sounds esoteric, but this common law carries a very stiff penalty - five years," Parish said.

Champion said he could not prepare an adequate response to Parish's questions on the spot, but he offered to file a written response later.

Hammond would not agree to the delay. He gave Champion one hour to find a case that supported his being appointed in Cherry's place.

"I appreciate Mr. Champion's being hit with this unawares - as I was - but tough cookies," Hammond said. "There are lots of (law) books here.

"I realize this would mean enormous change to the way things have been done in the Prosecutor's Office in this county for a number of years, but hey, if you're wrong, you're wrong."

After the recess, Hammond agreed to postpone further discussion to January 18. He warned the lawyers to file all objections in writing in advance of that date.

"Let's conclude these problems," Hammond said. "I want this case concluded before I'm out of office."

His term expires at the end of 2004.







Wright fired as city's police chief
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001 12:00 am
By LYNN STEVENS / H-P Staff Writer
The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/wright-fired-as-city-s-police-chief/article_a2bda5e7-2c47-53f6-9857-176c9d7e162f.html

BENTON HARBOR -- Douglas Wright has been fired as city police chief, two days after prosecutors charged him with domestic violence and obstructing justice.

City Manager Joel Patterson fired the 59-year-old chief Wednesday afternoon, city labor lawyer Robert White said. White said Wright is being paid through the remainder of today.

"Pursuant to the city manager's policy, there will be no discussion of personnel matters so no further details will be forthcoming," White said.

Wright was hired in June 2000 by then-city manager Ron Singleton. He was chosen from a field of more than two dozen applicants.

Wright wrote his own 5-year contract. Given the frequency with which Benton Harbor changed police chiefs - Wright was the fifth in nine years - he said it seemed only reasonable to ask for a measure of job security. The contract runs through June 30, 2005.

Although the contract ensured Wright would be paid for the full five years if he were fired for arbitrary reasons, it did not protect him against all possibilities.

The city does not have to pay him salary for the remainder of the contract if his firing resulted from: dereliction of duty, habitual use of intoxicants or drugs, insubordination, or conviction of a crime or formal charges of a crime.

Wright was charged Monday with attempting to obstruct a police investigation - a felony - and domestic violence against his wife, Lucy.

The charges stem from an alleged Aug. 2 attack and ensuing attempt to steer police from his home, the alleged attack scene.

Under contract terms, Wright was to be paid a $60,000 per year starting salary, including two weeks of vacation each year for his first four years of employment. Unused vacation days may be carried over, according to city personnel policy, and paid for when an employee leaves before using them.

That could have cost the city at least $215,000 in salary alone.

A meeting between Wright and Patterson to discuss the chief's future was moved up from Thursday to Wednesday. Acting Police Chief Marcus Watson also took part in that meeting.

Following the lengthy afternoon meeting, Wright referred all reporters' questions to either Patterson or Watson. Watson and Patterson politely refused to answer almost all questions Wednesday.

But Patterson hinted. He said Watson is presently police chief and fire chief. Previously, Fire Chief Watson had been chosen the acting head of the police department. Patterson had named Watson his deputy city manager just weeks ago.

Patterson said despite the expanded responsibility, Watson will not be named Public Safety Director. He said that job will not be recreated.

That was as far as he would go Wednesday night.

According to the city's 1945 Charter, the public safety director is hired and fired by the manager. The police chief and the fire chief report to the public safety director. In the absence of a public safety director, those department heads report to the city manager. Commissioners do not have to approve the manager's decisions.

Wright brought 30 years of law enforcement experience to a volatile job when he was hired as the fifth chief within a decade.

Sam Watson, father of the acting police chief, Marcus Watson, retired in 1991. His successor, Lt. Cyril Fuller, took early retirement in 1993.

David Walker, a close friend of Wright's, was hired as public safety director after Fuller's retirement. In that capacity, he headed both the police and fire departments. Wright drew up Walker's employment contract.

In 1996, then-city manager Kenneth Weaver fired Walker without explanation. He chose Lt. Milt Agay to replace Walker. Agay resigned as public safety director in January 2000, asking to be reassigned to the detective bureau. He retired from the Benton Harbor Police Department in April 2000.

Wright was deputy chief of public safety at State University of New York at Buffalo when he was hired by Benton Harbor to replace Agay.

Before going to Buffalo, Wright was police chief in Gary, Ind.









Benton Harbor police chief pleads not guilty to domestic violence
By LYNN STEVENS / H-P Staff Writer
The Herald-Palladium
Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 12:00 am
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/benton-harbor-police-chief-pleads-not-guilty-to-domestic-violence/article_4899197a-f28c-52c7-8577-450b5c9809e6.html

ST. JOSEPH -- Benton Harbor Police Chief Douglas Wright is back in the area after a trip to Tennessee and has pleaded not guilty to a charge of hitting his wife Aug. 2. He also has asked for a court hearing on a more serious charge that he tried to interfere with the investigation immediately after his wife called police.

Wright was suspended as chief last week while he was in Tennessee visiting an invalid relative. He reportedly had agreed to turn himself in to Berrien County authorities after the Thanksgiving holiday if he were allowed to make the trip, but he could not be reached today to confirm those details.

On Monday Wright, 59, pleaded not guilty before Berrien Trial Court Judge John Fields to the charge of domestic violence, a misdemeanor. He asked for a preliminary examination to the charge of attempting to obstruct justice, which is a felony. That hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5 in Berrien Trial Court.

The charges stemmed from an incident Aug. 2 in which Wright allegedly hit his wife, Lucy. The charge of attempting to obstruct justice was filed due to Wright's handling of the incident.

The case was investigated by the Allegan County prosecutor's office to ensure impartiality, said Berrien County Prosecutor James Cherry. The Allegan prosecutor issued a warrant for Wright's arrest Nov. 19.

Wright arrived at Berrien Trial Court in St. Joseph on Monday with his lawyer, Tat Parish, and with detectives from the state police post at Paw Paw, where he had turned himself in earlier in the day.

Benton Harbor City Manager Joel Patterson suspended Wright with pay from his duties on Nov. 21. The city's labor lawyer, Bob White, said this morning that Patterson will meet with Wright this afternoon to discuss Wright's future with the city police department.

The charge of attempting to obstruct justice is a felony. According to Wright's five-year contract, even being charged with a crime can be grounds for the city to fire him without severance pay. The contract runs through June 30, 2005. Wright is making $60,000 a year.

The contract specifies that the city does not have to pay him severance if the firing results from dereliction of duty, habitual use of intoxicants or drugs, conviction of a crime or formal charges of a crime, or insubordination.

The contract says that if Wright resigns "following a formal suggestion by employer" or is fired for any other reason, the city must pay him the balance of his contracted salary and benefits in a cash lump sum.

That could cost the city at least $215,000 in salary alone.








Police chief charged
Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2001 12:00 am
Updated: 4:58 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
By MIKE RUPERT / H-P Staff Writer
The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/police-chief-charged/article_cae14d44-8771-5c64-9504-2032b99c6f55.html

ST. JOSEPH -- Benton Harbor Police Chief Douglas Wright is being charged with domestic violence for allegedly assaulting his wife and attempted obstruction of justice for trying to interfere with the investigation when police were called.

Wright, 59, allegedly used his position as police chief to "influence and/or obstruct a criminal investigation" into his alleged assault on his wife in the early morning of Aug. 2, according to a warrant issued Nov. 19.

Wright is visiting a sick relative in Nashville, Tenn., and is expected to turn himself in when he returns to the state next week, State Police Det. Lt. John Slenk said Tuesday.

Wright could not be reached by The Herald-Palladium for comment Tuesday or this morning.

If convicted, Wright could face up to 2 1/2 years in prison and $5,000 in fines for the felony attempted obstruction of justice charge, and 93 days in jail and $500 in fines for the misdemeanor assault charge.

Lucy Wright called 911, which rang into the Benton Harbor Police Department, around midnight on Aug. 2 to report Wright assaulted her at the couple's home at 1118 Colfax, according to court documents. Douglas Wright was not living at the house at the time.

Lucy Wright asked that the dispatcher contact an outside agency and that the department notify the Berrien County Sheriff's Department, documents said. She called the Benton Harbor police station a second time and directly asked for a sheriff's deputy to come to the house.

Douglas Wright also called the Benton Harbor Police Department and told a dispatcher the physical fight was between his wife and his adult son, Donald Wright, who is Lucy's stepson, and he told the dispatcher to disregard the call, documents said.

Benton Harbor Police Sgt. Raynard Shurn, who was already headed to the home, returned to the station before arriving there, Slenk said.

Lucy Wright called the Benton Harbor police a third time, again requesting that police come to the house.

Wright came to the Benton Harbor police station and directed dispatch to contact state police and to ask troopers to respond to the station, not to the Wrights' home.

First Lieutenant Jerry Sunday, commander of the Bridgman state police post, said troopers were called to the Benton Harbor police station about 3 a.m. and took statements from the chief and his son, who had been in the house at the time of the alleged assault.

Although Douglas Wright greeted the troopers with the information that his wife was filing the complaint, Sunday said Wright claimed his wife assaulted him. Douglas Wright said he and his wife were arguing over a financial matter. When the argument turned physical, Wright said he pushed her to defend himself, documents said.

Troopers went to the Wrights' house to take Lucy's statement. She told troopers that Wright grabbed her by the throat and swung at her with his right hand, documents said.

Donald Wright told troopers he found his father on top of his stepmother and pulled him away to keep her from kicking him.

Sunday said troopers observed no marks of a struggle on Douglas or Lucy Wright.

Berrien County Prosecutor Jim Cherry was called at home between 3:30 and 4 a.m. and told state police that, based on the information they had relayed, there was not enough evidence to arrest anyone. Cherry asked for written reports.

Cherry deferred the case to Allegan County Prosecutor Fred Anderson, who recommended the two charges on Nov. 15.

Cherry said he sought a special prosecutor because he works closely with Wright and did not feel it would be appropriate for him to review the case. Anderson said Tuesday he would not comment on the charges until an arrest was made.

Berrien County Family Court officials on Tuesday said that Lucy Wright took out a personal protection order against her husband shortly after the incident.



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