Livingston Co. Prosecutor speaks on Judge, Detective under investigation

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) - The hot seat is getting hotter for a Livingston County Judge and her former lover. 

Livingston County District Judge Theresa Brennan is under investigation by the Judicial Tenure Commission. She and Michigan State Police Detective Lt. Sean Furlong are both under investigation by Attorney General Bill Schuette

Livingston County Prosecutor William Vailliencourt tells 7 Action News Investigator Jim Kiertzner that he turned over key evidence in February. 

He calls this “disturbing.” His entire email statement is posted below.

Judges are required to be impartial, no conflicts of interest in cases they decide. 

The question is, did Brennan and Furlong both commit Perjury in Brennan’s divorce case?  

This is connected to a double murder trial in which Brennan was the Judge who presided over the trial, and Lt. Furlong was the lead investigator.  70-year-old Jerome Kowalski was convicted and is serving life without parole.

Tom Kizer is a former Livingston County Prosecutor and was the divorce attorney for the Judge’s now ex-husband. 

“She lied about the extent of the affair and when it occurred, yes.” Kizer said.

How serious is this? We asked Wayne State University Law Professor and former Federal Prosecutor Peter Henning. 

“If the Judge were to commit perjury that would be one of the most serious breached of the Judicial Code that you could have,” he says.

Attorney Kizer outlined in divorce court papers phone records that were kept by the ex-husband showing 231 calls between the Judge and the Detective during 2011 and 2012, 3 extended calls during the Kowalski murder trial and another 37 calls before Kowalski’s sentence to life in prison without parole. 

Brennan and Furlong say their affair started after the trial in 2013.

After this revelation, Furlong was assigned to a desk job in the Michigan State Police. And MSP acting with the Attorney General searched Brennan’s office and home. Furlong also testified in the divorce case.  

“To put it mildly, there have been at least 3 or 4 instances of serious perjury. Not just little things, serious perjury," Kizer said. “I believe Furlong has committed it right along with her."

Brennan was also recently reprimanded by Chief Circuit Court Judge David Reader when Brennan ordered an attorney to jail during an argument over the law. 

It turns out, Attorney Carol Lathrop-Roberts was right and Judge Brennan was wrong on the law. 

The Chief Judge said during a hearing about Brennan, “She makes either erroneous rulings on the law or ignores the law completely.  It’s like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day movie. The same conduct, the same demeanor, the same rulings, the same actions over and over.”

Attorney Carol Lathrop-Roberts told Kiertzner that Judge Brennan, “attempts to bully me, intimidate the clients. They find it a terrifying experience."

And after the hearing with Chief Judge Reader, she said, “I didn’t completely appreciate how big the problem was. I would prefer not to appear in front of her again."

Is there another conflict of interest for the County Prosecutor?  He listed the Kowalski case at the top of his list of accomplishments in his campaign and also endorsed Judge Brennan when she ran for re-election.

The Prosecutor said in his statement to 7 Action News, “Obviously if I knew then what I know now, I would not have supported the judge for re-election. But hindsight is always 20/20. And I’m sure many have experienced supporting a candidate only to later be disappointed and regret it.”

HERE’S THE ENTIRE EMAIL STATEMENT FROM THE PROSECUTOR

In early February of this year, I first learned of these allegations from the pleadings that were filed in court in the civil divorce case. I immediately brought it to the attention of both the Michigan State Police and the Judicial Tenure Commission to conduct an investigation as to the nature of any relationship between the judge and the detective before and during the trial. Although others were in possession of that information even earlier, they did not do so.

The purpose of any investigation is to determine what the facts and evidence show, as opposed to relying on speculation or conclusions based on only on things that occurred after the fact. As has always been my consistent practice, I do not comment on investigations, whether they involve my office, the Attorney General’s office, or any other agency. It would be highly inappropriate for me to do so or to speculate.

The allegations are deeply disturbing. Obviously if I knew then what I know now, I would not have supported the judge for re-election. But hindsight is always 20/20. And I’m sure many have experienced supporting a candidate only to later be disappointed and regret it.

Regarding the Kowalski case, from the time charges were filed in 2008, this was a highly contested case where the defendant was represented by a zealous and highly-qualified defense attorney. It went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court before trial and again after conviction. I am proud of the efforts of the Prosecutor’s Office. That is what makes these allegations about the judge even more disturbing.

As soon as these previously unknown facts came to light about the judge, in addition to requesting investigations by the appropriate authorities, I told the defendant’s appellate counsel. They filed a motion, but then withdrew it. We have not yet been contacted by his new attorneys and no motion for a new trial is currently pending. I appreciate that there has been a lot of speculation and people think they know certain things. But as much as I might like to, it would not be appropriate under the rules governing professional conduct for me to offer any comment.

William J. Vailliencourt, Jr.
Prosecuting Attorney
Livingston County

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