Macomb County judge charged with misdemeanors after alleged hit-and-run

Posted at 1:34 PM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 17:33:16-04

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has charged a Macomb County judge with two misdemeanors for allegedly fleeing the scene of a crash last September.

According to the prosecutor's office, Judge Catherine Steenland is charged with one count of failure to stop at the scene of a personal injury accident, a one-year misdemeanor, and failure to report an accident, a 90-day misdemeanor. The case was turned over to Wayne County after the Macomb County Prosecutor recused himself from the case.

James Nielsen says he and his 9-year-old daughter were heading north on Gratiot near Masonic Boulevard in September 2017 when a woman allegedly hit them in the turnaround lane.

"I was beeping the horn. It didn't get her attention. She looked back at me and then floored it. I followed her to the end of the street, got her license plate, called 911 and then she took off again,” Nielsen says. 

Nielsen says they went to the hospital, he chipped his tooth and had neck and back pain. His daughter received no injuries. 

Days later he says police told him the person accused of hitting him was Honorable Judge Catherine Steenland of the 39th District Court in Roseville. 

Dash-cam video obtained exclusively by 7 Action News shows that before police officers arrived at the scene, they ran the plates of both vehicles involved. They immediately recognized the name the suspect’s plate came back to as someone they knew. 

“F—.  Is that the hit and run vehicle? Yeah. Oh s—. F-ing kidding me. Wait. The red Charger plate? Yeah. Oh God for the love of God let it be the Chrysler,” the officers can be heard saying. 

They arrived on the scene. They learned the Chrysler is the vehicle of the victim. The driver of the red Charger allegedly took off. The plate indicates the suspect's car belongs to 39th District Court Judge Catherine Steenland.

They ask the driver of the Chrysler what happened.  He says he saw the other driver look at her radio then swerve into him. 

“I didn’t even get a chance to turn. She just… Yes. She had to have been drunk,” said the driver. “… she looked and just kept driving. She floored it.”

The man who says he is the victim of a hit and run isn’t the only one who says he got a plate.  There was a witness . 

“They followed her. Is the car in the driveway? Yes.”

The officers then give their boss a heads up. 

“He wants us to proceed just like we would with anybody else. We are going to go to her house. Try to make contact. If she comes to the door, we will go from there. If she doesn’t, which he doesn’t think she will, but you never know. We are going to tow her car. If it is in the driveway, or what not. And he is going to send somebody here who is more experienced,” one officer can be heard relaying to the other. 

They go to the judge’s door - and knock. No one answers. They tow the car. 

A 7 Action News crew knocked on the very same door tonight. A woman came to the door and peered out the window, but when she saw who was there, did not answer. 

Roseville Police have handed the investigation over to Michigan State Police, since it involves a local judge. 

Steenland will be arraigned in 72nd District Court in St. Clair, Michigan on Friday, Aug. 4.