MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (WXYZ) — It’s unusual to have defense witnesses testify at a preliminary exam. Today there were two.
Sheriff Anthony Wickersham testified for and somewhat against former Prosecutor Eric Smith.
Smith is facing ten felony charges including Embezzlement and Running a Criminal Enterprise for allegedly misusing $600,000 in drug and alcohol forfeiture funds and keeping them in four off-book bank accounts.
The first witness is retired Deputy Sheriff Matthew Conforti. He told the court he was working the overnight shift in 2012 when he found a man riding a bike in the dark near the entrance of the subdivision where Eric Smith lived and passed it onto the Sheriff.
Sheriff Wickersham testified he passed that onto Smith saying, “What I didn't want to happen was deputy Conforti giving me that information, and I don't do anything with it. And something was to happen.”
The defense attorney says the witnesses show why Eric Smith installed security cameras in his house with forfeiture money.
The cameras were removed by Michigan State Police in 2019 as the investigation into Smith was underway.
The Prosecutor, in this case, is Assistant Attorney General Michael Frezza who asked Sheriff Wickersham key questions including, “While you were in the sheriff's department, did you have a security system put in your house?”
Wickersham answered, “yes.”
Frezza continued, “You didn’t have the drug forfeiture funds pay for that, that your office controls, did you?”
Wickersham answered, “no.”
Frezza wanted the testimony of the witnesses tossed out.
District Judge Cynthia Arvant denied the request and said about relevance, “Whatever Sheriff Wickersham believes about appropriate use of forfeiture funds over in the sheriff's department is really not in any way relevant to how Mr. Smith might have used that money.”
The Judge will hear arguments on February 4th and then decide if Smith stands trial as charged.
Smith was allowed to watch the hearing today on Zoom after a COVID exposure. His case has been delayed several times with COVID issues.
Smith pleaded guilty to Obstruction of Justice in a related federal case. His sentencing in that has also been delayed.