The real outrage: Brennan could still end up collecting much more in retirement

Livingston County District Court Judge Theresa Brennan. Image taken from WXYZ.com.

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There was plenty of outrage going around on Facebook yesterday when the news came out that former Livingston County District Judge Theresa Brennan had agreed to plead guilty to just one felony count against her, in exchange for a sentence of zero to six months.

I don’t want to explain the entire Brennan case again, but if you need a refresher, here it is.

Because of her misdeeds and malfeasance, Brennan – the most disgraced public figure in Livingston County history – was facing three felony counts that could have landed her in prison for 15 years.

Instead, she was allowed to plead guilty to just ONE felony count, and when she’s sentenced on Jan. 17, she faces no more than six months behind bars. The smart money seems to be thinking that it’ll end up being closer to zero months behind bars.

All of which has Livingston County residents in an uproar. Here’s just a small sampling of the comments on the Livingston Post’s Facebook page, in response to the Brennan-pleads-guilty story:

“Not enough time could take care of all the wrong doing she has done. She thought her s$&@ didn’t stink , looked down her nose at everyone. Shame on her….”

“This is a direct slap in the face to her many victims and the tax payers!”

THIS IS VILE!!! SHAME ON THE JUDGE WHO IS NOT HOLDING HER ACCOUNTABLE! THIS SENDS A HORRIBLE MESSAGE TO OTHERS LAW ENFORCEMENT THAT THEY ARE ABOVE THE LAW!”

To which I say: I agree 1 million percent.

It’s an absolute outrage that a judge who abused the public trust to this degree is getting off so lightly.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick abused the public trust, and he got 28 years in prison.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich abused the public trust, and he got 14 years in prison.

Theresa Brennan abuses the public trust, and she gets no more than six months? Most likely zero months?

Yes, it’s an outrage, and if you’re a Livingston County taxpayer who has been paying her all these years, you have every right to be irate.

Just make sure you’re aiming your outrage in the right direction. Brennan’s plea deal was made by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s staff. If you want to be mad at anyone, be mad at them.

And if you’re looking for an even bigger reason to be outraged, consider this: Brennan might be collecting hundreds of thousands more from the taxpayers in future years, thanks to her retirement.

That’s right, Livingston County. We aren’t done paying Theresa Brennan.

Former District Judge Theresa Brennan pleads guilty to a single count of perjury on Dec. 3, 2019. (Photo courtesy of WHMI.com)

As far as I can tell, there’s been no mention by Nessel’s AG staff that they’re planning to go after Brennan’s hefty retirement account, much of which has been provided by the taxpayers. And if they don’t, Brennan could end up pocketing all of it.

In Michigan, public officials who are convicted of a felony don’t automatically lose their state-funded retirement accounts. The AG has every right to go after it – and there’s a lot of precedent out there of it happening in the past – but Brennan won’t automatically lose it, even though she is now an admitted felon.

In my mind, that’s a bigger outrage than her measly plea-bargained sentence.

So here’s what needs to happen next: Dana Nessel needs to fight like hell to make sure she doesn’t get any money from the taxpayers going forward. And as I said, there’s precedent here.

Back in 2016, when 12 Detroit Public Schools principals were convicted of bribery, then-Attorney General Bill Schuette went after their pensions – and he won.

From what I can tell, it’s a fairly straightforward civil forfeiture action. And Nessel needs to do it.

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About Buddy Moorehouse 230 Articles
Longtime Livingston County journalist Buddy Moorehouse is director of communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

1 Comment

  1. Hey Buddy! Great column and a great thought, they should go after her pension. But do you really think a Democrat for an AG is going after a Democrat Judge appointed by Granholm? (P.S. No need to shout with the all caps, we get your frustration.)

What do you think?