If you think the drama and suspense will end once the election is over, you’re wrong – at least not in Livingston County.
One of the more compelling post-election questions is this: If David Reader wins election as the next Livingston County prosecutor (which is widely expected), will he prosecute the woman who tweeted that “the first city to burn in michigan should be howell” in the wake of the George Floyd protests?
The whole situation has been largely forgotten since Reader won the Republican primary in August, defeating incumbent William Vailliencourt. But it could very likely become front and center once again if Reader wins in November.
In case you need a refresher, here’s what happened and where we are right now:
In late May, a state employee named Damia Morse, tweeting under the user name @WowDamia, wrote a Tweet that said, “the first city to burn in michigan should be howell, all in favor say I.”
This was in the wake of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis and the nationwide protests and riots that followed, many of which involved cities being set on fire.
The Livingston Post reached out to Morse via social media at the time to see why she wanted Howell to burn, but she never responded. The assumption is because of Howell’s longstanding (and undeserved) reputation as a KKK hotbed, but we don’t know for sure.
When the Tweet started getting a ton of reaction on both sides, someone accused her of wanting to kill all white people. So she responded like this:
We don’t know what she meant by that, but some people took it to mean that the only white people she wanted to kill were the white people in Howell.
Downtown Howell was then put on notice on June 4 that stores should close and everybody should stay away for after some activity on social media (from somebody other than @WowDamia) called for a widespread protest in Howell that day.
The fear was that just as @WowDamia had proposed, Howell would become the first city in Michigan to burn. There was a huge law-enforcement presence in Howell that day, and nothing much happened. But it’s safe to say that a fair amount of local folks were highly concerned.
The outrage that followed resulted in her employer, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, investigating the situation. On June 18, they announced that Morse wouldn’t be fired, but she would be given a 10-day unpaid suspension. The official statement said that she expressed “remorse” for the tweets and that she would receive “additional training upon return to work.” We have no idea what “additional training” means, or what steps Morse had to take once she returned to work.
The Howell City Police got involved on June 10, sending notice to Vailliencourt that they wanted Morse to be charged with making a terrorist threat.
At that point, the @WowDamia tweet became the No. 1 issue in the highly contentious and nasty GOP primary for Livingston County prosecutor between Vailliencourt and Reader. Reader shifted gears and started to base his entire campaign around the fact that Vailliencourt hadn’t charged Morse with terrorism. Our mailboxes were flooded with campaign literature like this (although I’m not sure what a “terroist” is):
For his part, Vailliencourt would never commit to whether he was going to charge Morse or not. It’s been more than four months since the Howell Police requested charges, and we still haven’t heard a peep from Vailliencourt as to what he’s going to do or not do. Considering he only has a few weeks left before he leaves office, it’s pretty unlikely that he’s going to issue charges now.
On Nov. 3, we’re going to elect a new Livingston County prosecutor – either Republican David Reader or Democrat Ragan Lake. We’re still a verrrrry Republican county, so there’s a verrrrry good chance that Reader is going to win.
Which brings us back to the question I posed at the beginning: If Reader wins, will he follow through and issue terrorism charges against Morse? I know nothing about the law, but I’m assuming there would be nothing stopping him. I doubt the statute of limitations has expired.
I’m also guessing that Reader himself isn’t allowed to say anything definitive on it until he actually takes office. Or maybe he can. I don’t know.
What I do know is this: This is going to be one of the biggest storylines to follow if he wins.