by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor
Presque Isle County prosecutor Rick Steiger has won another court battle – this one from the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The Michigan Attorney General’s (AG) Office did not agree with the decisions of two Alpena judges and wanted the case heard again, so a leave to appeal was filed last June. It was denied by a three-judge panel “for a lack of merit in the grounds presented.” The decision of judges Patrick Meter, Donald Owens and Stephen Borrello was unanimous.
The AG’s only other recourse is to file a leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court.
“We now have had five judges review this, and five judges say no crime was committed,” said Rick Steiger, Wednesday afternoon.
After months of waiting, Steiger was notified of the decision Tuesday.
Steiger, who has been the county prosecutor since October 2006, was accused of illegally obtaining prescription drugs.
The AG’s office alleged he obtained narcotic-painkillers from prescriptions from doctors and Alpena Regional Medical Center, and had received more pills than he needed. They also accused Steiger of obtaining the drugs by not disclosing his health history and medical background.
Steiger argued that the AG was provided with more than 800 pages of medical records that indicated he informed all treating physicians of each other and the medication he was receiving. He has been receiving treatment for lingering migraine headaches and sinus problems for nearly 20 years.
During Steiger’s preliminary examination in February 2012, in front of District Judge Theodore Johnson, his attorney Dan White claimed it was a matter of doctors not keeping proper records.
Johnson ruled that there was no fraud in the case and did not bind the case to Circuit Court. The AG’s office appealed that decision.
Circuit Judge Michael Mack ruled May 17 that Johnson didn’t abuse his discretion when the case was not bound over in February.
“I am just so thankful for the folks who believed in me,” said Steiger, Wednesday afternoon. “From day one, I said if I had done anything illegal or anything wrong, I would have stepped aside. I would have not put the county through it, and would not allow the good people on the board of commissioners to support me. I would not have allowed my friends, families and neighbors to support me, and I would have done the right thing and stepped aside and dealt with the issue outside of the public light.”
Steiger contends he was falsely accused and targeted by the Michigan State Police and members of the Huron Undercover Narcotics Team. “The folks that went after me know who they are,” said Steiger.
Steiger has extended approximately $30,000 in legal fees defending himself in this matter.
“Even though Mr. White was kind enough to significantly reduce his fee when he took this matter, his office incurred great expense to pour through thousands of documents, listen to and transcribe hours of audio tapes, pour through volumes and volumes of medical records, and
even had his attorneys and staff work tirelessly on evenings and weekends to expose the truth that existed in the evidence obtained during the investigation. . .
Irrespective of a biased police reports submitted by members of HUNT. Mr. White’s efforts to expose the truth are greatly appreciated”
Steiger started the first year of his second elected term in office in January. The AG’s office has declined to comment throughout the course of the legal proceedings, and could not be reached for comment for this article.