“Anyone can paint what they want under their First Amendment rights.”
What about those who commit actual mass destruction, including Dan Gilbert, U-M fraternities?
By Diane Bukowski
February 25, 2015
Detroit – Taylor Daramy and Marcelus Gray, the two teens charged with painting a mural of a child angel holding a gun on a cop with his hands raised on Detroit’s Youthville headquarters, are both due back in court Tues. March 3, according to the latest information available.
The 19-year-olds face charges of “malicious destruction of a building” under MCL 750.830. For destruction costing $1,000 to $20,000, a felony penalty of up to five years in prison is possible; for destruction costing $100 to $1,000, a one-year high misdemeanor penalty can be assessed.
Judge Michael Wagner, recently appointed to the 36th District Court bench by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, held separate preliminary exam hearings Feb. 17 in the cases. Wagner’s chambers are located not in 36th District Court, but in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, Rm. 201.
Gray’s attorney Ryan Hill waived the exam and Wagner bound him over to Wayne County Circuit Court. Gray’s arraignment on the information there is set for March 3 at 9 a.m. in front of Judge David Groner. Daramy’s attorney Arni Chambers said his client will not waive her exam, but asked for more discovery information from the prosecution. Her preliminary exam was rescheduled to March 3 at 9:15 a.m. in front of Wagner.
“Anyone can paint what they want under their First Amendment rights,” Chambers told VOD after the proceeding. “The only issue might have been where it was painted.”
About a half-dozen Detroit youths came to court to support the teens.
The teens’ families and friends also accompanied them to the hearing, but deferred all questions to their attorneys. A storm of negative media coverage of the painting last month even included an attempted visit to Daramy’s home by Fox 2 News, according to Chambers. Most of the media portrayed the mural as a statement that youth should shoot police, treating it as an offense nearly tantamount to the rampant killings of youth by police across the U.S.
Ron Scott, president of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Inc. also attended the hearing. He was quoted extensively in the media condemning the mural and the artists.
He told VOD, “I did not want prosecution, but mediation,” and claimed he would testify as a witness for Daramy and Gray. He said he has tried to call Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy several times about dropping the charges, but has not been able to reach her.
He denied taking photos of the mural, which were attributed to him or to the DCAPB in numerous newspaper and online captions. He said he has ties with various groups in Youthville and would ask them to intervene. So far, his attempts have been fruitless.
Maria Miller, Chief of Communications for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office, said next week’s hearings are still scheduled as planned.
“Dan Gilbert’s people installed video cameras on 1515 Broadway and the Detroit Beer Company downtown, drilling holes in the bricks without the permission of the owners,” Mike Shane, of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition said. “THAT’s destruction of property, but nobody’s charging Gilbert.”
Steve Neavling of the Motor City Muckraker wrote earlier, “Chris Jaszczak heard the high-pitched sound of a drill grinding into the brick wall of his coffee shop and black box theater in downtown Detroit. After peeking into the alley behind his building at 1515 Broadway, Jaszczak was shocked when he saw someone installing a surveillance camera on his brick wall. . . .Turns out, employees for Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services were ordered to place surveillance cameras on the rear of 1515 Broadway and the Detroit Beer Company without gaining permission from the owners, who are angry about the discovery.”
Gilbert’s cameras are all over the downtown Detroit area, including inside the Detroit News and Free Press buildings, newly-rented from him after he bought their old offices, according to a report from the on-line newspaper MFI-Miami.
Gilbert additionally heads the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, which is busy tearing down hundreds of homes across the city using federal “Hardest-Hit” funds meant to keep families in their homes.
MFI-Miami, which investigates mortgage fraud, reports that it did a sample survey of mortgages supplied by Gilbert’s Quicken Loans.
“Of the 75 homes sampled that had Quicken Loans named as the original mortgagee sampled,” the paper wrote, “70.6% of these homes went into foreclosure within the first 24-36 months of being sold on the secondary housing market by Quicken Loans to either Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or to a private mortgage backed securities trust on Wall Street.”
So Gilbert’s been getting paid the value of his foreclosed mortgages by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, then using federal funds to tear foreclosed homes down, homes worth massively more than the amounts cited in the charges against Gray and Daramy.
Also in contrast, hundreds of college fraternity members from the University of Michigan literally dismantled parts of the TreeTops and Boyne Highlands Ski Resorts in Michigan in late January after a week-end of “partying too hard” in late January. Michigan State Police politely “escorted” students from TreeTops, but no arrests have been reported.
Barry Owens, a general manager at Treetops, earlier told news media he estimated the damage there at $50,000, but photos taken by news crews show hallways and rooms that look like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with floors and ceiling tiles ripped out.
Owens told VOD that as far as he knows, no criminal charges have been brought against the perpetrators, but that the Michigan State Police are still investigating the matter.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Youth Foundation, the organization that owns Youthville, site of the “malicious destruction” in the current case, dissolved itself August 1, 2014 according to state records. It ran a deficit of $1,175,000 in its last 990 filing with the IRS, from 2011.
Some local media called the building a “school.” In fact, it houses not only the Plymouth Education Center charter school, but also a branch of Don Bosco, the Detroit Parent Network (cited by public school advocates as a replacement for Local Community School Organization leaders at individual schools), the Motor City Dance Factory, and N C Management.
It also rents out space according to its 990 filing. Most of the officers listed in its 2013 annual report do not reside in Detroit, or have given only office addresses in Detroit. As a non-profit, Youthville pays no taxes to Detroit. A woman who answered the phone for Youthville/Don Bosco said their organization was not the complainant against Daramy and Gray, and referred VOD to building maintenance for that information, where the individual in charge was out sick for the day.