BY MELISSA FIRCHAU
T & G STAFF WRITER
One man is in custody after allegedly shooting a 27-year-old Clinton Township woman. According to Mount Clemens Lt. Brian Krutell, 32-year-old Calvin Leon Smart, of Detroit, was arraigned on Feb. 13, charged with shooting his estranged wife after a child support hearing for their 3-year-old daughter was held in the 16th Judicial Circuit Court in Mount Clemens Feb. 12. "The victim and suspect were in the Friend of the Court for a child support hearing, and during the course of the hearing the suspect became upset with what was happening and walked out of the hearing prior to the conclusion," Krutell said. "The victim was concerned that the suspect may be outside waiting for her, so she clot a deputy to escort her to her car.'
The Macomb County deputy and the woman watched for Smart as they walked to her vehicle. and after not seeing him. the deputy left the woman, who drove onto Main Street at about 4 p.m.
Macomb County Capt. Rick Kalm said he witnessed the arrest of the man, and learned of the details through the deputy.
"It appears there was some kind of verbal confrontation at the Friend of the Court, so our deputy walked her to her car, and as she backed out to leave, he headed back to the court," Kalm said. "The suspect was about 20 spots north of her, and when she drives by he fires three times, and one bullet hit her through the car, and the other two went into the car, but missed her."
Smart allegedly fired at the woman's vehicle using a .38-caliber revolver. Kalm said the woman. bleeding from her bullet wound, drove for about a mile until hitting a curb and corning to a stop. "Our deputy confronted the guy at gunpoint. handcuffed him and retrieved the gun, and the ambulance was sent down to the victim," Kalm said.
The woman was taken to Mount Clemens General for surgery, and was reportedly in good condition at press time. Because the incident occurred during regular business hours, Kalm said there were many people walking in the area. "Everybody was pretty surprised, because nobody realized what it was," Kalm said. "We've heard that it sounds like firecrackers, so they didn't realize what was going on."
Smart was taken into custody and held in jail until his Feb. 13 arraignment at the 41-B District Court, in Mount Clemens. Smart faces one count of assault with intent to commit murder, which carries a sentence of up to life in prison, and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, a two-year felony.
Because Smart was on probation for past convictions, including carrying a concealed weapon and assault, he was also charged with felon in possession of firearm, a five-year offense.
You can reach Melissa Firchau at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Calvin Leon Smart, left, a Detroit resident, appears in court with his attorney, James Galen, on charges of assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, in the February shooting of his estranged wife, Laura Smart.|
By Chad Halcom
Macomb Daily Staff Writer
Temporary insanity will remain a key point of contention in a Detroit man's trial, stemming from the alleged shooting of his estranged wife outside Macomb County Circuit Court.
Calvin Leon Smart, who remains in Macomb County Jail, stood mute Monday at his pretrial arraignment before Circuit Judge James M. Biernat. Lawyers in the case are already preparing to argue states of mind at his trial, slated for Sept. 17. A mental examination at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti already found him legally sane and able to stand trial.
"We also received a report about his culpability (mental state) at the time," said Kathleen Quigley, a Macomb County assistant prosecutor on the case. "Suffice it to say, now the defense has suddenly decided it needs an independent evaluation." Smart's attorney, James L. Galen Jr., maintains that Smart had snapped under duress after a hearing before Macomb County Probate Judge Antonio P Viviano, who was denying him some access or visitation with the couple's 2-year-old child.
"This is not about child support, even if some people have said it's that way. It's not," Galen said. "This man was being told he'd basically not to see his child again. His mental state had badly degraded after that."
Officials say Smart waited on the street outside the courthouse for his estranged wife, who was escorted by a sheriff's deputy out of the building following a heated court hearing Feb. 12. There, once the deputy turned to leave, Smart allegedly stormed her truck and fired a gun three times, striking the woman in the hip, police said. Laura Smart, 27, of Clinton Township, went for treatment to Mount Clemens General Hospital but has recovered. Court officials said sanity at the time of the crime will be a key issue, although it may be telling that Smart allegedly lay in wait to catch his wife at a vulnerable moment. "You could argue that point, certainly," Quigley said. "But that is a matter of strategy for a trial." The Smarts have since finalized a divorce.
Mr. Smart was on three years probation for an assault case out of Detroit, and is jailed without bond on charges of attempted murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by convicted felon.
Macomb County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Mileski, who escorted Mrs. Smart out of the building and subdued her attacker, has already appeared as a witness. Attorneys said Viviano, who is excusing himself from handling this case, may have to testify as well.
"It's important for the jury to see how the judge may have affected my client's mental state with his decision to take his child away," Galen said.
Mileski, hearing the shots. immediately ran to the area where he forced Smart to the ground and arrested him, officials have said. The woman drove a half mile away before calling police and then slumping over the steering wheel.
Also expected to come up before trial are a defense request to move the trial to another county, and to suppress some criminal background information.
BY NANCY A. YOUSSEF
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
A man accused of shooting his estranged wife outside the Macomb County Circuit Court building will undergo a psychiatric evaluation before a trial can begin.
District Judge Linda Davis granted the request Tuesday to Calvin Leon Smart, which was the first step in Smart's effort to show that he was temporarily insane at the time of the Feb. 12 shooting, said his attorney, James Galen Jr.
Smart will be evaluated at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti. Doctors will be asked to determine whether Smart is competent to stand trial.
Assistant Prosecutor Gaer Guerber said the evaluation would take from four to six months.
Mt. Clemens police charged Smart, 32, of Detroit with assault with intent to commit murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm and use of a firearm in a felony, all felony charges.
The Smarts were in court earlier that day to work out the details of their divorce and visitation rights to their 2-year-old daughter.
Police said Calvin Smart shot at his wife in the parking lot as she was driving away from the courthouse. She had been escorted to her car, at her request, by a sheriff's deputy. She had received personal protection orders against her husband since 1999.
Calvin Smart is being held at the Macomb County Jail. Laura Smart, who was shot in the hip, has been released from Mt. Clemens General Hospital.
By Chad Halcom
Macomb Daily Staff Writer
Angry and vengeful or anguished and temporarily insane are two possible views jurors may take in a man's trial for shooting his estranged wife out-side of Macomb County Circuit Court. Jury selection began Tuesday and continues today in the trial of Calvin Leon Smart, 33, of Detroit, for the Feb. 12 shooting that wounded his then-wife, 27-year-old Laura Smart.
Smart faces charges of assault with intent to murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm and felony use of a firearm in the case. Tuesday in court, prosecution and defense agreed that Smart is a convicted felon and wasn't supposed to have a gun. The agreement means jurors will hear only that Smart has a prior felony conviction, and bars the prosecution from introducing any record or evidence of the prior case. "I had to accept that. I don't really get much of a choice," said Kathleen Quigley, the Macomb County assistant prosecutor on the Smart case. "Case law is pretty clear if the defense offers that agreement, and I don't accept it, it's reversible (on appeal)."
Smart received a probation sentence in 1999 for assault with a dangerous weapon, but attorneys in the case said that case has no connection to this one and is irrelevant. "It's more prejudicial than (informative)," said James Galen, Smart's attorney in the case. "Jurors might just hear that and say if he did that, he must have done this one, too."
Officials said Smart waited on the street outside the court-house for his estranged wife, who was escorted by a sheriff's deputy out of the building following the hearing. Once she entered her vehicle, he allegedly shot her, but she was able to drive away and seek medical treatment. The deputy then restrained him.
Galen maintains that Smart snapped under duress after a hearing before Macomb County Probate Judge Antonio P. Viviano, who was denying him some visitation with the couple's 2-year-old child. A mental examination at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti has found Smart legally sane and able to stand trial, and Quigley said if Smart presents evidence of insanity, she is ready to dispute it.
If convicted as charged, Smart faces a maximum of life in prison.
Courthouse shooter acquitted of charge
BY MELISSA FIRCHAU
Despite his open admittance that he shot his wife, a Detroit man was acquitted after several days of deliberation.
Calvin Leon Smart Jr., 32, was cleared of the charge of assault with intent to commit murder, because of mitigating circumstances. Smart will still face a Jan. 28 sentencing, having been found guilty of felony firearm and using a firearm after the conviction of a felony.
Defense attorney James L. Galen Jr. said he feels the jury agreed with his argument that Smart was temporarily insane at the time of the incident and lost all ability to control his emotions and actions. "A lot of people got upset with the acquittal, but the 12 members of the jury who decided this case were present through the trial and heard the evidence about all the facts and circumstances that led up to the incident," Galen said.
Galen argued throughout the trial that a tense custody battle between Smart and his estranged wife, Laura, 27, over their 3-year-old daughter led up to the Feb. 12 incident during which Smart fired three shots at his wife as she was leaving a parking space outside the Macomb County Circuit Court building in downtown Mount Clemens. Laura was hit once in the hip and is still recovering from her injury.
The couple's daughter has cerebral palsy and requires extensive medical treatment. Galen said Smart became enraged when Laura asked for sole custody of their daughter, offering only limited, supervised visitation by Smart. The request was granted by the court, which Galen said threw Smart over the edge.
"I think this is a part of a trend that we're seeing throughout the country, where men feel frustrated because they want to be good providers, but the courts and mothers deny them access to their children," Galen said. Galen said that through this incident, there are no winners, as the morn, dad and child lost, as did the community. "The community lost because when someone seeks justice again and again and is denied justice, other people in the community see this, and when people can't get justice, they eventually settle for revenge, although Calvin did not act in revenge," he said. "I hope and pray that what happened in front of that courthouse will never have to happen again and that the court and parents throughout the country will act more diligently to see that the children are protected and that the rights of the men and women in this country are protected."
Galen anticipates a two-to four-year sentence for the two convictions, with credit for the time he has served since the incident. Prosecutor Kathleen Quigly did not return phone calls at press time.
You can reach Melissa Firchau at email@example.com
By CHRIS CHRISTOFF AND JIM SCHAEFER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS
MT. PLEASANT — The ambush came in a town where almost nobody imagines chaos and bloodshed and gunfire in the streets.
But in the middle of morning, in the middle of town, three people lay dead Tuesday. Police said a man with a shotgun opened fire on his ex-wife and two others. The shooting marked the second time in a month that a domestic dispute culminated in gunfire in a Michigan courthouse parking lot.
Police said the suspect, Thomas Wendt, fled the Isabella County Courthouse after the 10:30 a.m. shooting to his home in a sprawling trailer park in nearby Weidman. After a standoff with a battery of police, Wendt was arrested without a struggle at 5 p.m.
Residents of the town of 26,000 said they didn't expect such brutality in their city, but domestic violence experts said it can happen anywhere.
"I knew who he was," said Norman Curtiss, 48, owner of Downtown Discount Party Store. "We used to bowl on the same team, and I used to see him driving around town. ... He wasn't really violent, but I guess people snap."
Gianni Licari, 22, works at a pizza place across the street from the courthouse.
"I got a phone call from a friend who said that there was a shooting incident on CNN," he said. "I later found out it was here, two minutes from my house and one block from work."
Police said Wendt will be arraigned today on three counts of open murder. They did not release details of what motivated the killing, only describing it as a domestic dispute.
Officer Charlie Lyon of the Mt. Pleasant Police said Wendt, 51, had a recent domestic violence conviction. Wendt was scheduled for an 11 a.m. hearing Tuesday on an alleged probation violation and an alleged violation of a personal protection order, but Lyon would not elaborate.
The others had been scheduled to testify against Wendt at the hearing. The dead were identified as Wendt's ex-wife, Vicki Sue Keller-Wendt, 45, Brandie Lea Keller, 20, and Douglas Alan McCoy, 50.
Lyon said McCoy was a friend of Keller-Wendt and said that the two women were related. A relative said they were aunt and niece. Lyon said only that Wendt and Keller-Wendt were divorced in "a stormy deal."
"It's pretty bizarre," he said. "We've never experienced a triple homicide in Isabella County —ever. I hope it doesn't become something I have to handle again."
However, in August 1997, there was a shooting inside the same courthouse. A robbery suspect outside a courtroom grabbed a bailiff's gun, shot him in the leg, then went back into court and killed himself.
Police said after shooting the three Tuesday, Wendt fled to Weidman, a rural, wooded township northwest of Mt. Pleasant.
A witness to the shootings wrote down the license plate number of Wendt's Chevy Suburban as he left, and police tracked it to the trailer.
Mt. Pleasant Police Capt. Rory Heckman said Wendt had been alone with his collie in the home, and he spent part of the day talking with relatives and police negotiators over the phone. He told police he was taking medication.
At least 20 state police officers, some armed with assault rifles, were on the scene, along with several dozen local officers, police helicopters flying overhead and dogs to deter an escape into surrounding woods.
About 5 p.m., with the phone line still open, police said they could hear Wendt breathing as if he were sleeping. They tossed a flash grenade inside and burst into the home. He was arrested without a struggle, they said.
State Police Inspector Barry Getzen said some people in the mobile home community were evacuated.
Jamie Noble, 31, said she was related to Brandie Keller. "He had no reason to shoot her or anyone," Noble said before she was overcome with emotion and declined to answer additional questions.
Tuesday's incident was the second time in recent, weeks that parties coming together for court hearings were involved in shootings outside state courthouses. On Feb. 12, Mt. Clemens police said Calvin Leon Smart, 32, of Detroit shot his wife, Laura Smart, in a parking lot as they left a divorce proceeding at the Macomb Circuit Courthouse.
The Smarts were at court to determine the custody and child support payments for their 2-year-old daughter. Smart was charged the next day with assault with the intent to murder. Laura Smart is recovering.
Hedy Nuriel, executive director of HAVEN, a shelter and counseling center for domestic violence and sexual assault victims in Pontiac, said such violence is an equal-opportunity crime and 95 percent of the time the victims are women. "Domestic violence is in every neighborhood," Nurielsaid. "It affects people of.all races, religions and economic classes."
MOUNT CLEMENS (AP) — A judge exceeded state guidelines and sentenced a man to up to 12 years in prison after he admitted shooting his then-wife as she left a courthouse.
Calvin L. Smart, 33, was sentenced to 6 1/2 to 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm and 2 years for a felony firearm charge. Circuit Judge James Biernat also forbade Smart from contacting or coming within 500 feet of his ex-wife.
Last month, a jury acquitted Smart of another charge—assault with intent to murder. State sentencing guidelines are a mandatory 2 years in prison for felony firearm and 7 months to 2 years, 10 months for felon-in– possession. Biernat cited Calvin Smart's "pattern of terror" against Laura Smart and past disregard for the law in his sentencing.
Calvin Smart pleaded guilty to beating his wife almost four years ago. She later requested a personal protection order against him. The shooting occurred Feb. 12 after the Smarts met at Macomb County Circuit Court to work out visitation and child support for their daughter, now 3. As Laura Smart drove away from the courthouse, Calvin Smart pulled a revolver from his car and fired three times, striking her once in the hip.
Defense attorney James Galen Jr. said he would appeal the judge's order. "He was supposed to follow the sentencing guidelines set by the Legislature," Galen said. Galen had said Smart "knows what he did was wrong, and if he had the chance to go back and change it, he would." He said his client was upset after a contentious court hearing and was emotionally impaired when he shot Laura Smart.
Laura Smart, 28, sighed a "Thank you, God" as the sentence was read. "Now I can live in peace and raise my daughter ... as opposed to having to watch 'my back at the end of the day," she told the ' Detroit Free Press.
BY SAM HANANEL
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Justice Department effort to lock up more criminals in prisons instead of halfway houses hit a roadblock Tuesday when a federal judge said inmates already serving time in socalled community correction centers cannot now be transferred to regular prisons.
The decision could affect more than 100 inmates the Justice Department wants moved out of halfway houses under a new policy to get tougher on nonviolent offenders.
At issue is a Justice Department directive issued last month, which ordered the Bureau of Prisons to place fewer offenders in halfway houses — where inmates can get weekend furloughs and frequFnt family visits — and place more in federal prisons.
Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson said the longtime practice of sentencing some felons to halfway houses was unlawful because the facilities are not true confinement.
Thompson ordered the new policy to be applied in future cases with one exception: All halfway house prisoners with more than 150 days remaining on their sentences as of Dec. 20 would be transferred to a regular prison immediately.
Tuesday's ruling involved a Washington woman serving one year in a halfway house for forging checks. Because she exceeded the 150-day cutoff by 24 days, the Bureau of Prisons began proceedings to move her to a higher security prison.
She challenged the transfer, arguing it would unfairly alter the terms of her existing sentence. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle agreed, saying application of the new policy retroactively is "fundamentally unfair and incompatible with due process."
In her opinion, Huvelle also called the 150-day cutoff "entirely irrational," saying the Beraue of Prisons provided no explanation for carving the exception into a rule that otherwise would apply in future sentencings.
"This is a case in which the government's long-standing interpretation and application of the law...affirmatively misled the court into imposing a particular sentence," Huvelle wrote.
Bureau of Prisons spokesman Dan Dunne said the agency was still reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. Justice Department officials also had no comment.
Before Tuesday's ruling, the agency had announced plans to transfer about 130 federal inmates to federal penitentiaries. Halfway houses, where about 8,600 prisoners reside, are intended to help inmates make the transition from prison to society.
By NANCY A. YOUSSEF
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Laura Sutkowski Smart of Clinton Township did nearly everything the system told her to do.
After her husband pleaded guilty to beating her three years ago, she requested a personal protection order (PPO) against him. She tape-recorded By conversations in which he allegedly threatened her. She moved out. She filed for divorce.
And at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Smart, 27, went to the Macomb County Circuit Court to work out specifics of child support and visitation for their daughter.
On Wednesday, she was in a hospital in serious condition — one day after her husband allegedly shot her in the hip outside the courthouse.
"This was not a failure in the system. This points out the dilemma many victims are in," Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga said Wednesday.
Smart's estranged husband, Calvin Leon Smart, 32, of Detroit was charged Wednesday in Mt. Clemens District Court with four counts, including assault with the intent to commit murder. A preliminary hearing will be held in two weeks. He is being held without bond in the Macomb County Jail.
"We want to make a point to people in relationships like this: It never gets better," Marlinga said.
Hedy Nuriel, president and CEO of HAVEN, a support group for victims of domestic violence, said the outcome is unfortunately all too common.
"PPOs are just a sheet of paper. They don't stop bullets," she said.
Police say Calvin Smart walked up to his wife as she was driving away from their court hearing and shot at her three times, hitting her once in the right hip. The sheriff's deputy who was asked to escort Laura Smart to her car made the arrest and found a .38-caliber revolver.
The Smarts were there to begin their divorce proceedings, three years to the day they were married.
In the courtroom, the prosecution said Calvin Smart repeatedly beat her, that he was "out of control," that Laura Smart's life would be in danger if her husband were released and that she only stayed in the marriage as long as she did because she feared her 2-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy, would lose her health insurance.
Calvin Smart's attorney, James Galen, said that Laura Smart laughed after Tuesday's divorce hearing when a court adviser recommended an increase in the amount of child support, that Calvin Smart was enraged upon learning he could only have supervised visits, and that he tried leaving the relationship but she kept coming back.
Laura Smart's family declined to comment about her marriage or the shooting.
Calvin Smart's attorney said he was enraged upon learning he could only have supervised child visits,
and that he tried leaving the relationship but his wife kept coming back.
According to court documents, Laura Smart first filed for a PPO in June 1999, 15 weeks after their daughter was born. She alleged that he beat her with a broom and knocked a tooth out.
Calvin Smart, a truck driver, filed for divorce in July 2000 although the couple never followed through. Then came charges of another beating in 2001 in which he was found guilty. And she sought another PPO. On Tuesday, Calvin Smart learned that his wife had started the divorce proceedings again, Galen said.
"He just snapped," Galen said. According to the police report, immediately after the shooting Calvin Smart said: "Well, if I can't have my daughter, I didn't want her to have the child either."
Contact NANCY A. YOUSSEF at 586-469-8087 or firstname.lastname@example.org.