New Calhoun prosecutor promises change

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Calhoun County voters decided Tuesday to boot out current prosecutor Susan Mladenoff and replace her with defense attorney David Gilbert.

Gilbert was a prosecutor for both Barry and Muskegon counties before going into private practice in 1995.  

Gilbert told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that the people of Calhoun County will start noticing a difference almost immediately after he is sworn in.

"January 2nd. January 1st is a holiday, so January 2nd, probably," he said.

He said he first started hearing complaints about Mladenoff's office about three years ago, which would have been only months into her term as prosecutor.

"There's a very good staff in that prosecutor's office, but there's just no leadership," he said.

He said he repeatedly heard from law enforcement officers who said their officer involved shooting cases were not closed for months.  

"It's hard to describe your feeling when you find out your case is still under investigation when you're watching the evening news," Gilbert said.

And murder suspect Lauren O'Melay -- described to 24 Hour News 8 as a danger to society -- walked out of jail in October on bond simply because he didn't get a speedy trial date.

"The prosecutor should be involved in their own cases," Gilbert said. "They should know what's going on in that case. Blaming it on an assistant prosecutor for something that your office is responsible for, I don't know if that's justified."

Gilbert said his office will be different, especially when it comes to communication.

"Just returning phone calls is something you do in business, not just in prosecution," he said.

Gilbert also said he plans to reduce plea deals in Calhoun County.

"Calhoun County right now, most everything is plead out," said Gilbert. "You go to other counties -- you go to Kalamazoo County -- they claim that 82% of the felony cases in their county plead guilty as charged and there's no reason other counties can't do that. We're going to be working on the issue of plea bargaining, there's way too much plea bargaining going on. People aren't being punished for what they're doing. The idea is to stop crime and I don't necessarily have to lock people up to stop crime, but you have to make them responsible."

Gilbert will also aim to do things quicker and more efficiently. 24 Hour News 8 asked about his plans for the Lorinda Swain case, which has been in and out of court for years. 

Gilbert said he doesn't currently have all the facts about the criminal sexual conduct case, and up until Jan. 1, 2013, what happens is Mladenoff's call.

But if the case is still active when he takes office, he said he will take action.

"The way things are going in the current prosecutor's office, there's a pretty good chance it will be still there in January and and then I'll have to review it. And I will review it and I'll make a decision one way or another," Gilbert said. "It won't take me a year. It will take me about a week."

Gilbert has not spoken to Mladenoff since election results came in Tuesday. Neither has 24 Hour News 8 because she once again did not return phone calls for comment.

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Michigan (change)

Michigan is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.
Offices & Officials

Governor: Rick Snyder
Lieutenant Governor: Brian Calley
Attorney General: Bill Schuette
Secretary of State: Ruth Johnson

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