24 October 2014


Original Story: detroitnews.com

If you live in Michigan and want to buy one of those hot, $71,000 Tesla electric cars, be prepared to drive to Chicago, Indianapolis or Columbus to get one.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed a bill banning automakers from selling vehicles directly to customers in Michigan.

The new law closes a loophole that California-based Tesla Motors Inc. has used in other states to maintain company-owned retail stores, bypassing the dealership route.

Snyder said the bill, approved overwhelmingly by both houses, “clarifies and strengthens” an existing law that prohibits direct sales of new cars in this state.

“This bill does not, as some have claimed, prevent auto manufacturers from selling automobiles directly to consumers at retail in Michigan — because this is already prohibited under Michigan law,” Snyder said in a letter to lawmakers.

Snyder, citing a legal analysis from GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office, contended that the new law merely appears to let manufacturers without their own franchised dealers sell through another carmaker’s dealer network. An Atlanta Franchise Lawyer is experienced in advising clients on business opportunity, business developmnet, and litigation issues.

Tesla executives, however, weren’t buying that explanation.

“Why would they make a change if it had no legal import?” said Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president for business development.

He and Tesla’s general counsel, Todd A. Maron, disagreed with Snyder’s contention that the bill didn’t make a major change in existing law. O’Connell said the suggestion that auto dealers, a powerful lobbying group in Lansing and Washington, would push the Legislature to approve a bill that only clarified existing law doesn’t pass the “basic sniff test.”

The previous state law prohibited an automaker from selling new vehicles directly to retail customers except through its franchised dealers. The new law removes the word “its,” which Tesla officials said was a last-minute, monopolistic strike at their upstart company that has no traditional dealerships.

Maron said the law Snyder signed was comparable to deleting the word “not” — and “turns the entire sentence on its head.” Tesla believes the bill may restrict its ability to even open a gallery — often found in shopping malls — where cars are displayed but not sold.

O’Connell, in an interview Tuesday, said Tesla had been in talks for a year with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office to open a store in the state. A Boston Franchise Lawyer provides legal counsel on many aspects of franchising law.

He said Tesla hasn’t decided if it will legally challenge the new law.

Maron said the automaker wants to work with Snyder and the Legislature next year to “get a law that makes more sense.”

The governor urged the Legislature to engage in a “healthy, open” discussion in the 2015-16 session about whether the business model in Michigan is working.

GM, Ford back ban

General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., both of which have large dealer networks to sell their products, supported the direct-sales ban.

“We believe that House Bill 5606 will help ensure that all automotive manufacturers follow the same rules to operate in the state of Michigan,” GM said in a statement.

Added Ford: “We applaud Gov. Snyder’s action of signing HB 5606. The bill will provide a level playing field for all automobile manufacturers selling vehicles in Michigan.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had no comment.

In a blog post, Tesla blasted GM for its stance; O’Connell said GM’s actions were anticompetitive.

What if, he asked, decades ago computer companies such as IBM had tried to block upstart computer companies Apple and Gateway from selling directly to consumers?

GM has weighed in against Tesla in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and O’Connell called GM’s effort “unsurprisingly regressive” on the part of a dominant player in the market.

GM, he said, has “decided to press a regulatory point to a competitive advantage.”

“What we are doing is creating a new market for everyone to exploit,” O’Connell said, noting that Tesla has published its patents and made them available to inspire competition. “This has never been about us versus them (Detroit automakers).”

GM spokeswoman Heather Rosenker denied the automaker was being anticompetitive. “We know our customers want assurances that they are taken care of,” she said, saying the company supported its dealers and franchise laws.

“The playing field should be competitive and balanced.”

Not scared of Tesla

AutoTrader.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs said Michigan dealers and the mainstream auto industry aren’t necessarily scared of Tesla, but are instead concerned about what comes after Tesla, such as Chinese auto companies that may opt to enter the state to sell cars here with a cheaper business model.

“Automakers and dealers worry that foreign automakers will enter the U.S. — perhaps from China — and set up operations that skirt franchise laws by having factory-owned stores. Existing automakers and their dealers fear that would put them at a competitive disadvantage and open the flood gates to even more such operations,” she said.

“That’s why they are trying to close those gates securely to Tesla and any of those that follow.”

Tesla sells in about 20 states — but is legally barred in about four major states, including Texas and Arizona.

Palo Alto, California-based Tesla expects to be able to build 100,000 vehicles annually by the end of 2015, up from 35,000 this year. Elon Musk, Tesla’s co-founder and chief executive officer, believes the company’s advanced electric cars are best sold by the manufacturer.

There are 50 Teslas registered in Michigan, according to research firm IHS Automotive, despite the absence of dealers.

Coincidentally, the Tesla S gets 208-265 miles on a charge, depending on model, and that’s just about the distance between Detroit and the closest company-owned Tesla stores: Chicago (280 miles from Detroit) and Columbus (200 miles from Detroit).


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Detroit — City leaders are borrowing a page from scrappers and thieves by selling old copper wire to boost Detroit's finances.

The city will scrap 13 million pounds of copper wire left over by decommissioning the Public Lighting Department, a city consultant testified Tuesday during the Detroit bankruptcy trial.

The copper wire will generate as much as $40 million, though Detroit is conservatively budgeting for $25 million in revenue, city consultant Gaurav Malhotra testified.

The revenue approach emerged during the city's bankruptcy trial, which Tuesday featured testimony from Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr about how Detroit avoided a potentially "catastrophic" outcome by settling with a bond insurer owed $1.1 billion.

The city has fought copper thieves and scrappers for years in hopes of stemming blight, particularly, in city neighborhoods.

The Detroit Police Department created a Copper Theft Task Force about 10 years ago, but the unit was scrapped so the department could put more officers on street patrol.

In April, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a scrap metal bill intended to make it harder for thieves to convert stolen items into cash — particularly in Detroit.

Mayor Mike Duggan has made tightened scrap metal regulations a high priority. Detroit is plagued by thieves stripping catalytic converters from vehicles and metal siding, copper wire and fittings from unattended and even occupied buildings.

Under the new law, scrap metal dealers can pay for items worth $25 or more that thieves regularly swipe, such as air conditioners, copper wire and catalytic converters, only by mail to valid addresses provided by the sellers.

Scrap dealers also have to take photos or video of what they buy, according to the law. Sellers must be paid by check, money order, or special cards and receipts they can redeem at on-site automatic teller machines that take photos of them getting the cash.

Detroit is moving away from providing electricity to customers. During the next five to seven years, Detroit will be completely out of the business of supplying power to about 115 large nonresidential customers at 1,400 sites throughout Metro Detroit.

DTE Energy will take on the city's customers, which include the Detroit Public Schools, Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Center and the DIA. DTE will expand its system to handle the extra load, and the lighting department will decommission its equipment.

Earlier Monday, a bankruptcy lawyer revealed a group of hedge funds is expected to sign off on a breakthrough deal between Detroit and a bond insurer, pushing the city a step closer to exiting bankruptcy court.

The funds' lawyer, Thomas Moers Mayer, told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes Tuesday that he expects the financial creditors will approve the deal by Thursday.

The hedge funds are owed $1 billion and would split $141 million in new notes as part of a bankruptcy settlement Detroit reached with bond insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. on Thursday.

The FGIC deal includes a plan to replace Joe Louis Arena with a hotel, condominium and retail development.

If Detroit had continued to battle FGIC in court, and lost, "it would be fairly catastrophic from my perspective," Orr testified Tuesday.

Testimony continues Wednesday from Martha Kopacz, the judge's handpicked expert who is expected to say Detroit's plan to shed more than $7 billion in debt is feasible.

She concluded in a July report that Detroit needs a larger and better-trained workforce and commitment from its elected leadership to carry out the massive restructuring. Closing statements in the trial are set to begin on Monday.

The judge said he intends to deliver a decision during the week of Nov. 3 on whether he will confirm the city's plan.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Sterling Heights — General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet brand will showcase performance concepts of several cars during the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show next month in Las Vegas.

GM's largest brand on Thursday, from its Heritage Center here, revealed some of the vehicles it intends to show at the large trade show, which is closed to the public. Chevy will showcase an SS Sport, two Sonic concepts, an Impala Blackout concept and a variant of the Cruze RS during SEMA, Nov. 4-7. Trade Show Displays allow company brands and marketing messages stand out from the competition.

"We really want to become the brand of choice when it comes to personalization, performance and capability," said Jim Campbell, GM's U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. "When it comes to personalization, or individualization, or customization, that's really important because people really want to express their personalities."

Chevrolet will showcase 28 vehicles at SEMA this year, including five vehicles it worked with partners to build. It also will show crate engines, transmissions and accessories. A Tonneau cover is a great accessory for concealing cargo.

"These concepts suggest possibilities of how to personalize each model and amplify Chevrolet's performance leadership," Paul Edwards, vice president of Chevrolet marketing, said in a statement.

In the past, some Chevy concepts shown at SEMA have developed into production models or special editions such as the Sonic Dusk and a Hot Wheels Camaro. Demand and interest from the show could lead Chevy to produce some of the latest concepts or to take parts of them and apply them to production vehicles.

The SS Sport includes enhancements from the vehicle's Australian roots, including a Some Like it Red Hot exterior color not available in the U.S.

"We pulled some of the accessories and parts from Australia and put it on the car," said Dave Ross, GM's design manager of special builds.

The SS Sport concept features Holden logos in the wheel caps, floor mats and cargo tray. The SS Sport has black stripes on the hood and deck lid, a black rear spoiler and grille and black 20-inch wheels.

The SS is powered by the LS3 V-8 engine, kicking in 415 horsepower and 415 foot-pounds of torque.

Campbell said GM and Chevy will gauge interest from SEMA attendees about the SS Sport.

"Based on the feedback, we think there's a good chance it'll come to market," Campbell said.

The Impala Blackout uses an LTZ model, and adds a lot of black features such as a grille surround, black bow-tie, black door handles and black mirror caps, a "little bit more sinister approach to the Impala," said Todd Parker, a GM senior design manager.

The Impala Blackout has an all-black interior and features a 3.6-liter V-6 engine.

Depending on interest in the concept, Parker said the Impala Blackout is "something that's very doable in the future."

Chevy also previewed its Sonic Performance concept that includes engine performance, suspension and brakes and appearance enhancements. It includes a Chevy stage kit that allows the turbo engine to produce more horsepower. A Sonic Accessories concept in white features a matte black stripe, white headlamp rings, black grille surround, mirror covers and rear spoiler, plus a Chevy suspension kit to lower the ride height. It also unveiled a Cruze RS Plus concept that builds on the RS model, adding a wildfire metallic exterior paint, matte black twin-stripes and a custom rear spoiler.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Detroit – — The M-1 Rail project along Woodward Avenue entered a new phase Saturday with the pouring of the first concrete along the tracks between John R and Clifford streets.

Construction workers will pour some 900 cubic yards of concrete around the previously-installed track in a process that should be complete just before the Thanksgiving Day parade along Woodward.

“A project like M-1 Rail is somewhat unique in the construction process and different from what people might see in road construction,” M1-Rail Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs said in a statement issued Friday. “We do significant pre-pour preparation to ensure the rail is properly secured, elevated and aligned before we pour any concrete. That helps assure the streetcars will ride smoothly and quietly up and down the tracks.” A Boston Construction Lawyer has experience representing clients in construction law matters.

Concrete will continue to be poured along the rest of the line. When closures of intersections are necessary, the work should begin on a Friday and re-open Monday, said Childs.

Construction methods take into account the drastic variation in Michigan’s weather, said Childs. The rail itself will have a grout pad or “rubber boot” around it, which provides vibration dampening and noise reduction, and also protects the steel from water seepage and stray currents emanating from either the streetcar-charging system itself, or from existing municipal utilities feeds.

“The boot assures safety, but also lets the rail expand longitudinally — in response to both heat and cold weather,” said Childs. “Of course that’s important for our Michigan weather, but more importantly, it protects the underground steel assets from water, current, and other environmental factors, and assures safety for rail passengers.” A Chicago Construction Lawyer is experienced in assisting clients in managing construction projects.

The system with 12 stops is expected to have 1.8 million riders in its first year of operation, rising to 3 million by 2035. M-1 has raised $20 million in an operating fund to defray expenses for the first six years — but plans to raise that to $25 million before the first riders use the system, estimating it will need $5.3 million a year to subsidize operating costs initially.

The first shovels went into the ground on Woodward in late July; crews began welding track in September. The 3.1-mile line from downtown to Midtown is to be completed in late 2016. On Sept. 9, the project was awarded a $12.2 million federal grand to help build a vehicle maintenance facility, improve pedestrian access and include a fiber optic duct bank that will support broadband upgrades to increase Internet access at Wayne State University and other educational institutions.

Workers from local Detroit unions are doing the concrete work, and flaggers are placed at the intersections to assure safety – and that the new concrete isn’t disturbed.

23 October 2014


Original Story: detroitnews.com

General Motors Co. said Friday that its general counsel, and one of GM CEO Mary Barra's closest advisers, has chosen to retire early next year.

The Detroit automaker said it immediately will begin an external search to replace Michael Millikin, who has held the top legal job at GM since 2009. He holds a key position in GM's executive team as the company continues to face legal challenges and investigations in wake of its ignition switch recall crisis this year. GM faces investigations by Justice Department, 45 state attorney general's offices and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. An Atlanta Corporate Governance Lawyer is experienced in resolving disputes to minimize risk and disruption of corporate matters.

In July, GM CEO Mary Barra stood by the company's top lawyer, saying she had no plans to fire him after he was harshly criticized by a Senate panel investigating GM's delayed ignition switch recall.

"Mike has had a tremendous career, spanning more than 40 years, with the vast majority of it at GM," Barra said in a statement issued Friday. "He has led global legal teams through incredibly complex transactions, been a trusted and respected confidant to senior management, and even led the company's global business response team following the tragedy of 9/11.

"For me personally, Mike has been incredibly helpful over the past two decades. I find him a man of impeccable integrity, respectful candor, and unwavering loyalty. He will be missed. I wish him and his wife, Karen, much happiness in this next chapter of their lives."

Millikin, 66, will remain in his position until a new general counsel is in place, the company said.

Several employees from GM's legal department were among those Barra fired following results of GM's internal investigation into why it took more than a decade to recall nearly 2.6 million older Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and older cars for faulty ignition switches. The bad switches have now been tied to 27 deaths. A Boston Business Litigation Attorney is experienced in handling commercial disputes.

Barra and Millkin were cleared of any wrongdoing in the investigation, but at least four GM lawyers were fired of 15 whom Barra terminated. The report showed GM lawyers were allowed to settle lawsuits without notifying Millikin. GM said in July it had retained an outside law firm to review how it responds to lawsuits and other legal matters.

Earlier this year, during the fourth Congressional hearing into GM's ignition switch recall, Barra strongly defended Millikin. Millikin said he didn't learn until early February of the ignition switch problem, even though the legal department was warned of a potential problem in a lawsuit dating back to April 2013.

"How in the world in the aftermath of (the GM internal) report did Michael Millikin keep his job? This is either gross negligence or gross incompetence on the part of a lawyer," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said at the time. She headed the Senate Commerce panel hearing testimony from Barra, Millikin, Delphi Automotive CEO Rodney O'Neal, compensation adviser Ken Feinberg and Anton Valukas, the outside attorney who led GM's internal investigation.

GM's culture of "lawyering up ... killed innocent customers of General Motors," McCaskill added. "I think the failure of this legal department is stunning."

Barra said she "respectfully" disagreed, and defended Millikin as a man of "incredibly high integrity." "I need the right team," Barra said. "He's the person I need on this team."

Some people have said to change GM's culture, it needs new blood, including in the legal department.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), back in the July Senate hearing, said Millikin should resign.

"With Mr. Millikin's retirement, GM has an opportunity to bring in fresh leadership and sever another tie to the Old GM," Blumenthal said in a statement Friday.

GM Chairman Tim Solso, in a statement, said the board wishes Millkin well in his retirement.

"Mike has served the Board extremely well," Solso said in a statement. "He has been a valued adviser, a strong leader and a consistent and honest voice over the past several years."

Millikin served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Detroit, concentrating on the prosecution of drug and drug conspiracy cases before joining in GM in 1977. With the automaker, Millikin held a number of legal positions for the company, including heading in-house litigation in 1987 where he led the company's response to theft of confidential data and documents by Jose Ignacio Lopez and others. He also served on the strategy board for GM's International Operations and was named to the Opel Supervisory Board in the late 1990s.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New York — aided by a federal grand jury and the FBI — is investigating whether GM lawyers misled the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in its investigation into the ignition switches, among other issues under review by the Justice Department.

The recall of the cars was delayed more than a decade after some in the company became aware of the problem. Ignition switches in Cobalts, Ions and other older cars turn too easily and can allow the key to shut off the engine inadvertently in a crash or when bumped. That can disable power steering and power brakes, creating control problems. And in a front-end crash, air bags won't inflate.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Advocates for the disabled and elderly today settled a lawsuit against Detroit Metropolitan Airport with an agreement to make it more convenient for the disabled and the elderly to get to the terminal from public buses and vans.

The Wayne County Airport Authority has agreed to modify the Ground Transportation Center with an indoor information counter for the service providers, direct dial phones for passengers who need assistance, better signage and wider lanes for buses.

The agreement was announced in U.S. District Court in Detroit Friday morning after days of negotiations. At issue was the airport’s decision last month to no longer allow public transportation services to pick up and drop off passengers at the McNamara Terminal.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit contended they would be forced to navigate their way to the terminal from a long distance in inclement weather.

The move prompted a flurry of protest letters and a call from Gov. Rick Snyder for both sides to achieve an amicable outcome.

In return for the improvements, the buses for Michigan Flyer-Air Ride agree to continue operating out of the Ground Transportation Center. Passengers who are disabled or elderly will have help getting to and from the transportation center. That will be provided by either a representative of the transit service or a contractor of Delta Airlines, the agreement states.

Michael Harris, one of the two plaintiffs in the case who is involved with the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America, called it a “win-win for everyone involved.”

“We’re really getting what we wanted to get,” Harris said. “We’re getting an airport that people will be able to access in a safe environment. I believe it’s a win for (the airport) because the traveling public, able and disabled, will have an enjoyable flying experience. Both sides were willing to compromise and at the end of the day we have outcome that both sides can live with.”

Airport officials, who had remained silent about the lawsuit, said they are happy with the agreement.

“We are pleased to work in a spirit of cooperation with representatives of the plaintiffs, as well as Michigan Flyer, to reach a consensus we all accept,” said airport authority CEO Thomas Naughton in a statement. “This is a great example of reasonable people working together to create a safer and more customer-friendly environment.”

Jason Turkish, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the disability rights community, said the airport was wrong in thinking that moving the drop-off and pick-up sites to the transportation center promoted safety.

Turkish said the biggest change is the presence of permanent staff in a climate- controlled part of the airport to help monitor when people need help to and from the public transportation buses.

“This is going to allow disabled and non-disabled passengers alike to not have to go wait outside for the bus,” he said. “They are going to be able to stay in the comfort, convenience and safety of a climate controlled environment until the time when the bus is going to arrive.”

Although the walk is still 600 feet from the drop off location to the terminal, the pathway that passengers will walk along will be completely remodeled so it complies to Americans with Disabilities Act, Turkish said.

Naughton, who along with other airport officials contended the move from the increasingly congested McNamara Terminal was needed, was “always about customer safety.”

“We are comfortable that the GTC enhancements, to which we have all agreed, maintain a safe environment for our customers,” he said.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Rochester Hills — An investigation into "sexting" of photographs between at least 31 teenagers in Rochester Community Schools is expected to take at least two more weeks, an Oakland County Sheriff's captain said Thursday.

Meanwhile, an attorney for a Rochester Hills student and another involved in a similar investigation in Romeo schools, said the activity is much more widespread and she has heard the number is likely double that under investigation.

Attorney Shannon Smith said Michigan State Police are investigating reports of about 10 incidents in the Romeo school system unrelated to the Rochester cases.

"This is happening everywhere, it's over the top," Smith said. "I have been contacted by schools and parents elsewhere in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties who have found similar photos on their children's cellphones and want to know what to do about it.

"Some school systems are trying to keep it quiet."

Smith said several school systems, including Rochester, have instructed students that the activity is illegal and dangerous.

"The thing is, this might start out as a completely innocent but misguided event between kids — someone taking a selfie of themselves without clothes and sending it to someone else," she said. "But the consequences of this can be very severe."

Smith said consenting adults — those 17 or older — can legally send such photos to each other but a 17-year-old involved with a younger person could be prosecuted as an adult with a child pornography felony designed for child predators that carries up to 20 years in prison. There is no age of consent for juveniles.

"Even if they are petitioned as juveniles, there can be serious consequences," she said. "It can go on their permanent record. I've had student clients who have been unable to get student housing later in college because they have it on their record."

Capt. Michael Johnson of the Rochester Hills substation said cell phones confiscated from suspected students — 24 girls and 7 boys, ages 14 to 16 — have been turned over to the department's computer crimes section for forensic review to determine who sent photos, who was photographed, who received them and if they were shared with others.

The photos involve portions of naked bodies, Johnson said. Some photographs were sent anonymously to others. Some include faces, but faces are obscured in other photos.

The photos are frequently circulated among other students.

"In mid-September one student heard others talking about photos they had received or sent on their phones," Johnson said. "It was reported to school officials and then to one of our school liaison officers who began an investigation."

The majority of the teens attend Rochester Adams High School and at least one is enrolled at Van Hoosen Middle School, Johnson said.

Debra Hartman, a spokeswoman for Rochester Community schools, deferred all questions to the sheriff's office.

"This is a sheriff's department investigation and we will wait for their findings before anything is discussed regarding students," said Hartman, who said none of the students suspected of activity has been disciplined or suspended.

Smith noted damage from the activity can extend beyond explicit photographs being shared between juveniles.

"It may be a sign of the times that young people discovering their sexuality feel it's all right to share photos of themselves, but it's not," she said. "In some cases, this has led to fights and bullying. Students calling others sluts for putting out such photographs of themselves.

"Its pretty wild and it's a mess."

13 October 2014


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Detroit — Legal proceedings are over, for now, in the case of a Detroit police officer who killed 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, but those most affected say the pain will linger.

For the second time a mistrial was declared in the case, this one on the remaining charge — a misdemeanor — in the trial of Officer Joseph Weekley, who killed Aiyana during a May 2010 police raid. Like the jury in the first trial last year, the panel Friday said it was unable to reach a verdict. A Westchester County Police Brutality Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Wayne County prosecutors will decide next month whether to try the misdemeanor case again. They will only be able to charge Weekley with careless discharge of a firearm causing death, because Wayne County Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway earlier threw out the involuntary manslaughter charge against the officer.

But Aiyana's great-uncle said the family has had enough.

"The mom is hurt again," Londell Fields said of his niece, Aiyana's mother, Dominka Stanley, who sat quietly in the back row of the courtoom for most of the trial. "She don't want to go through it again. ... She wants it to be over with. There's nothing left to be said about it; it's done."

Weekley said in a statement that he will be haunted by Aiyana's death for the rest of his life.

"My life has been ruined irreparably by the events that occurred on May 16, 2010," he said. "There has not been one single day that has gone by since that day where I have not thought about the loss of Aiyana, and I will be haunted by this tragedy for the rest of my life. No family ever deserves to lose a child, and I have nothing but sympathy for the family of Aiyana Jones. A Dutchess County Police Brutality Lawyer has experience managing a variety of police brutality cases.

"No parent ever deserves to lose a child, regardless of the circumstances. I know in my heart and before God that what transpired that day was out of my control, but I will still have terrible grief weigh upon me every day for the rest of my life," Weekley said.

The jury at Weekley's retrial told the court it was deadlocked twice Friday. The judge urged them to continue deliberations after the jurors sent an initial message to the court Friday afternoon, saying: "Judge Hathaway, we are stalemated over the same things as we were on Wednesday. We have discussed this from every possible angle and are unable to come to a unanimous decision."

In June 2013, a mistrial for Weekley also was declared after no verdict could be reached on the involuntary manslaughter charge.

"These things happen. We would rather they didn't happen, but it's not something we are unfamiliar with," Hathaway told the jurors Friday after they informed her they were unable to reach a verdict.

This jury only had to weigh the misdemeanor charge after a ruling last week by Hathaway dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge. The manslaughter charge, a felony, carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The directed verdict by Hathaway was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and two years in prison.

Roland Lawrence, chairman of the Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee, blasted the judge for tossing the felony count before the jury got the case.

"Judge Hathaway's dismissal of felony charges ... we believe poisoned the jury's ability to reach a verdict," he said in a statement.

Two versions of events

The trial came down to whether the jury believed Weekley or Aiyana's grandmother about what happened in the seconds after police threw a "flash-bang" grenade into the house and Weekley led a Detroit Police Special Response Team squad inside looking for a murderer.

Weekley has said the girl's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, slapped at his submachine gun, causing him to accidentally shoot Aiyana.

Jones has testified that Weekley walked into the house on Lillibridge, put his gun to the sleeping girl's head and shot her on the living room couch.

Prosecutors have said the shooting was an accident, but say Weekley was negligent because he kept his finger on the trigger of his gun, causing it to fire.

"I think that Mr. Weekley should apologize, and just say he made a mistake," Fields said Friday. "I don't think that it's fair because he's a police officer that he gets to get away with this again."

After failing to reach a verdict in the misdemeanor case after four days of deliberations, jurors met with reporters Friday in the jury room.

Hathaway, who said this case has been the longest she's presided over in more than 20 years on the bench, advised them not to release their names.

The jury foreman, a minister, said it was a difficult decision. After three votes, he said the jury tally was five guilty, seven not guilty.

"This was an emotional case," he said, his voice catching. "There were tears in this room. I think we all felt this deeply.

"It really came down to the definition of 'negligence.' Three words were separated by 'or' – careless, reckless or negligence. We really wrestled with the language. We spent an endless amount of time talking about the difference between ordinary and slight negligence."

Jurors said race not an issue

When asked if race played a part in their deliberations, several jurors quickly insisted it hadn't.

One juror said those who thought Weekley was guilty felt he should have controlled his weapon.

"They go through all that training and are supposed to have muscle memory," one man said.

Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality director Ron Scott said he was upset with the outcome of the case.

"This is a defining moment in the history of Detroit," he said. "There has to be some justice for Aiyana Jones."

Wayne County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Maria Miller said prosecutors will decide whether to recharge Weekley at a Nov. 21 hearing.

"This multi-racial, multi-ethnic jury did the very best they could to reach a verdict in this case," said Steve Fishman, Weekley's attorney, in an email. "This case has now been before two juries, once on a felony charge and once on a misdemeanor charge, and neither of them have been able to reach a verdict. In my opinion, twice is enough. The case should be dismissed."


Original Story: detroitnews.com

This summer, Detroit spent tens of thousands of dollars replacing sidewalk wheelchair ramps in little traveled areas.

The bankrupt city put in ramps, costing about $10,000 per intersection, along crumbling sidewalks along Warren near Conner. In one half-mile stretch, from St. Jean to Cadillac, there are 52 new sets of ramps.

Some face brick walls. Others provide access to an empty lot where Helen Joy Middle School stood until it was razed in 2009. On many corners, sidewalks end after the ramps.

"You drive down some of these streets and there are blocks of no houses, but pretty new curbs," said Sherman Hayes, 84, a retired nurse who lives nearby on Lakewood Street. "Look at all these ramps to nowhere. It makes my blood boil."

Detroit officials say they have no choice. The work is the latest in a decadelong, court-imposed effort to force Detroit into compliance with federal handicapped accessible laws.

An order from U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen requires the city to build ramps on every road it resurfaces — and at every local intersection of major roads, said Ron Brundidge, director of the city's department of public works. In eight years, the city has spent $30 million to install 25,000 ramps. The work is far from over: City officials estimate they need to build another 50,000 ramps for $60 million to comply.

Few are happy.

Detroit is using gas taxes that otherwise could be spent on fixing streets to build ramps in often empty neighborhoods. Wheelchair users agree that building so-called ramps to nowhere is a waste of money — but point out there are still large areas of the city without working ramps.

Talks began for a compromise but ended when Detroit declared bankruptcy last year. Neither side can change the plan because the ongoing bankruptcy trial suspended litigation, but wheelchair advocates say they want to resume talks when the trial ends.

"We'd rather see the city's limited resources applied to areas with more foot traffic," said Michael Harris, executive director of Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America, which sued to enforce federal law mandating the ramps.

"It makes absolutely no sense to build them in some of these areas."

Within the past year, new ramps were installed a few blocks south of Warren in front of a burned-out liquor store at Cadillac and Canfield. The sidewalk ends 10 feet after the ramp, which is overgrown with weeds. Over on Kercheval, ramps provide access to empty lots and burned out homes near Canton.

"Who would think it's OK to put up ramps where there are no houses?" Hayes asked. "In the wintertime, how are you going to use those ramps when there is no one who lives there to shovel?"

Meanwhile, better-traveled areas — even some near downtown — lack working ramps, making getting around "very, very difficult" for wheelchair users such as Inene Laverne, she said.

"They need to put in ramps where they are needed," said Laverne, 50, who lives near Midtown and has used a motorized wheelchair for eight years because of a bad back.

"Sometimes, you have to go into the street and they are raggedy. It messes up your suspension and you need to get your wheels replaced."

Before the work this year, there were ramps up and down East Warren. It was easy for wheelchair users to travel east and west, but getting to the other side of Warren required a few turns into traffic.

"Basically, they were put in the position of jaywalking," said J. Mark Finnegan, an attorney for the veterans group.

Now, every corner along the stretch has at least two new orange "tactile warning" curb ramps with raised bumps. One faces the cross street, the other faces Warren.

The ramps are the nicest part of the sidewalks on Warren. In several stretches, the sidewalks are broken and almost unpassable.

"There's a question of how much benefit the city receives for something that is underutilized," Brundidge said.

"We aren't disputing the need for sidewalks to be accessible for all, but someone could make an argument that it isn't the best use for taxpayer dollars when you look at the money spent and compare it to how much it is used."

The law requiring the ramps isn't new. The Americans with Disabilities Act took effect in 1991. Detroit signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2004 to build all the ramps by 2007. The veterans sued in 2006 when the city had made no progress, said Denise Heberle, an Ann Arbor-based attorney for the group.

"We hear it all the time: 'Poor bankrupt Detroit has to put up curb cuts it can't afford because of those paralyzed veterans,' " she said. "If Detroit had followed the law a long time ago, it wouldn't be in this position."

Finnegan said about 400 intersections downtown still lack working ramps. The city agreed to build ramps first in an area roughly from Grand River to Jefferson and the Lodge to Interstate 375. It built about 4,800 but has "absolutely refused" to complete the rest, Finnegan said.

On Gratiot, the ramps are so steep that wheelchair users have to go up them in reverse, Finnegan said. Otherwise, the wheelchairs will tip over, he said.

"We've been saying for years, 'fix these ramps and stop working in the middle of nowhere,' and they won't do it," Finnegan said.

Until recently, Woodward and Jefferson near the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center lacked working ramps because of a standoff over whether the city or state should build them. The city had contended it shouldn't be responsible for major roads that double as state routes.

"Every intersection is supposed to be accessible and it should have been done a long time ago," Finnegan said. "When the bankruptcy settles, we are going to be back on them again."