Drug cases moving too slowly

Published 6:34 pm Saturday, February 4, 2006

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - As Dowagiac Rotarians did the previous week, Cass County commissioners Thursday questioned the pace of Drug Enforcement Team cases through the judicial system.
The year-old, five-member drug team shared by the Sheriff's Office and Dowagiac Police Department, which voters fortified with millage support in August 2004, faces twin challenges in jail overcrowding and time spent in court idling a limited number of officers in the field.
Commissioner Johnie Rodebush, D-Howard Township, said, “You talk about spending time in court, I called (state) Sen. (Ron) Jelinek's office last Monday because they were going to vote Tuesday on about three bills in the House on preliminary exams. Typically, you have sheriff's deputies waiting up to two to three hours on overtime and over 90 percent of the time the defense attorney shows up and waives the exam, wasting time that could be spent on the street.”
Rodebush said 60 of Michigan's jails are at or exceeding capacity.
That pivoted the discussion to Prosecutor Victor Fitz, seated in the audience.
Such hearings must take place within 14 days, Fitz told Commissioner Minnie Warren, D-Pokagon Township. “When someone's arrested this week, in Cass County the judges set it pretty quickly, before the 14 days on the following Thursday. We get an offer on the case and meet with them again before the preliminary examination after they've had a chance to go over the offer with their clients in jail or in their offices.”
Wagel invited Fitz to address a future session of the commission for a formal presentation in more detail.