Prosecutor: No criminal charges against Mike Morse in restaurant groping case

The Genesee County Prosecutor’s office announced Monday that it will not bring criminal charges against personal injury attorney Mike Morse in connection with allegations he groped a woman at a Farmington Hills restaurant.

“Our office has done a thorough evaluation of the law and the facts presented to us in the police investigation and have determined the case is better suited for the civil arena," Prosecutor David Leyton said in a news release. "As such, we will not be issuing criminal charges. We admire the courage of the victim in this case to come forward in such difficult circumstances."

The woman, identified as Renee Swain of Novi, was the first of five women who came forward this spring to claim in civil lawsuits that Morse made unwanted advances. All five have been represented by attorney Geoffrey Fieger. Each lawsuit has sought millions of dollars in damages.

Morse has denied all the sexual assault claims.

Two of the civil cases have since been sent to private arbitration; another was dismissed in Michigan and refiled in Florida.

The alleged restaurant assault would have occurred in Oakland County, but the potential criminal case was assigned to Genesse County after Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper recused herself. Morse hosted a campaign fund-raiser for Cooper last year at his office.

Attorney Deborah Gordon, who is representing Morse, said Monday that she was pleased with the prosecutor's decision and thanked Genesee County for its thorough examination of the facts.

“I suspect the same thing is going to happen in the civil case," Gordon said. "This particular complainant does not have much credibility, to say the least.”

Gordon said she believes Morse will ultimately prevail in all five civil cases.

“There is nothing to them at all," Gordon said. "This is all about something that Geoff Fieger has against Mike Morse."

Fieger, in a phone interview, responded: "If Mr. Leyton is a coward and doesn't want to bring charges, so be it."

Fieger, who is considering a run for governor, said he also hopes to obtain as early as Tuesday an undercover recording taken by Swain of Morse "confessing to the crime."

“Then the public will be able to hear Mr. Morse's confession," he said.

But Gordon denied that the recording contains any confession from Morse. She also took issue with Fieger's assessment of the Genesse County prosecutor's decision to not issue charges.

“It’s exactly the opposite of being a coward," she said. "It takes guts to make a tough decision and make the right call when you have someone like Geoff Fieger breathing down your neck."

In her $10-million lawsuit, Swain claims that Morse approached her the evening of April 6 while she was dining with friends at Steven Lelli's Inn on the Green in Farmington Hills.

The lawsuit says Morse then "lured" her to a private room and asked to take a photo with him. Morse then allegedly grabbed her breasts as she held out her phone to take the photo, asking whether that made the photo better, according to the lawsuit.

The woman left the restaurant and reported the alleged sexual assault to Farmington Hills Police. Later, she was contacted by a friend, who relayed that the owner of Lelli's Inn wanted to set up a meeting with her, him and Morse, according to Swain's lawsuit.

Farmington police purportedly provided Swain with surveillance tools before the meeting and she was wearing a wire when Morse allegedly confessed.

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Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or jcreindl@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JCReindl.

Where the five civil lawsuits against Morse stand:

Sent to arbitration:

  • A $15-million case in which a former Mike Morse Law Firm receptionist claims Morse groped and sexually harassed her on the job.
  • A $20-million case in which a former Morse Law paralegal claims Morse grabbed her breasts at the office Christmas party.

Dismissed but refiled in Florida:

  • A $17.5-million case in which an Orchard Lake woman, known only as Jane Doe, claims Morse grabbed her breasts while in the back seat of a vehicle in Miami.

Still pending:

  • The $10-million case alleging groping at a Farmington Hills restaurant.
  • A $25-million case in which a Taylor woman claims Morse made lewd remarks, rubbed against her and grabbed her buttocks at a Christmas party.

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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