Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is appealing a massive case in Kent County, weeks after saying he didn't regret trying to prosecute nearly a dozen former Grand Rapids Home for Veterans caregivers.
Schuette's office authorized an appeal in the case involving 11 former caregivers who allegedly falsified medical records. Over the summer, Schuette charged the workers after an investigation done by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General found they had initialed member check sheets they checked on veterans in the facility when they, in reality, hadn't done the work.
Before the appeal, very little remained of the case against the workers after a Kent County District Court judge threw out most of the charges. The judge's ruling suggested the workers didn't break the law. Attorneys for the workers argued the member check sheets weren't technically "medical records" and the defense attorneys complained the state couldn't produce video showing the workers didn't do the checks.
Despite a lack of evidence, Schuette maintained last month he thought the state of Michigan had a good case.
"When you're a veteran, in particular a veteran who served our country and you're treated in a shabby way, that's wrong," Schuette said. "I am proud of what we did and if i had to do it again, I would do it a second time."
Now the case will be appealed to the Kent County Circuit Court and, perhaps, the Michigan Court of Appeals.
This summer, multiple sources close to the situation, not connected with the employees, reached out to our investigative team to express concerns about the filing of the charges against low-level workers inside the facility.
There was deep criticism that Schuette pressed on with a prosecution of these workers knowing the video was not available and there were questions whether the documents that were falsified were really medical records.
The WZZM 13 Watchdog team found the key evidence in the case was not saved by state auditors because it wasn't technically possible for auditors to obtain the video.
We contacted leaders at the auditor general's office during our past investigation to find out why the video was never obtained. A spokesperson for the office, Kelly Miller, indicated to us the cameras at the Home for Veterans were newly installed at the time of their investigation.
"We had open access to it but we just couldn't technically make it possible to obtain the videos so we viewed them at the location there," Miller said. "We did document (what we saw) and viewed it with someone else from the Home for Veterans."
Schuette's spokeswoman Andrea Bitely told us last month Schuette authorized the charges, initially, because he believed, despite some obstacles, there was enough evidence to be able to prove a crime was committed.
Several sources have suggested to us that properly doing the checks could have provided the kind of care the veterans deserved and might have prevented potential falls or accidents. In addition, the checks were important at the time they were supposed to have been done because there were reported cases of veterans wandering in and out of the facility at all times of the night putting themselves in dangerous positions.
While it's not disputed the checks weren't done, an attorney representing some of the workers says it wasn't a crime.
"In my opinion, there has to be a political component of the prosecution," Stanley said. "To charge these people with felonies under these circumstances is almost egregious. They should have never been charged at all."
Schuette's office is expected to file the official response next week.
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