Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Local Prosecutor Adds Insult to Injury

Courtesy Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal

I try not to write about local issues unless I think they either have larger significance or are so infuriating, so unjust and ridiculous and downright wrong, that I can’t control myself.

The latter is what’s going on 15 miles northwest of my Ingham County home.

Last January, 16-year-old Haille Collett was driving her 12-year-old sister, Brielle, to school when she lost control of the Jeep Liberty she was driving and slid into a school bus. Investigators determined that she wasn’t texting or applying makeup at the time – she just lost control on a snow-covered road. Happens all the time. She wasn’t even ticketed. Yet the county prosecutor in neighboring Eaton County, Jeff Sauter, has decided that Haille should be charged in juvenile court with a “moving violation causing serious injury.” She faces as much as two years in a juvenile facility.

Jeff Sauter photo courtesy
Greg DeRuiter/Lansing State Journal
Although Haille was hurt in the crash, her little sister was critically injured. Brielle was in a coma for a month, has had seven surgeries and is in a rehabilitation facility in Grand Rapids, an hour away. She will need extensive therapy and for now can only communicate with her family through limited hand gestures.

Can you imagine the guilt that young Haille’s feeling? I’m told she visits her sister – with whom she’s always shared a special bond – several times a week, maintains good grades, works part-time and holds down the fort at home when their mother’s in Grand Rapids. The last thing she needs is to be raked over judicial coals by a heartless, overzealous, showboating prosecutor who obviously has questionable judgment, too much time on his hands, or both.

Sauter – who’s been Eaton County Prosecutor since 1991 – was quoted in our local paper, the Lansing State Journal, as saying the charge “could have no consequences for her.” Then why spend tax dollars and exacerbate an already-traumatic situation, Mr. Sauter? It’s not like you need your name in the newspaper. (Did I mention that Republican Governor Rick Snyder just appointed Sauter to fill a 56th Circuit Court judge vacancy?)

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for early June. Sauter can change his mind, and local Magistrate Colleen Maylee can dismiss the case if she so desires. If “What’s the Diehl?” readers want to share their thoughts on this matter, here’s how to do it:

Eaton County Prosecutor Jeff Sauter
Eaton County Courthouse
1045 Independence Boulevard
Charlotte, MI 48813

Magistrate Colleen Maylee
Eaton County Judicial Circuit
Family Division
822 Courthouse Drive
Charlotte, MI 48813

Sources: Lansing State Journal, Juvenile Justice Association of Michigan,

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