E.L. police will not charge most rioters with felonies
Police will not seek felony charges against the majority of individuals arrested in connection with the April 5-6 Cedar Fest riot, East Lansing police Lt. Kevin Daley said Thursday.
Daley said suspects still could be charged with felonies if they committed a more serious riot offense than ignoring orders to disperse or throwing bottles, but very few suspects will receive such charges.
Lisa McCormick, a child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence chief for the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, said so far, no suspects from Cedar Fest have received felony charges.
Daley said the decision to prosecute cases as misdemeanors was made partially to keep the cases in the city’s 54-B District Court. Felony cases would have to be referred to the Ingham County Circuit Court in Mason. By keeping the cases in the city’s court system, the fees and penalties associated with them are retained by East Lansing.
Assistant City Attorney Tom Yeadon said money was not a factor in the decision to keep the cases within the city’s court system.
Daley said police also wanted to spare college-aged suspects from having serious offenses on their records as they graduate and apply for jobs.
If convicted of a felony riot charge, suspects could be banned from the state’s publicly funded universities for up to two years and receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
A city ordinance allowing riot charges to be classified as misdemeanors lessens the maximum sentence to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine, and reduces the maximum time a person can be banned from public universities to one year.
“Even though a lot of the conduct could probably be classified as a felony, it’s being run through our office because … it does give them a break on the amount of time they can be expelled,” Yeadon said.
Lee June, the university’s vice president for Student Affairs and Services, said police’s decision to charge students with misdemeanors will not affect the length of suspensions the university is issuing to some students.
As of Friday, eight students had been suspended from MSU for their actions at Cedar Fest. Some suspensions are unrelated to charges made by police because the university’s judicial system isn’t related to city or county courts.
“They’re dealing in the criminal courts and here, we’re talking about violations of university ordinance,” June said.
He said university officials haven’t finished reviewing all the Cedar Fest-related cases they have received, so more suspensions could be made.
McCormick helped prosecute cases stemming from the March 1999 riots, when 113 people were convicted of crimes and many were charged with felonies. She said the decision not to pursue felony charges from Cedar Fest makes sense because fewer serious offenses were committed.
“In 1999, there was definitely a much larger scale of riot that occurred, so there were different cases that went through,” McCormick said.