Thursday, February 2, 2023

New Ingham County prosecutor reverses felony firearm policy

January 9, 2023
<p>Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecuctor John Dewane listens during the arraignment hearing of Ricard Taylor on May 14, 2014, at East Lansing 54B District Court. Taylor stands trial for seven felony charges. Danyelle Morrow/The State News</p>

Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecuctor John Dewane listens during the arraignment hearing of Ricard Taylor on May 14, 2014, at East Lansing 54B District Court. Taylor stands trial for seven felony charges. Danyelle Morrow/The State News

Photo by Danyelle Morrow | The State News

Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane announced Monday morning his office will enforce Michigan’s felony firearm law for any person who commits a felony while using or possessing a firearm to commit a crime.

Dewane is eight days into his tenure as the county prosecutor, having taken office at the start of the new year. He was chosen to succeed Carol Siemon, who resigned halfway into her four-year term.

This policy is a reversal of what Siemon's office announced in 2021. When Siemon led the office, the charge was limited to individuals who used a firearm during a crime. Individuals who had a firearm but did not use them while committing a different crime would not be charged with a felony firearm.

Siemon’s policy was part of a series of reforms her office enacted to address mass incarceration and racial equity to promote justice and fairness in charging decisions and equitable results in sentencing.

In 2018, there were 269 people serving felony firearm sentences on Ingham County cases. Out of the 269 people incarcerated, 80% were Black. Ingham County's population was 12% Black in 2018.

In a statement about the decision, Dewane said his first priority is to address what he called a "dramatic rise in serious, violent and gun-related crimes" in the area.

“I believe that if a firearm is used in the commission of a crime it changes the nature of an offense,” Dewane said in the statement. “It makes that crime uniquely dangerous and life-threatening.” 

Dewane also announced it will charge individuals who are repeat felony offenders under Michigan’s Habitual Offender law.

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