Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith resigns amid corruption charges

Smith facing 10 criminal corruption charges

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith pleads not guilty in corruption case
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith pleads not guilty in corruption case

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith announced Monday that he has resigned amid corruption charges.

Smith has been hit with 10 criminal corruption charges -- including running a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony -- in connection with the alleged misuse of county forfeiture funds.

Here’s the full resignation letter from Smith:

"Since 1993, I have served the citizens of Macomb County as an assistant prosecuting attorney and then as the elected prosecuting attorney to the best of my abilities. I could never see myself in any other profession. I have had the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated public servants one could hope to know. From my colleagues in the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, members of the judiciary, members of local, county and state government, to the men and women in law enforcement departments across the state, I am honored to have stood shoulder to shoulder with so many exemplary people in the fight for justice.

"With that said, it is with heavy heart that today I am announcing my immediate resignation from the Office of the Macomb County Prosecutor. After much reflection, I know that for the betterment of my family, my health, and the citizens of Macomb County it is time for me to step aside so that the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office can continue its great tradition of serving and protecting the county.

"There have been several allegations leveled against me by the Michigan Department of Attorney General in the past few days. I intend to whole-heartedly defend myself against those allegations. I have been part of the criminal justice system for close to thirty years. Know that I have absolute confidence that our cherished justice system will bring forth the truth and exonerate me.

“To the citizens of Macomb County, thank you for allowing me to be your prosecutor for so many years. I remain humbled by your trust and confidence in me. The Office of the Macomb County Prosecutor is bigger than any one person. I know that the office will continue to serve the county with distinction. God bless you all.”

Smith was arraigned Friday morning in 41B District Court.

A not guilty plea was entered on Smith’s behalf. A probable cause conference has been set for 8:30 a.m. April 3. The state asked for a $250,000 personal recognizance bond, while the defense asked for it be to $10,000. The state also asked for Smith’s passport to be seized and for Smith to be held from not leaving the state of Michigan.

Eric Smith (WDIV)

Judge Cynthia Arvant decided Smith does not appear to be a flight risk, as he is still working as the county prosecutor. She set his personal bond at $100,000, ordered his passport surrendered and that he does not have contact with his codefendants or any witnesses for anything relative to this case.

Smith was charged with conducting a criminal enterprise, five counts of embezzlement by a public official, misconduct in office, tampering with evidence, accessory after the fact and conspiracy to commit forgery.

State officials allege Smith’s right-hand man, current Prosecutor’s Office operations manager and former Macomb County state representative and county treasurer Derek Miller, committed misconduct in office and conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner with Smith.

Retired Prosecutor’s Office employee Benjamin Liston is also charged, as is William Weber Jr., who owns a security company.

Benjamin Liston at his arraignment March 27, 2020. (WDIV)

Liston pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Friday. His counsel, attorney David Griem, waived Liston’s probable cause conference. A preliminary exam has been set for 8:30 a.m. April 9.

The state asked for a $200,000 personal bond for Liston. They also said Liston has a second residence in Arizona, where they claim he fled to after charges were announced.

Benjamin Liston (WDIV)

“Total lie,” Liston interrupted.

Griem said Liston has been living in Arizona with his wife and immediately traveled to Michigan when requested and called it “disingenuous” to say he “fled” the state. He requested that Liston be allowed to travel between his home in Arizona, his home in Warren, Mich. and the court in Michigan, and asked for bond to be set lower. Griem also said Liston’s passport will be handed over to the court.

Judge Arvant said she does not see Liston as a risk for fleeing prosecution. She set bond at $100,00 personal. She did request for his passport to be surrendered. As for travel out of the state, Arvant said Liston will not be allowed to travel before April 9. She will reconsider travel for him after that date, depending on the state of the coronavirus outbreak.

Miller will be arraigned at a later date.

Weber was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in front of Southfield 46th District Court Judge Cynthia Arvant via video from the Michigan State Police North Metro Post.

He was released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond and ordered not to have contact with his co-defendants or travel outside the state. He also has to surrender his passport to District 4B probation within 48 hours, officials said.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith arraigned on corruption charges
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith arraigned on corruption charges

About the Authors:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.