Lapeer Judge Byron Konschuh Charged With Embezzlement
Following a lengthy investigation by Michigan State Police, Lapeer Circuit Court Judge Byron Konschuh faces 5 embezzlement charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. He stands accused of taking money from a bad-check recovery program.
"LAPEER COUNTY, MI -- Allegations of embezzlement against a Lapeer County Judge arose just months after Judge Byron Konschuh left the prosecutor's office to serve as Lapeer County Circuit Court.
The allegations stem from Konschuh's time as the county's prosecutor, said Lapeer County Controller/Administrator John Biscoe.
Biscoe said the allegations have to do with the use of funds that came into the county through a bad-check recovery program. Biscoe stressed he did not know all the facts of the investigation.
Konschuh was arraigned Friday on five counts of felony embezzlement in front of Lapeer County Magistrate Gregory Wise. Wise set a personal bond of $10,000.
[']The missing funds came to our attention in December of 2013,['] read a news release from Lapeer County Prosecutor Tim Turkelson.
[']After consulting with the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, the Lapeer County Prosecutor Tim Turkelson was advised to contact the Office of the Michigan Attorney General for further investigation,['] the statement read. [']The Attorney General then assigned the case to the Shiawassee County Prosecutor due to the conflict of interest with Tim Turkelson having been an Assistant Prosecutor for five years and Chief Assistant Prosecutor for another five years under Konschuh.[']
The charges facing Konschuh carry a penalty of 10 years or a $5,000 fine.
Konschuh's attorney, Mike Sharkey, said he cannot discuss the particulars of the case, but stressed his client is presumed innocent [']until and unless proven guilty.[']
[']This matter will be resolved by a trial by jury in the county of Lapeer,['] Sharkey said. [']I intend to see to it that my client's constitutional rights to a fair trial are protected.[']
The case stems from [']a lengthy investigation by Michigan State Police['] covering the years 2009 through 2013, according to Shiawassee County Prosecutor Deana Finnegan, who was assigned to act as special prosecutor on the case.
Wise said during the arraignment that a judge would be brought in from another county to hear the case. A pre-preliminary conference was scheduled for Friday, July 25.
Konschuh served as Lapeer County prosecutor from 2000 until last year, when he was appointed judge by Gov. Rick Snyder to replace Circuit Judge Michael Higgins, who retired.
Konschuh spoke very little during the arraignment, answering only a few questions from Wise. Konschuh wore a suit and tie and stood beside his attorney. The two stood close to Wise's bench and left the courtroom immediately following the arraignment.
The charges mean Konschuh's position as a judge is on the line. Conviction of a felony in Michigan results in the loss of a law license. Without a law license, a person can't serve as a judge.
Conviction or unethical behavior puts a judge at risk of further potential penalties from the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission and the Michigan Supreme Court, according to Michigan Court Rules. The rules state that a felony conviction subjects a judge to [']censure, suspension with or without pay, retirement or removal.[']
In addition to going through the criminal court system, if a judge is convicted of a crime the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission typically will also investigate the case. The commission would come up with a recommendation and submit it to the state's Supreme Court, which makes the final decision on how or if a judge should be punished."