Ex-prosecutor sentenced to jail questions fairness

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Kent County prosecutor who was given special treatment by Grand Rapids police after a crash two years ago will spend a couple days in jail. 

Josh Kuiper was tried on a felony charge of reckless driving causing serious injury in October, but a jury found him guilty only of a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.

The sentence delivered Wednesday is less than what Kuiper could have gotten for the November 2016 wrong-way crash that injured a man, but the prosecutor still says he was treated unfairly. 

After attending a party for a retiring prosecutor, Kuiper was driving the wrong way down a one-way street when he crashed into a parked car, injuring Daniel Empson.

Kuiper was not given a breathalyzer test, even though the first officer on the scene said it was obvious Kuiper had been drinking. Instead of taking him to jail, police drove Kuiper home. 

During Kuiper’s sentencing Wednesday, a judge called attention to the circumstances. 

“This court does recognize that you should have spent, and would have spent under normal circumstances, a night in jail on Nov. 19, 2016 like anyone else in the same situation,” said Kent County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Rossi. 

But the police cover-up failed, leading to officers being disciplined, demoted and the firing of Lt. Matthew Janiskee.

Kuiper also resigned from the prosecutor’s office.

“He’s lost one of the loves of his life — that was functioning as a prosecuting attorney. I guess the prosecutors’ loss is the defense bars’ gain,” said defense attorney Craig Haehnel.

Kuiper said he has taken responsibility for his actions and has been involved in Alcoholics Anonymous and a State Bar Association monitoring program. 

“I apologize to him, before his testimony here in court, I apologized to him. I’m sorry that he was injured in this case,” Kuiper said in court. “I understand why there was a double standard applied to me in this case.” 

After prosecuting dozens of people in similar circumstances, Kuiper was unhappy to join their ranks.

“It’s no fun when you’re on the other end. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair, either, and I’ve paid a deep price,” he said. 

Kuiper’s attorney said because there was a cover-up, Kuiper’s case may have been held to a different standard. 

“It probably would have beneficial for him to have been taken to the jail and perhaps given a breathalyzer. It would have answered a lot of questions,” Haehnel said. 

“It doesn’t appear from any evidence before the court that you requested that or demanded any special treatment from the police officers,” the judge pointed out.

“It wasn’t necessarily a favor that anyone did for Josh,” said Haehnel. 

Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Jeffrey Williams, who was brought in to handle the case, disputes the lack of fairness.

“I don’t believe he was treated differently,” Williams said.  “It’s also fair to say alcohol played a factor in this.”

Kuiper’s sentence of three days in jail, with one day served, was largely symbolic. Rossi said the former assistant prosecutor would have spent more time in jail, had there not been a cover-up.

Kuiper will report to jail on Friday and should released Saturday.

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