Prosecutor’s drunken driving trial in limbo due to pandemic

Southwest Michigan

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The defense attorney for St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough says his client is ready to face trial on drunken driving charges, but justice will have to wait.

During McDonough’s pretrial hearing held Friday, both McDonough’s attorney and the assistant state attorney general assigned to prosecute the case said they are ready for trial.

Trial dates are generally set at such hearings, but a Michigan Supreme Court order has delayed jury trials while the pandemic continues.

“Jury trials are not permitted in phase 2. You need to get to phase 3 before jury trial may be scheduled,” Kalamazoo County District Court Judge Vincent Westra explained during the virtual hearing. “And accordingly, we’re going to be in a holding pattern until we can reach phase 3 in St. Joseph County. As soon as that happens, then we can be able to get together and figure out a date when we can set this matter for trial.”

Kalamazoo County courts are hearing the case to keep it out of McDonough’s jurisdiction.

He faces charges of operating while intoxicated and having open intoxicants in his vehicle. He was arrested May 11 after crashing his SUV into a fence near Three Rivers. He then blew a .107 on a portable breath test, records show, then slightly below the legal driving limit of .08 about 40 minutes later. Deputies say they found a Coke bottle in the SUV that they believed had alcohol in it.

No one was hurt in the crash.

McDonough, who was first elected St. Joseph County prosecutor more than a decade ago, still has his job. But voters may soon choose to change that: He faces a primary challenge on the Aug. 4 ballot.

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