LANSING, Mich. — His website essentially has been taken down. His phone number goes straight to voice mail. And embattled Michigan state Sen. Virgil Smith isn’t expected back to Lansing this week.
The Detroit Democrat is facing three felonies and a misdemeanor in connection with a non-fatal shooting involving his ex-wife — specifically, her Mercedes — outside of his Detroit home more than a week ago.
Since he was arraigned on those charges last week, both Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have urged Smith to resign. Although members of the legislative Black Caucus have offered their support to Smith and said lawmakers shouldn’t be in a hurry to remove the Senator from the Legislature.
“He reached out to me after he was released from jail. In the course of our conversation, I told him I thought he should consider resigning,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint. “Senator Smith, like every American, is entitled to due process. I would encourage him to consider doing whatever it takes to focus on the trial he faces, and to allow the people of his district to have a senator who is wholly focused on them.”
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, also has said that Smith should think about resigning his seat.
Smith has not resigned, but Ananich removed him from his committee assignments and his post as minority whip in the Senate.
His Senate website has been replaced with the message: “Senator Virgil Smith’s office will continue to be open and available to assist constituents of the 4th Senate district. If you need any assistance, please call 517-373-7918 or email [email protected]”
But that phone number goes straight to voice-mail and Smith’s office remains locked.
Smith is facing a probable cause hearing on Friday before Wayne County District Judge Michael Wagner, and a preliminary examination on May 29 on the felony charges of malicious destruction of property over $20,000, felonious assault and using a firearm during the commission of a felony, as well as a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence.
The charges stem from an incident in which Smith allegedly got into an altercation with his ex-wife, who, according to Detroit Police Department reports, discovered another woman — Smith’s girlfriend — in his bed. He told police he fired a .22-caliber rifle into his ex-wife’s car and called it the stupidest thing he’s done in his life.
The Senate can move to hold hearings to expel Smith from the Senate, a tactic last used when the Senate voted to remove former Sen. Dave Jaye, a Macomb County Republican, from office in 2001 after a domestic violence incident involving his then fiance, three drunk driving arrests and reports of abusive behavior towards Senate staff.
No one has called for those explusion hearings — yet. Smith’s attorney Godfrey Dillard did not return messages from the Free Press.
Smith, a graduate of Michigan State and Western Michigan universities, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002. He was elected to the Senate in 2010. His father, Virgil Smith Jr., is presiding judge in Wayne County Family Juvenile Court and served more than 20 years in the Legislature.
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