UPDATED: Case Against Hartland Administrator Over Underage Drinking at Grad Party Dismissed
Tracey Sahouri's attorney: 'We're very happy. … This is the way the justice system should work.'
FLINT — Charges that a Hartland School District administrator and her husband allowed underage drinking during their child's graduation party this past summer were dismissed Thursday.
"We're very happy," said Michael Manley, attorney for Hartland High School assistant principal Tracey Sahouri and her husband, Raed.
"This is the way the justice system should work. … I commend the prosecutor's office for what we believe is doing the right thing."
The dismissal of the misdemeanor tickets against the couple came after the defense submitted additional evidence that contradicted the original police investigation, according to Manley, who sees the decision as a vindication for his clients.
John Potbury, a special assistant Genesee County prosecutor, declined to comment on whether the new evidence was a factor in the decision.
"Based on all the evidence that we have available in this case, we have determined we can't sustain our burden of proof, so the case was dismissed," Potbury said.
The case was scheduled for trial Thursday before 67th District Judge Mark McCabe in Flint. After the dismissal, both Sahouris could be seen shaking their attorney's hand, but didn't make any public statements after the hearing.
Manley said Tracey Sahouri doesn't want to comment until at least she has a chance to meet with district officials about her job situation.
"They're looking forward to the holidays with their family," he said. "It's been a gift (to end the case)."
Hartland Superintendent Janet Sifferman told Hartland Patch on Thursday that Sahouri will remain in her current post for at least the rest of the school year.
"It doesn't mean that can't change later, but that's the end of it right now," Sifferman said.
Manley said Sahouri wants what's best for students.
"If that's her being reinstated, great. If that's her being reassigned, great," he said. "I don't think she would want to be in a position where she would be a distraction. It wouldn't be good for the kids. Her No. 1 priority is the kids and I think the district's No. 1 priority is the kids."
Sifferman said the case's dismissal supports the district's decision to wait for the court case to conclude, which allowed her to remain on the job this school year.
"We are extremely happy that Ms. Sahouri has been vindicated of these charges and can now move forward," she said in a statement released to area news media.
The tickets were issued over the summer after a July 9 graduation party at the couple's Argentine Township home in which a 15-year-old Linden teen needed to be hospitalized for drinking too much alcohol.
Police said the Sahouris were aware of underage drinking and took no action to stop it, but the couple maintained they followed the law by calling authorities once they learned about the drinking.
Manley, who had questioned the motives of police, said the new evidence his investigation uncovered proved the Sahouris' innocence and that he was prepared to have several witnesses testify that they were unaware of the drinking and the alcohol was being hidden.
Argentine Township Police Chief Dan Allen was not immediately available for comment.
The case drew attention from regional media outlets on a story that drew more than a 100 comments on one Hartland Patch article alone. The commentary ranged from supporting the Sahouris to arguments for having her placed on administrative leave and even a few calls for her firing.
Manley said the criticism was tough on the Sahouris, who weren't used to such media attention. He said they want to thank those who backed them.
"I know the Sahouris wish to thank the hundreds of supporters who sent cards, letters, emails and phone calls to them," Manley said.
"If there's one (thing) I'd like to ask the Hartland community — Please let me know where I can go to get her reputation back? It's a classic example of why we shouldn't prejudge a case before the process gets done."