Hartland Principal's Attorney Says His Investigation Raises Questions With Police Probe
Michael Manley calls Argentine department 'rogue' — chief says 'let the facts shake out.'
The new attorney for Hartland principal Tracey Sahouri and her husband who face a trial over underage drinking at a graduation party says his own investigation with witnesses exonerates his clients and he blames the Argentine Township police for not doing its job and questions its motives.
"The Argentine Township police department has spent more time sending out press releases against my clients than investigating this case," said Michael Manley on Wednesday after the trial was delayed for a month in part so the Genesee County prosecutor's office can review the new evidence.
"Their police chief is running for sheriff and this made for a good news story. … This is a rogue police department. They have paid out millions of dollars for violating people's rights. … The Sahouris will be vindicated. It's just unfortunate it's had ramifications with her job."
But Argentine Township Police Chief Daniel Allen defended the investigation and his department, saying it responded to a call and only answered questions when approached by the media. He said politics had nothing to do with the investigation. Allen is running as a Democrat for a job currently held by longtime Sheriff Robert Pickell, also a Democrat.
"If we didn't have a case, we wouldn't be going to trial in the first place," Allen said. "Let the facts shake out. … This department is not rogue."
He also said police departments in general face lawsuits as part of the job, adding that recent cases involving the department were mostly employee-related. He couldn't confirm millions of dollars have been paid out, although one high-profile case resulted in a former chief receiving $650,000.
Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who previously said there's been enough evidence for the case to proceed, said the Argentine Township police department has done excellent work over the years but didn't want to comment on the specifics of the investigation. He added he'll be happy to review the new evidence.
"I'm just going to be focused on the case," he said.
Manley, a high-profile Flint defense attorney, said the Sahouri investigation is one of the worst he's seen in his 21 years on the job. He said witnesses have provided different information than what they told police.
"I just uncovered a lot of things since I've got on the case," he said. "Our investigation is revealing a whole different (story)."
Allen said if witnesses change their stories after an investigation, that's part of the criminal justice process. But based on what their investigation found, tickets were warranted.
"We had to take action on something like this," he said. "If it happened again, we'd do the same thing."
Detective Arch Ravert, one of the case's two investigators, said evidence shows Sahouri and her husband, Raed, knew about the underage drinking as they mingled during the July 9 party at their Argentine Township home that attracted hundreds of teens and had multiple coolers of alcohol. He said Raed Sahouri told police he was aware of the drinking — a position he now denies.
Police were called later that evening when a 15-year-old Linden teen became so intoxicated from drinking at the party that she needed to be hospitalized.
Ravert rhetorically asked wouldn't most parents want the case pursued if their teenage daughter had to be hospitalized because an adult allowed drinking.
"We are sworn to uphold the law," he said. "I'm not running for office."
But the Sahouris have always maintained their innocence, saying they didn't know about the drinking until the teen became sick and then took responsible action by calling authorities.
This week, Tracey Sahouri, who also is under fire for her handling of this year's MEAP test, went on an indefinite leave of absence from her job. The case is now set for another hearing Nov. 30 and a possible trial Dec. 8.
"This poor lady has been harangued," Manley said. "(Linking underage drinking), it's the worst you can do to a principal."