Ingham County judge's lawsuit against former sheriff dismissed

A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina against then-Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth and Detective Charles Buckland. Judge Aquilina filed the suit in September of 2016, claiming the Sheriff and Detective retaliated against her and tried to ruin her reputation.

It started on August 2, 2016 when Joshua Harding, a defendant in a sexual assault case, tried to stab an assistant prosecutor with a shank in the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge James Jamo. Judge Aquilina allowed a reporter to watch and record video of the attack two days later. She did so to make a point about what she felt was a lack of security in the Circuit Court building in Lansing. She says the judges had asked then-Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth for more security and that he refused to provide it.

Ingham County Detective Charles Buckland was assigned to investigate the release of the video on August 14. The Sheriff's Office eventually asked then-prosecutor Gretchen Whitmer to charge Judge Aquilina with obstruction of justice. The case was handed off to Clinton County Prosecutor Charles Sherman, who decided not to file charges.

Judge Aquilina claims Wriggelsworth only investigated her because he was embarrassed about the video of the courtroom attack being released and because Judge Aquilina refused to recuse herself from an employment-discrimination case involving the Sheriff's Office. Her suit argued that was retaliation against her First Amendment right to free speech. She claimed Wriggelsworth and Detective Buckland violated her privacy and attempted to ruin her reputation by knowingly giving false information portraying her as a felon to the media and other government agencies.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker ruled that Judge Aquilina showing the recording of the attack to a reporter was not constitutionally-protected free speech because it was done in her capacity as an employee of the Circuit Court, not as a private citizen. That means she did not have a First Amendment guarantee of protection from retaliation. Judge Jonker also ruled the invasion of privacy claim should be dealt with in a state court.