By Rosemary K. Otzman
The final conference in Wayne County Circuit Court, where a plea deal could be arranged on 20 felony charges for disbarred attorney Thomas A. White, has been adjourned until Oct. 10.
This is the third time this final conference has been postponed. Other final conferences had been set for Aug. 8, Aug. 15, and Sept. 12.
On Sept. 12, defense attorney Michael Vincent and his assistant Olga Wermalenka were in the courtroom with defendant White.
This court is being presided over by Judge Dalton Arnold Roberson, a retired judge who was filling in for Judge Margaret Van Houton. Judge Van Houton was going to be out for three months recovering from knee and foot surgery.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Dan Williams did not appear in the courtroom, but Vincent told the judge that Wermalenka had talked to Williams and Williams would not object to a month’s adjournment.
Vincent told the judge that the case is a work in progress and he has been talking with Prosecutor Williams for a month.
Judge Roberson reminded Vincent that there will be no more plea deals after the final conference, since the final conference is the last session before the trial. White’s jury trial is set for Nov. 3.
Judge Roberson asked Vincent if there had been an offer from the prosecutor on a plea deal and Vincent said there hadn’t.
“All those charges and there’s no offer?” Judge Roberson asked, referring to the list of 20 felonies.
After the Oct. 10 date was approved, Vincent said he and Williams would continue to work on “discovery and coming to an agreement.”
White was charged with his first five felonies on Sept. 6, 2013 and the next 15 felonies on Dec. 18, 2013.
The first set of charges included uttering and publishing, larceny by conversion ($20,000 or more), embezzlement of $20,000 of more, and two charges of identity theft. The victims in those five charges were Judith and the late Leland Jordan of Belleville.
White’s charges in December included conducting a criminal enterprise and 14 charges of embezzlement, with various victims.
White’s $20,000 or 10% bond put on for the first five charges by 34th District Court Judge David Parrott last September was changed to $50,000 personal recognizance bond by 34th District Court Judge Brian Oakley in December after the additional 15 felonies were added.
White’s preliminary exam on the first five charges was reset six times before being waived on April 9, when White was bound over for trial by 34th District Court Chief Judge Tina Brooks Green.
Circuit Court Judge Van Houten approved a motion to consolidate the first five charges with the 15 charges on May 2. Now the case has the combined 20 charges.
Judge Roberson, retired Chief Judge of Wayne County Circuit Court, said he moved to the Gulf area for 15 years and then reestablished residency in Michigan.
White, 46, is accused of stealing an estimated $11 million from widows, families, and estate beneficiaries.
He practiced law in an office across Main Street from Belleville City Hall for 20 years and was a lifelong resident of Van Buren Township.
Judge Van Houten has said a two-to-three-week trial will be needed. Prosecutor Williams previously told the judge that 50-60 witnesses will be called if the cases go to trial.
By Rosemary K. Otzman