By Rosemary K. Otzman
Independent Editor and
Independent Special Writer
Disbarred Belleville attorney Thomas A. White was arraigned at 34th District Court just after noon Friday, Sept. 6, on five felony charges for allegedly defrauding a local couple almost six years ago.
White could face 44 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.
Michigan State Police say the victims were the late Leeland Jordan and his wife Judith Ann Jordan of Belleville. Leeland Jordan died in 2008 at the age of 72 but was alive at the time of the alleged crimes.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Williams authorized the warrants against White on the afternoon of Sept. 4 and White’s criminal defense attorney Michael J. Vincent told police White would turn himself in to the court on Sept. 5. But he didn’t.
On Friday, Sept. 6, after having a mug shot taken and having his fingerprints recorded, White did come into the court just after noon to be arraigned by Judge David Parrott.
Attorney Vincent said his client had approved a 14-day waiver, so the preliminary exam doesn’t have to be held within that time period. Vincent said he also had filed a discovery order, but there was no prosecutor present to sign it. Judge Parrott allowed the discovery order anyway, saying it was a common practice.
This allows Vincent to ask the Michigan State Police for the evidence that will be used against his client.
Judge Parrott scheduled White’s preliminary exam for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 34th District Court.
White was released following payment of $2,000 cash — 10% of the $20,000 bond set by Judge Parrott, who also ordered White to give up his passport.
Judge Parrott started reading the charges aloud and Vincent spoke over him, asking the judge not to read the charges.
Judge Parrott ordered Vincent not to interrupt him. Judge Parrott said this was an arraignment on felony charges, not a preliminary exam. At a preliminary exam charges often are not read when the exam is waived and the case sent on to circuit court.
The five felony charges he read are:
Count 1- Uttering and Publishing. White is accused of altering a check from the Metropolitan Title Company dated Sept. 14, 2007 with intent to injure or defraud, knowing said instrument to be false. The check was drawn from LaSalle Bank in the amount of $73,800 in the names of Leeland Jordan and Judith Jordan. Conviction carries up to 14 years in prison.
Count 2 – Larceny by Conversion, $20,000 or more. White is accused of converting money to his own use that had been delivered to him and belonged to Judith Ann Jordan. Conviction carries up to 10 years in prison and/or $15,000 fine or three times the value of the property stolen.
Count 3 – Embezzlement by Agent or Trustee $20,000 or more but less than $80,000. White is accused of embezzling or fraudulently converting property to his own use which belonged to Judith Jordan. Conviction carries up to 10 years in prison and/or $15,000 fine or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.
Count 4 – Identity Theft. White is accused of using personal identifying information of Judith Ann Jordan to commit embezzlement and/or larceny. Conviction carries up to 5 years in prison and/or $25,000 fine
Count 5 – Identity Theft. White is accused of concealing or misrepresenting his identity to use the personal identifying information of Leeland Jordan to commit embezzlement and or larceny. Conviction carries up to 5 years in prison and/or $25,000 fine.
MSP Det./Sgt. Marc Moore said more charges against White are expected.
The charges for which he was arraigned on Sept. 6 would have been dissolved by the statute of limitations on Sept. 14, Det./Sgt. Moore said.
When Judge Parrott got to the subject of bond to make sure White appears for his court sessions, Vincent said White is not a criminal, he is married, has children and walked into the courthouse. Vincent said he communicated with the MSP and they agreed a personal recognizance bond, without an exchange of funds, would be appropriate.
“He is not a flight risk,” Vincent said of White, adding Sgt. Moore said earlier that morning said he would recommend PR bond.
Judge Parrott said he has not heard from the state police.
Judge Parrot said White has brought shame to the legal profession. He failed to appear for a show cause hearing in Judge Green’s court and has been unwilling to cooperate.
He said White has an “unruly and cavalier attitude” which made him set a cash bond of $20,000 or 10%.
“I know Mr. White has financial difficulties,” Judge Parrott said, adding a high bond would be inappropriate.
“If Mr. White does not appear, I will go out and get him,” said defense attorney Vincent.
“I have no doubt you would, but you couldn’t if he disappears,” Judge Parrott replied.
“All things considered, I think a cash bond is necessary,” Judge Parrott continued, noting it had to be posted today and White could not leave the courthouse until it is posted or that would be considered an escape from custody.
The only words said in court by White was when he asked if he could use his credit card and Judge Parrott said he couldn’t. His bond had to be paid in cash.
The only member of White’s family with him at court was his youngest son Tyler, a student at Schoolcraft College, who hurried out of courthouse at about 12:30 p.m. and returned 15 minutes later with a handful of cash.
While White was dealing with the paperwork for his release, Vincent told the Independent, “We are at the first step of a long process. We will be back here on the 18th for the preliminary exam. This is a hearing before a judge to establish probable cause with credible evidence that the defendant committed the crime.”
Vincent conceded that on Sept. 18 he could ask for the preliminary exam to be adjourned to a later date so he would have more time to study the evidence and prepare White’s defense.
Vincent also introduced his law clerk, Olga Wermalenka, who accompanied him to court. He said she grew up under Communism in what is now Belarus and is in the last steps of earning her law degree in Michigan.
By Rosemary K. Otzman