Latest Michigan news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. EST

PROSECUTOR-MISCONDUCT

Court throws out convictions after misconduct by prosecutor

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan appeals court says it found “true misconduct” by a prosecutor in a small county. As a result, the court has thrown out conspiracy, theft and drug convictions and the six-year prison sentence of Aaron Mienkwic. The appeals court says Scott Koerner didn’t disclose that he had represented a co-defendant in the same crime before becoming an assistant prosecutor in Shiawassee County. Koerner prosecuted Mienkwic, months after representing Kyle Tower in a plea deal. The men had been accused of conspiring in 2017 to rob retail stores. Koerner believes he informed the defense about his previous work but can’t recall the date. But even with a disclosure, the appeals court says it’s a violation of professional conduct. Koerner now is the elected prosecutor in Shiawassee County.

ELECTION CHANGES-MICHIGAN

Michigan secretary of state pushes to make voting easier

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s chief elections officer has announced a legislative agenda she says will ensure fair and secure elections following a huge increase in absentee voting and unfounded accusations of voter fraud in the November general election. Michigan had its highest ever voter turnout in 2020 with about 5.5 million votes cast. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told reporters Monday that she’s looking to keep that momentum going and make it easier to vote. She says she will push to make absentee voting more accessible and allow clerks to begin processing absentee ballots two weeks before Election Day.

GOVERNOR’S RACE

Whitmer has record $3.5M in bank for reelection campaign

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reports having a record $3.5 million in the bank for her 2022 reelection campaign, shattering what was raised by previous Michigan governors halfway through their terms. Whitmer, a Democrat whose profile has grown nationally in the past year, has collected $5.5 million this cycle, through December. No well-known Republican challenger has entered the race. Whitmer’s campaign said Monday that nearly a third of donations came from new donors in the last quarter.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-AID

Michigan Dems want quick vote to disburse federal virus aid

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — House Democrats want a quick up-or-down vote on disbursing $5 billion in federal coronavirus relief throughout Michigan, saying the funding shouldn’t be delayed by Republicans pushing to curtail state-issued COVID-19 restrictions. The aid was enacted by Congress and then-President Donald Trump five weeks ago. It includes money for vaccine distribution, virus testing, food and rental assistance, and education. House Republicans are proposing to withhold $1.8 billion in federal K-12 aid unless Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cedes the state health department’s authority to prohibit in-person instruction and sports to local health departments. House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski says that’s “simply unacceptable.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CASES DISMISSED

Detroit-area prosecutor dismissing 1,700 virus tickets

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit-area prosecutor is dismissing more than 1,700 tickets that were issued for violating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions. The cases were filed before the Michigan Supreme Court in October said Whitmer’s emergency orders were made under a law that was unconstitutional. The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says more than 1,600 cases were misdemeanors filed in Detroit. They were still pending when Kym Worthy made the announcement. Anyone who paid fines in suburban courts should be able to pursue a refund.   

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN-VACCINATIONS

Online ‘backdoor’ used by 2,700 to schedule vaccinations

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s largest health care provider has canceled COVID-19 vaccine appointments for about 2,700 people after learning they jumped the line while registering online. Beaumont Health said Sunday that it has determined a user publicly shared an unauthorized pathway for scheduling. Individuals who scheduled an appointment that way will be notified via email that their appointment has been cancelled. It says the issue will not affect properly scheduled vaccine appointments. Personal medical records were not compromised, and users were not able to access hospital records.

MICHIGAN-SPACEPORT DREAMS

Former Michigan base picked for would-be space center

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The former home of an Air Force base in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been picked for the location of a command and control center as part of an ambitious plan to make the state a major player in the aerospace economy. The Detroit Free Press reports the Chippewa County International Airport, near Sault Ste. Marie, was selected by Michigan’s Launch Initiative program on Thursday. It is a final selection of locations for core infrastructure. Earlier, an area near Marquette along Lake Superior was selected for vertical launches of satellites. Horizontal launches would be at Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport. If the project raises the required money and gets the needed approvals, backers say the command center could begin to operate in June 2023. 

POLAR BEAR CUBS

It’s twins! Detroit Zoo announces birth of 2 polar bear cubs

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Zoo has announced that an 8-year-old polar bear named, Suka, has successfully given birth to two cubs. The unnamed twin cubs are the first polar bears to be successfully born and raised at the zoo in more the 15 years. Suka gave birth to cubs in 2018 and 2019, but they didn’t survive. Though the announcement and details of the latest births came Thursday, the cubs were born in November. The father is a 16-year-old polar bear named Nuka. One of the two cubs, a female, is being raised by humans after early health issues. Zoo officials say the rare separation of sibling cubs will help researchers study outcomes of cubs raised by humans versus those raised by their mothers.  

DETROIT ARTS

Detroit to start yearlong celebration of arts and culture

DETROIT (AP) — A yearlong celebration of arts and culture in Detroit will focus on the city’s contribution to American creativity. The UNDEFEATED begins Monday with virtual events to start Black History Month. Mayor Mike Duggan will call for a citywide read of the Detroit-based novel “Black Bottom Saints.” He’s expected to interview author Alice Randall Monday about her tale of Detroit when the city’s Black Bottom neighborhood thrived. Detroit’s Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship says the The UNDEFEATED campaign comes as artists have been hit hard by the pandemic, not just by illness but by the loss of income.

CHILD DROWNS

Conviction overturned in death of Detroit child who drowned

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan appeals court has overturned the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a Detroit woman who has already served a prison sentence for the death of a child. The 11-month-old child fell through a hole and drowned. The court says Tonya Peterson’s rights were violated because a Wayne County judge gave a wrong jury instruction. In 2018, the child fell through a hole in the floor of Peterson’s house and drowned in a flooded basement. Seven children and three adults were living there. Peterson served 17 months in prison before she was released on parole in September.