Macomb County judge linked to Franklin OWI arrest

Judge Richard Caretti could face possible child neglect probe after girlfriend’s drunken driving arrest

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 15, 2013

FRANKLIN — It all started with a frantic text message. Now, a Troy woman could be facing jail time for drunk driving while her boyfriend, a prominent Macomb County judge, is facing a possible child neglect investigation.

Brenda Conway, 50, has been charged with operating while intoxicated with occupants younger than 16 years old. The charge, while a misdemeanor, is more severe than a standard drunken driving charge.

Conway was arrested early in the morning Jan. 13 in the village of Franklin, according to Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Lt. William Castro, after her blood-alcohol content was found to be 0.16 percent, double the legal limit.

Conway was returning from a wedding reception in Mount Clemens that night with her companion, Macomb County Judge Richard Caretti, and his two daughters, Castro said. The vehicle was en route to take the young girls home to their mother Lori Conway’s house in Franklin. Brenda and Lori Conway are said to be distantly related through marriage, but not otherwise associated, Castro said.

According to Lori Conway, it was during that ride home that her oldest daughter, who is 15, sent a text message to her mother concerned about Brenda Conway’s supposedly erratic driving.

“She indicated that Brenda was driving and was extremely drunk and was weaving back and forth,” said Lori Conway, who then called police and notified them of the situation.

When the vehicle arrived at her house, Lori Conway said, officers were waiting. Castro said his officers noticed a strong odor of intoxicants on Brenda Conway’s breath as they approached her, and after performing several field sobriety tests, she was taken into custody. Caretti was not arrested, though Castro admits police would not allow him to drive the vehicle away.

“My ex-husband, I was told, was taken to a Tim Horton’s nearby to get a ride home because I was told he was, quote, ‘wasted,’” said Lori Conway.

Brenda Conway was due in 46th District Court Jan. 28, but the date was adjourned. According to her attorney, Jeffrey Lance Abood, a pretrial date has been set for March 4. He expects to file motions by Feb. 14 challenging the probable cause for the arrest and the basis for the stop.

“Based on our review of all the evidence, we believe the police didn’t have any probable cause to pull her over,” said Abood. “They were just waiting at Judge Caretti’s ex-wife’s house, waiting for her to arrive. Nobody had observed her driving at all.”

Abood claimed that Lori Conway is using this opportunity to hurt her ex-husband, and her and her children’s statements to police should be considered biased.

“There wasn’t a single objective witness in this case,” said Abood. “Nobody objective has come forward and said they even saw her driving, for that matter. Basically, the police didn’t observe my client driving drunk. (It should be) about what happened on the road, not what happened at the police department.”

Despite the defense, Lori Conway said what Brenda Conway is accused of doing was wrong, and she said her ex-husband is wrong for allowing it to happen.

“It’s just very disturbing. … It’s mind-boggling,” said Lori Conway. “People should know a public official that’s making decisions about other people and yet not making good decisions about the wellbeing of his children or other people on the road, for that matter.”

Brenda Conway will return to court at 8 a.m. March 4. In the meantime, Castro confirms that it was recommended Caretti be investigated by Child Protective Services for possible child abuse or neglect. Neither Caretti, nor Brenda Conway, responded to several requests for comment.