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Civil case pending against Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Department, director

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 17, 2019

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — A Harper Woods man who said he was accused of a crime in Grosse Pointe Woods that he did not commit is continuing to seek compensation through the legal system in a civil case that is still pending.

On June 14, Michael Fox filed a complaint in Wayne County Circuit Court against the Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Department and Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Department Director John Kosanke.

Fox, 44, accuses the defendants of assault, battery, false imprisonment, defamation and false light. Fox is seeking damages in excess of $25,000, exclusive of interest and costs, against the defendants — jointly and severally — and for the court to award him reasonable attorney fees and any other relief that the court deems just and equitable.

The lawsuit is the result of an investigation that the Public Safety Department began after a bank robbery occurred at 12:26 p.m. April 18 at Chemical Bank, 20276 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe Woods. According to the complaint, on April 19, a SWAT team brandishing assault weapons arrested Fox and held him in connection to the bank robbery.

“Defendants did not have probable cause to arrest plaintiff for the robbery,” the complaint states. “Instead, defendants used an outstanding traffic warrant from another jurisdiction as a pretext to arrest plaintiff. This was done outside defendants normal practice of notifying an individual there is an outstanding traffic warrant.”

According to the lawsuit, public safety officers used a K-9 officer, which bit Fox during the arrest. The complaint states that after Fox’s arrest, the outstanding traffic warrant was resolved “by way of paying the underlying fees.” Even so, Fox reportedly spent two days in the Grosse Pointe Woods jail after being arrested.

“We’re just in the beginning phases of the discovery process. Nothing of any significance has taken place in this case,” said G. Gus Morris, the attorney defending Kosanke and the Public Safety Department. “We don’t think the lawsuit has any viability whatsoever. We look forward to seeing the case dismissed by the court.”

Morris said that during the investigation, “There were several people who contacted the police department and tentatively identified Mr. Fox as the suspect of the bank robbery, so we have a duty to investigate there. A police department does not have to exonerate an individual. Their duty was to investigate the crime.”

The complaint, however, states that there were four witnesses who were in contact with Fox during the time of the bank robbery, meaning he could not have committed the crime.

One witness said she had several phone conversations with Fox on April 18, including one during the time of the robbery that Fox was alleged to have committed. Another witness, who is a physical therapist, indicated in the complaint documents that Fox had endured injuries while working out prior to the bank robbery. Therefore, he “would have been unable to physically run” on the day of the bank robbery. Two other witnesses said they had lunch with Fox when the bank robbery occurred.

Attorneys Gerald Evelyn and Peter Alle are representing Fox in the case.

“Mr. Fox has definitely suffered significant damages,” Alle said in an email. “The entire process has been difficult on Mr. Fox and his family. Mr. Fox is a very special man who takes pride in providing every bit of himself to his family and his community. When he was arrested, his reputation was unjustly tarnished and his ability to serve the community was greatly impacted.

“For these reasons and so many reasons that an observer can only begin to imagine, the ramifications of the arrest and the treatment he has endured continue to take a toll on Mr. Fox and his family,” Alle said. “Not until justice is served and Mr. Fox’s reputation is completely restored, will Mr. Fox even be able to truly begin recovering from what has transpired.

“At this time, it is impossible to gauge whether a trial will be necessary,” Alle said. “However, we are prepared to go to trial in the event that a settlement is not reached.”

At press time, the bank robbery investigation remained open.

“We don’t believe Mr. Fox was involved in the bank robbery,” Morris said. “That could change, because this is an active investigation.”