Prosecutor’s office declines charges in state rep domestic abuse case

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Metro | Published November 5, 2021

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LANSING — No charges have been filed by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office in connection with accusations made by state Rep. Mari Manoogian against state Rep. Steve Marino.

Marino, R-Harrison Township, was removed from his committee assignments Sept. 15 by Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, after allegations of domestic abuse against Marino were made to the Michigan State Police Sept. 14 by Manoogian, D-Birmingham.

After investigating the matter, Mike Cheltenham, chief assistant prosecuting attorney with the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, said no charges have been authorized against Marino.

“We were unable to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’s the reason for our denial,” he said.

The Michigan State Police report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, included hundreds of pages of text messages between the two representatives. The report stated that the pair dated on an on-again, off-again basis until November 2019 but continued to have a friendly, platonic relationship from then until about March of 2020. Since then, Manoogian told police, Marino had allegedly become emotionally abusive, sending her threatening text messages and being verbally abusive to her over the phone, away from others they work with.

She provided police with screenshots showing him cursing at her because she would not take his dog to the vet and saying he hoped harm would come to her, among other instances. Manoogian applied for, and received, a personal protection order against Marino in September.

Manoogian provided her cellphone to Michigan State Police so her data could be extracted for the investigation. Marino’s attorney declined to present Marino’s phone to the police, but Marino provided Michigan State Police with about 300 pages of text messages between the two. According to the police report, the state trooper working on the case was able to locate the texts Manoogian had provided on screenshots amongst the pages of texts provided by Marino. In each instance, a few days after the texts Manoogian provided were sent, the tone between the two representatives appears to return to amicability, according to the report.

The police report details that, in the last set of text messages provided, from Aug. 27-Sept. 14, 2021, “The tone of the conversation appears to be affable between the two until Thursday, September 9. The morning of September 9, the conversation appears to flow cordially until Rep. Marino asks Rep. Manoogian for her help taking his dog to the veterinarian.” Although Marino speaks rudely to Manoogian throughout the course of those text messages, according to the report, the manner in which he speaks to her “does not appear to affect the overall flow of the conversation, which appears generally cordial.”

Marino’s attorney, Mike Rataj, said they were “obviously” pleased with the decision of the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office not to file any charge against his client.

“I never felt that there were any facts to support a criminal charge so, again, we’re happy with the decision that they made,” he said. He has filed a motion to set aside the PPO, which will have a hearing Dec. 3.

Manoogian’s attorney, Kelly McClintock, did not return a call for comment before press time.