The Sheriff Department’s Director of Community Engagement, Derrick Jackson, wrote a letter to Judge David Swartz that angered many, including Washtenaw County Prosecutor, Brian Mackie and Sheriff’s Deputies. The letter was a character reference for Maquell Ganter, a man convicted of being involved in a drive by shooting in Ypsilanti and a foot chase where he fired a shot while being pursued by Deputies Heather Morrison and Ray Yee.
Three suspects were arrested including Ganter, Garland Johnson and a juvenile. The Ann Arbor News described the crime as follows;
· “Police said Johnson attempted to steal a motorcycle from the shed at the home earlier in the morning when he was interrupted and confronted by one of the two men. The three teens went across Michigan Avenue, where there was a second confrontation with the two men, police said.
· Some time after the second confrontation, the teens are accused of driving by the residence on Greenlawn, when the shots were fired…
· Police believe Johnson was the gunman who fired off five shots from the back of a Chevy Impala at two men standing in front of a residence in the 500 block of Greenlawn Avenue Wednesday around 5:50 a.m…”
Ganter was arraigned on multiple charges punishable by long prison sentences;
· “Ganter sobbed throughout the proceedings, where he was charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder, receiving and concealing a firearm, carrying a weapon with unlawful intent, carrying a concealed weapon, assaulting or resisting a police officer and commission of a felony with a firearm.”
· “Ganter is accused of "accidentally" firing off a round at two deputies during a chase, police said.”
Ganter got away during the foot chase but later, after speaking with Derrick Jackson, turned himself in to the authorities.
Marquell Ganter reached a plea deal with the prosecutor’s office on Sept. 26, 2013;
· “Ganter also pleaded guilty to six felony charges Sept. 26. He pleaded guilty to assaulting, resisting or obstructing a police officer; carrying a concealed weapon; unlawful driving away of an automobile; possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony; and two counts of assault with intent to do bodily harm less than murder.”
Before Ganter was sentenced, Derrick Jackson wrote a letter to the presiding Judge, David Swartz. The letter was written on the official letterhead of the Sheriff’s Department and a copy was given to Ganter’s family, who gave it to his attorney.
· “It's not often that I take the time to write a letter on behalf of an individual that the Sheriff's Office has investigated and arrested, but in this instance I am compelled to share with you my knowledge of Marquell Ganter in hopes that it will assist you in making the best Judgment possible regarding his sentencing…”
· “For the past three years I have spent a significant amount of time working one on one with him, focusing on getting back into school, finding employment and staying out of trouble Because of this relationship and my role here at the Sheriff's Office I think i have a unique perspective on his character and the implications of what he did”
· “Correction Officers within the jail have said that he doesn't belong here while other inmates have asked why he is here. Although much of that is due to his young age, a large part of their sentiment is due to how he carries himself. Marquell is not a street hardened young person destined fora criminal lifestyle. In fact, he is quite different than that. I do not pretend to know the appropriate consequences for the crimes he has committed, but I do know the difference between someone with malice and someone that has made a horrible mistake. I've seen those inmates that “fit in” to the jail culture and have worked 'with those that society would not like to see on our streets ever again Marquell is neither.”
· “I hope you will consider this in your deliberations for his sentence and take into account the impact that a long prison term may have on the development of a teenager like Marquell. I know that he has learned a lot already and I'm sure he will learn more during his time away from society However, I pray that his time away is not so extensive that it removes the youthful joy within him and replaces it with the hardened street mentality so prevalent within our prison system.”
This letter to the judge took the prosecutor, John Vella by surprise. Despite the fact that the gun charge alone carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, Judge Swartz sentenced Ganter to two years for all felonies and reduced the sentence under the Youthful Offender program to 6 months in “boot camp”. Chief Prosecutor, Brian Mackie responded in a letter to Derrick Jackson.
· I am disturbed by your letter on behalf of Mr. Ganter. I most certainly respect your right, as a citizen (and social worker), to advocate on behalf of an offender, but you have done a disservice to the victims who were shot at and are traumatized by this crime.
· Your letter on behalf of Mr. Ganter is written on Sheriff's office letterhead and was written in your capacity as an employee of the Sheriff I am surprised that the Sheriff permitted this, if you did not, at the very least, consult with the victims first.
· I know that the victims were extremely upset by the sentence imposed on Ganter. I hope that you consulted with the deputies who were called to the scene. If you have not discussed your position with Deputy Yee and Deputy Morrison, as well as the other deputies and detectives involved, you should do so now. You have undercut their position, just as you have the victims.
· You noted that for three years you have spent a "significant amount of time working one on one" with Ganter. I have to say that your mentoring was not very successful. Ganter obtained a stolen gun, whether he is the one who stole it, or not, and supplied it to the shooter, knowing that it was to be used to try to kill people. In fact, Ganter argued that he should be the shooter. One of the sentences in your letter cannot be defended: "Corrections Officers within the jail have said that he doesn't belong here while other inmates have asked why he is here." Really? Do you actually think we should consult with inmates to determine who belongs in jail, or what an appropriate sentence might be?
· You were effective in your advocacy for Mr. Ganter. I hope that he does well in life and that his latest crime is an aberration. The citizens of this county expect the Sheriff's Office to protect the general public and, especially, the victims of crime. You have shortchanged them. I am not arguing that you should care about my opinion, but I had to let you know that I am more than disappointed.
Derrick Jackson’s response to Brian Mackie was not exactly contrite;
· Prior to my involvement our officers, Mr. Ganter and the community were in a much more tenuous predicament. Detective Sgt. King and I were able to bring a dangerous situation to an end peacefully. Something I'm very proud to have been a part of.
· Brian, I understand you are upset about my letter and I'd be shocked if that alone dramatically changed his sentencing. But if it did then I believe I have been doing my job effectively. The fact that a judge would look to my position and value that input says to me that in fact my role in keeping this community safe is not questioned but in fact valued.
The next day Derrick Jackson added to his reply, perhaps a bit more willing to see his role in the larger criminal justice system;
· I know for me it would be good to see how this fits into the larger CJ system and to make sure we are not working against other parts of the system unintentionally.
Within a week, emails were circulating in the Sheriff’s Department, critical of Derrick Jackson’s role in the light sentence received by Mr. Ganter. Derrick Jackson circulated a response via email;
· Recently, I was made aware of the emails that have been sent around the organization regarding the letter I wrote to Judge Swartz. Seeing that email was the way in which some wanted to have the conversation I wanted to respond in the same way. However, just as I went directly to Yee and Morrison and brought it up to our command staff, I am more than willing to have the face to face conversation with whomever is willing.
· For those that wonder how our organization or someone within it could write a letter for a criminal that shot at one of our own, I too would be furious if that were the case. However, that is not what occurred in this instance and I encourage you to talk with detectives who investigated the case. For those that don't care what the crime is, but still wonder how our organization could ever express concern for a criminal, I would simply reiterate what so many have already expressed to me. That this is no different than the countless times someone in uniform has gone to a prosecutor to advocate for reduced charges or to give someone a break. Not because they were innocent, but because of how they assisted after the crime was committed. The one major difference I see is that I never interfered with the conversation around what to charge, what to plea down to or how the case was run within the judicial system.
· Some have said that "I need to decide if I'm one of you or one of them", and to that I fundamentally disagree. The day that I relent on my values and belief of bridging that very same sentiment is the day that I have failed ... the day that I turn in the badge that I worked so hard to acquire and that I am proud to wear. Who else at my age and in my position would commit to the physical and mental demands of the academy without the firm belief and love for what it represents?
If Jackson had written a personal letter (not on official letterhead and stating that it was a personal opinion) and he had shared it with both the prosecutor and the defense in a timely fashion, then one could still argue about whether or not his opinion was correct but he blindsided the prosecutor in the courtroom, which was completely improper. However, there has been no sign of any disciplinary action by Sheriff Clayton. Such apparent immunity to discipline undoubtedly causes friction between the rank & file officers and the command st
 Derrick Jackson letter to Judge Swartz re Ganter
 After some criticism that such a high ranking an highly paid member of the Department was not a sworn officer, Derrick Jackson attended the police academy so that he could become a sworn officer.