Judge is accused of falsely claiming assault in dispute over bike rental

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Updated: A Michigan judge has been accused of falsely claiming that the owner of a bicycle shop assaulted her during a dispute over the rental of a bicycle.

The Nov. 23 judicial ethics complaint alleges that Judge Demetria Brue of Wayne County, Michigan, made the false claim after renting bikes for herself and a colleague during an August 2019 judicial conference.

When Brue returned the bikes to the Mackinac Island Bike Shop, she asked for a discount because of an issue with her colleague’s bicycle. She told shop workers and the owner that she was a judge, according to the complaint.

During her discussion with shop owner Ira Green, Brue “reached over the cash register and forcibly attempted to take the bike rental paper out of Mr. Green’s hand, ripping the paper,” according to the complaint.

Judge Demetria BrueJudge Demetria Brue of Wayne County, Michigan. Photo from the 36th District Court in Michigan.

Brue then allegedly said words to the effect of: “You assaulted me. Did you just assault me? You took my receipt and tore it up. I want the police. Now, we need the police. … You snatched my receipt and threw it away and grabbed my hand, and you hurt me. You touched my hand with force and violence. … I am an African America[n] female. That was racist, and it was disrespectful, and it was violent.”

Brue told police officers who arrived at the scene that she and her colleague were judges, that Green snatched the receipt out of her hand, and that he scratched her hand. She said she wanted to press charges for assault and battery, thereby falsely communicating that she had been assaulted, the ethics complaint alleges.

After an officer looked at the security video, he allegedly told Brue that it looked like she was the person who did the assault. She eventually admitted to the officers that Green had not assaulted her.

One officer negotiated a settlement in which Brue and her colleague didn’t have to pay for the bicycle rentals, and neither Brue nor Green would seek prosecution.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission also alleged misconduct by Brue during its investigation.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission alleges that Brue made false statements to the commission when she denied telling Green that he attacked her and when she denied telling Green, his workers and a police officer that she and her colleague were judges.

In addition, Brue’s statements to the commission created the false impression that one of the officers ignored her, according to the ethics complaint. And she did not cooperate with the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission when it sent her supplemental questions on the ground that they were duplicative and unreasonable, the complaint says.

Brue is accused of violating several ethics rules, including rules that ban the appearance of impropriety, that ban judges from using the prestige of their office to advance personal interests, that ban conduct involving dishonesty, and that ban violations of criminal laws—in this case the law banning false or misleading statements to police officers.

A person who answered the phone at Brue’s office said she had no comment.

Her lawyer, Philip J. Thomas, gave the ABA Journal this statement via email: “On behalf of Judge Brue, please be aware that we intend to contest all of the allegations of misconduct set forth in the formal complaint. While we do not intend to try this case in the media, I can tell you that we believe the events underlying the allegations set forth in the formal complaint arose from an incident where Judge Brue and another African American jurist described the incident in one manner, while a group of three white store employees described it very differently. The incident itself arose from an approximate $25 bike rental fee, which itself should tell any objective observer that there is more here than meets the eye.”

Hat tip to the Detroit Free Press, which had coverage of the ethics charges.

Updated Nov. 28 at 7:45 p.m. to include the comment by Judge Demetria Brue’s lawyer.

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