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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Community Members Stand With Washtenaw County Only African-American Judge Fight To Stay On Bench

Photo Credit - IU News & Talk Community Members in Washtenaw County gathered at the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan to pray and express support for Judge J. Cedric Simpson, the County's only remaining African-American Judge
Photo Credit - IU News & Talk
Community Members in Washtenaw County gathered at the Brown Chapel A.M.E.
Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan to pray and express support for Judge J. Cedric Simpson,
the County's only remaining African-American Judge.
Members of the Washtenaw County Community filled a meeting room at Brown Chapel African-Methodist Episcopal Church on Monday evening in a vow to stand behind the Honorable J, Cedric Simpson, 14-A District Court Judge fight to stand on the bench.

Simpson, Washtenaw County's only remaining African-American Judge faces March 30 hearing before the Judicial Tenure Commission after a formal complaint was filed against him in mid-November 2014.

Judge Simpson who attended the event with relatives, was moved to tears by the
Photo Credit - IU News & Talk
14-A District Court Judge J. Cedric Simpson
attended the Community Support Informational event on
his behalf with relative and gave brief remarks
overwhelming attendance of community members, groups and organizations during the event, offered brief remarks.

"This has been a spiritual battle," Simpson noted while his speech was seemingly broken by hand claps of supporters at the Church location. "Yet I will have my say when I need to have my say."
The complaint filed by an unknown accuser, is centered a September 8, 2013 arrest of a former intern of Simpson, Crystal Marie Vargas.

Vargas, a pre-law student at Cooley Law School out of Ann Arbor, Michigan was selected by Simpson and his staff for a internship program, and worked extensively the Judge on a high-profile case, that led to the conviction of a former Ann Arbor Attorney on sexual assault charges.

According to Friends of the Honorable Cedric Simpson group spokeswoman Leslie McGraw,
Photo Credit - Leslie McGraw Friends of the Honorable J. Cedric Simpson group spokeswoman Leslie  McGraw
Photo Credit - Leslie McGraw
Friends of the Honorable J. Cedric
Simpson group spokeswoman Leslie
McGraw
Simpson's upcoming hearing before the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has not received the proper amount pre-investigation necessary before requiring the Judge appearance in front of the body.

"First of all, there is a lack of understanding certainly with the general public because he (Simpson) received this complaint with the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commision that is who the complaint came from," McGraw shared during an exclusive January 2014 interview on Independent Underground Radio LIVE. 
 "The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission is nothing more than a vehicle to publicly or formally file a complaint. So someone else had to file the complaint."  
"The allegations were not completely vetted. Basically they state there is enough of a discourse here, that we need to investigate further, McGraw stated. "These alleged allegations were treated as if they were hard-in stone, factual pieces of information."
According to a Another Ann Arbor December 9, 2014 article on the Vargas incident, written by the Friends of the Honorable J. Cedric Simpson spokeswoman Leslie McGraw, the allegations against Simpson are on the morning of Sunday, September 8, 2013, Vargas called Judge Simpson at 4:20 am ET after she collided with a tow truck while turning at a blinking red light.

Upon arriving at the location of the accident Simpson learned Vargas has been drinking while driving. Arresting Pittsfield Township Police Officer Robert Cole impounded Vargas vehicle after the intern failed sobriety tests at the scene.

Officer Cole after placing the Intern under arrest stated, "We'll see if we can work on somebody to get your car so we don't have to impound it," then proceeded to place Vargas in the police car for arrest.

Video from the incident shows Officer Cole walking over to Judge Simpson to ask Simpson, McGraw accounted in a written article, to take Vargas car keys due to the intern having no one else available to take possession of the vehicle, and to assist Vargas in avoiding impound fees. Simpson refused to remove Vargas' car from the scene. After the Simpson left, a decision to "crash tow" instead of impound the car was made.



Video Credit - MLive.com

When the vehicle arrived at the impound facility, a impound fee was applied according to McGraw's article on Another Ann Arbor. Several credit card attempts made by Vargas to pay the impound fee balance, failed.

Simpson next paid the tow balance, which Vargas reimbursed the next day. Simpson reported Vargas' arrest and the accident to Cooley Law School, contacted former Pittsfield Township City Attorney Victor Lillich to receive the police report and confirm Vargas' blood alcohol level, for he could make a final decision about the her internship position according to McGraw.

Members of the Washtenaw County community attending Monday evenings informational
Photo Credit - IU News & Talk Washtenaw County Commissioner Ronnie Peterson expressed strong support for Judge Simpson during Monday evenings informational session
Photo Credit - IU News & Talk
Washtenaw County Commissioner
Ronnie Peterson expressed strong
support for Judge Simpson during
Monday evenings informational
session
meeting expressed deep shock and dismay based on known facts of incident, how and why Judge Simpson will face any charges before the Michigan Tenure Commission.

"We should have enough respect for Judge Simpson from knowing him personally, or having relationships with him professionally to know his integrity and honesty goes without question," Washtenaw County Commissioner for District 6, Ronnie Peterson said at the event.  
"Whatever the process is and wherever the process end, we are going to stand by him," Peterson said referring to the upcoming March 30 Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission hearing for Simpson. 
Despite Vargas' accident, arrest on September 8, 2013, and later conviction of driving under the influence along with any questions involving any of Simpson's actions immediately thereafter, the complaint by an anonymous accuser was not filed with the Judicial Tenure Commission officially until November 12, 2014 -- one year and nearly three months after the incident.

Local news resource M-Live Media Group wrote an article on the allegations November 13, 2014 authored by reporter Ben Freed. The article highlighted out a large number of text messages and phone calls between Vargas and Simpson from August - November 2013, to imply some other type of personal relationship existed, in spite of Vargas accident occurring September 8 of the same year. 

"Simpson initially denied that he had a "personal" relationship with Vargas, the two exchanged approximately 10,000 texts and phone calls between Aug. 1, 2013, and Nov. 30, 2013," as it was reported by Ben Freed of MLive.
"The pair allegedly exchanged seven phone calls, including one that lasted for 26 minutes, on the afternoon and evening of Sept. 7, 2013, less than eight hours before Vargas was arrested for drunken driving," according to the MLive article. 
The phone calls and text messages took place well after the court's business hours and as early as 5:30 a.m., the complaint states. Simpson said in his answers to the commission's request for comments that he never socialized with Vargas individually, that his relationship with Vargas was a "professional relationship related to her internship duties" and that his contact with Vargas was only in group settings," the MLive article stated.
MLive's November 14, 2013, article failed to include any statements from Simpson, his supporters in defense, or further explanation about nature of the text messages and phone calls between Vargas and Simpson until nearly a month and two weeks later in a December 22, 2014 follow up piece.

Friends of the Honorable J. Cedric Simpson spokesperson Leslie McGraw offered some insight on why the group believes MLive's reporting was questionable in this case in a exclusive January 2014 interview.

"On the one hand I do feel strongly that it was not reported accurately. But then, on the other hand I also know as a reporter, you create the narrative on what you are given. The second thing is there we need diversity in reporting," McGraw a media journalist stated in an exclusive interview with Independent Underground News & Talk.
"As a reporter one thing that I notice is why the lack of reporting is not a singular event is the changes in how newspapers and media operate."We do not get paid very much, And so it is like the new face of volunteering has become White," she said.
"So has Journalism because you have to have such a strong passion for doing what you do that you are okay with no maybe making as much. Some people are substanize because they are really young or they have support from parents but reporters do not make a lot of money," said McGraw.  
Also, there has not been a lot of positive stories about black men in the press, period. And that is a problem."
MLive did not have a reporter staffed in attendance during Monday evenings informational gathering given by the Friends of the Honorable Judge J. Cedric Simpson group.

Despite what can be perceived as negative press on Simpson's behalf, community members including religious leaders, attorneys, activists, civil rights officials and attending Monday evenings event pledged to stand by Washtenaw County's only African-American remaining Justice, Judge Simpson.

"Judge Simpson without question has been an outstanding member of the 14th District Court. He has been an outstanding community and civil leader," Washtenaw County Commissioner Ronnie Peterson stated.

"It is important that we the community express its support and make sure those that are engaged know that we are 100% behind him all the way."
Photo Credit - IU News & Talk
Ann Arbor NAACP President William V.
Hampton spoke on why the Community
should support Judge Simpson. 
Support for Judge Simpson also was express by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti/Willow Branch, in addition to the Vanzetti Hamilton Bar Association and Michigan Citizens United organizations.
"We can't be selective about being active. We have to be activates for justice. That justice applies across the board," said Ann Arbor NAACP President William V. Hampton. "It's not just our friends or our relatives, it not just Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti, It's everybody that needs justice. And at unless we stand up for somebody, nobody will stand up for us." 

Simpson's hearing before the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission is scheduled to take place March 30, 2015 at the Washtenaw County Courthouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan.



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