A deputy with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office has been fired after he was accused of lying on the witness stand during a preliminary hearing in a drug case.
Marc Ferguson, a 23-year police veteran with the Pontiac Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, lied about opening a package containing marijuana at a Pontiac shipping company before obtaining a search warrant, officials said Tuesday.
The statement occurred in September. Shortly after Ferguson’s testimony, the assistant prosecutor working the case was interviewing witnesses.
“One of the witnesses said the officer ‘opened that package in my presence,’” Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said.
The assistant prosecutor who was working the case recalled Ferguson’s prior testimony. She was told by a second witness that Ferguson opened the package before obtaining the warrant.
“Then she knew immediately that she had an officer that lied under oath,” Walton said.
The assistant prosecutor notified her supervisor, and the information quickly made its way to Walton and Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper.
“There was no hesitation on the prosecutor’s part,” Walton said. “She said ‘Dismiss the case.’”
Cooper said her office focuses on ethics every day.
“I have always told my prosecutors — I tell them every day, and I tell them in training — that ethics comes first, and that it’s our job to do justice,” she said.
The case was dismissed Sept. 24, Walton said.
The Prosecutor’s Office then began the process of reviewing about 100 then-active cases that Ferguson was listed as a witness for. In each case, prosecutors had to determine whether they had enough evidence to try the case after striking Ferguson from the witness list.
If the answer was yes, Ferguson’s name was struck from the witness list and the case proceeded; if the answer was no, and the case was dismissed. Including cases in which Ferguson was the sole affiant, 16 cases were dismissed.
Walton said the decision to strike Ferguson from witness lists and dismiss some cases was necessary on multiple fronts.
“One is ethics and fairness, which is what this office stands for, and the other thing is more of a legal argument,” he said.
“We can’t call a witness to a witness stand with the idea that they might have a Fifth Amendment claim. He might have a Fifth Amendment claim, and we’re not going to grant him immunity.”
Walton acknowledged that more cases may be eligible for review, but he said it would be impossible for officials to review every case Ferguson has testified in over his 23-year career. A longtime member of the Pontiac Police Department, he was one of many officers hired by the Sheriff’s Office when they took over policing duties for the city, which made the change due to ongoing financial problems.
“The issue is he lied in this event,” Walton said.
“We can’t equate that he lied 23 years ago. I know he lied at this point, and going forward, he’s going to affect our cases.”
Walton said his office immediately shared the information with the Sheriff’s Office.
“They understood we were going to end up having to dismiss a lot of cases,” he said.
“Obviously they were disappointed, but they understood and they took the necessary actions they needed to from an employment status and looking forward.
“(Oakland County Undersheriff Mike) McCabe repeatedly said ‘This will not be tolerated,’ and that sentiment is echoed by the prosecutor.”
Ferguson will not face any charges.
“As we keep saying, we are not the investigative agency,” Cooper said.
“We can work on what investigative agencies bring us for purposes of complaint forms.
“If we’re talking about perjury, it is a difficult proof in court.”
Cooper said the Sheriff’s Office is taking the “most reasonable road for them to guarantee” that Ferguson will never again be a deputy.
“We have great faith in whatever they do, in terms of doing the right thing. We have a very fine working relationship.”
Sheriff’s Office officials were not immediately available for comment Tuesday. Reports have indicated that charging Ferguson runs risks, because if he is acquitted or the case is dismissed, then he can get his job back.
Walton applauded the assistant prosecutor who reported Ferguson’s false testimony.
“We’re very proud of the courage the assistant prosecutor had to immediately address this issue,” Walton said.
“There was no hesitation on her part.”
via Oakland Press