Michigan football's Mazi Smith was arrested in October. Here's why charges took so long
Ann Arbor police arrested Michigan football player Mazi Smith after discovering a gun in his car during an Oct. 7 traffic stop for speeding, the department said in a press release.
"Smith was arrested at the scene, processed at the police station, and released pending Washtenaw County Prosecutor review," the release, sent to the Free Press late Thursday afternoon said.
Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit told the Free Press that if Smith had remained in custody, the clock would have started on needing to charge him or not. State law requires an arraignment within 48 hours of an arrest.
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Instead, prosecutors received the police department's report on the incident one week later, on Oct. 14. A month later, on Nov. 17, charges were approved and a warrant was "sworn out" in front of a magistrate judge this week, Savit said. Smith was arraigned Thursday afternoon on the charge and released on a personal recognizance bond. He is banned from traveling out of state, except when he is with the football team. That makes him eligible to play in the Big Ten championship on Saturday and in the College Football Playoff if the Wolverines, as expected, make it.
The police department said that an Ann Arbor officer pulled over Smith, 21, at 9:35 a.m. on Oct. 7 for speeding.
"Smith, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was found to be in possession of a handgun inside the vehicle without a valid CPL and did not have his driver’s license at the time of the stop," the press release said.
During a court appearance Thursday, Smith's attorney, John Shea, said that Smith was in the process of getting his concealed carry license when he was pulled over.
A probable cause hearing was set for 9 a.m. Dec. 8. The charge carries a possibility of up to five years in prison or a fine up to $2,500.
Savit, who earlier this month authorized charges against several Michigan State players for the physical altercations in the Michigan Stadium tunnel following the rivalry football game, has taken criticism since the Free Press first reported the Smith story for the delay in charges.
He said the delay was not unusual.
"This is an unremarkable timeline for cases that are submitted to us when a defendant is not in custody," he said. "If a defendant is in custody, we need to process cases faster — within 48 hours — and we have a separate queue set up to review in-custody cases. But when a defendant is not in custody, authorization of charges generally moves slower. It was a wholly unremarkable timeline when a suspect isn't in custody."
That's also the difference in the timeline when Eastern Michigan basketball star Emoni Bates was pulled over by Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office on Sept. 18 and arrested on two gun charges and held overnight. Bates was arraigned the next day. Charges were dropped against Bates in October.
U-M issued a statement following the Free Press' report, saying Smith would continue to play games, just as he has since the incident.
"Mazi was honest, forthcoming and cooperative from the very beginning and is a tremendous young man," U-M athletic director Warde Manual said. "He is not and never has been considered a threat to the University or community.
"Based on the information communicated to us, we will continue to allow the judicial process to play out."
Manuel then said that Smith, a senior co-captain, "will continue to participate as a member of the team."
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said in the statement that he has "respect for our judicial process and with that respect brings confidence that a fair and just resolution is forthcoming."
The coach also said that Smith's "character and the trust that he has earned over the past four years will continue to be considered throughout the process."
One day after the incident, Smith had five tackles in the 31-10 win at Indiana. He has played in all 12 games this season. Michigan will play Purdue in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday in Indianapolis.
Contact David Jesse: 313-378-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Why Michigan football's Mazi Smith was charged 54 days after arrest