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September 19, 2013
CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Dan Schulte nearly talked himself out of a plea deal last week to avoid spending up to one year in jail for domestic violence and attempting to obstruct police.

It took his defense attorney, a prosecutor and the judge to put him back on track and save the deal.

“Frankly, I could tell by the way you handled the plea, you’ve got control issues,” Judge Russell Ethridge told Schulte in City of Grosse Pointe Municipal Court Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Ethridge said earlier in the hearing, “Mr. Schulte (is) not in control here. The court is in control.”

The session had been scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12, as a preliminary examination of charges resulting from Schulte’s arrest at his house on Hampton at about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 7.

Schulte, 59, requested matters be advanced one day during which he’d plead “no contest” to misdemeanor domestic violence against his wife, 48.

According to a deal worked out with prosecutors before the hearing, Schulte also was to plead guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor attempted obstruction rather than obstruction, a felony.

Terms included dropping a charge of interfering with his wife’s effort to file a police report, a one-year felony.

The deal hinged on Schulte acknowledging his obstruction.

Although Schulte followed through on the “no contest” plea for domestic violence, he got off script when it came to obstruction.

He wouldn’t acknowledge his actions when asked by Ethridge.

Schulte’s attorney, Patricia Galvin, attempted to lead him back.

She tried prompting him to recount how he didn’t cooperate with officers “engaged in subduing the domestic situation in your home,” as she described it.

“I don’t believe I was doing that,” Schulte answered.

He added that when his wife summoned public safety officers to their house, he ran into a room, slammed the door so hard it locked by itself and called 911.

“Why would you make a 911 call for the police when the police were already at your house?” Ethridge asked.

“Because I didn’t think they had the right to come to my house,” Schulte answered.

Ethridge, handling the case because the Shores judge recused himself, indicated Schulte was putting the deal in jeopardy.

Ethridge told Galvin, “If your client wants to plead guilty to attempted obstructing a police officer, it needs to be a knowing plea in which he acknowledges he did something that was an attempt to thwart police. He’s not made that factual basis and I’m not satisfied with the plea.”

Eventually, under questioning by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office principal attorney, Gary Bresnehan, Schulte acknowledged his crime, thereby qualifying for the lesser charge.

Ethridge imposed a sentence of:

one year reporting probation, meeting monthly,

no contact with his wife unless she initiates it as part of a counseling program,

24 hours of community service to be completed within 90 days and

$2,250 fines and court costs.

Schulte’s misdemeanor pleas avoid Section 3.10 of the city charter specifying a councilman’s forfeiture of office upon conviction of a felony.

His criminal record will be cleared if he completes probation.

“Take advantage of this opportunity to repair your relations with your family and learn new life-coping skills,” Ethridge told him after sentencing. “If there are any dust-ups, it will not be good for you. If I find you have violated probation, I can sentence you for up to 93 days in jail on domestic violence and up to one year in jail on resisting and obstructing a police officer.”

Schulte was arrested in May for domestic violence, but no charges were filed.

He blamed the August arrest on police.

“I think a lot of this is political because, apparently, the police don’t like me,” he said at the time.

Mrs. Schulte said she has moved out of the Hampton residence.

Her absence allows Schulte, banned by Ethridge from the property while she was there, to move back in.

Schulte said he’s undergoing counseling for his marriage and anger management.

“I want my family to be restored,” he said.

“We are progressing with counseling to the point we will have some outside contact besides just counseling,” Mrs. Schulte told Ethridge.

Mrs. Schulte must arrange contact with her husband through the probation department, according to Ethridge.

“She’s going to be able to control the vertical and horizontal,” he said, paraphrasing the introduction to “The Outer Limits” science fiction television series of the 1960s. “If she says there’s a problem with visitation, she can notify the probation department and there can be some hearing regarding whether there’s been a probation violation. She has an absolute right to tell him, ‘I don’t want to see you around.’”

Shores police asked Ethridge to make Schulte pay restitution for the cost of his arrest.

“That’s a civil matter,” Ethridge said. “They can file a claim and send him a bill for emergency response. That’s a Grosse Pointe Shores issue.”

The council in August removed Schulte as mayor pro tem.

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