The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Pope denies motion to step down from township embezzlement cases



Bessemer — Gogebic County Circuit Court Judge Michael Pope will continue to preside over criminal charges and a civil case filed against former Ironwood Township Treasurer Jyl Olson-DeRosso.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pope denied a motion by Olson-DeRosso’s attorney, James McKenzie, to step down from hearing the cases. McKenzie argued Pope might be biased because he previously served as attorney for Ironwood Township.

Olson-DeRosso is charged with nine felonies, alleging she embezzled money while serving as township treasurer.

The charges pertain to the period from 2011 to 2016.

Pope served as township attorney until 2005, according to Tuesday testimony, when Mark McDonald took over the job. Pope noted he wasn’t fired and although Olson-DeRosso was on the township board when he served as attorney, he said that didn’t create a bias.

McKenzie filed the motion for Pope to disqualify himself in both the criminal case and a case the township filed against Olson-DeRosso, arguing, in part, Pope might be biased because of his acquaintances with township officials.

Pope said, however, it’s not unusual for a judge to know many of the people he deals with in the courtroom.

Gogebic County Prosecutor Nick Jacobs said when Pope served as township attorney in 2005, the actions by Olson-DeRosso that led to the charges were still years away.

Jacobs also said Pope took an oath to be impartial and he believed Pope could hear the case objectively because no bias by Pope had been established.

Pope said the defendant was in the courtroom before him in 2016 on an unrelated matter and she didn’t raise a bias issue at that time.

McKenzie said he’ll file an appeal of Pope’s decision to the state court administrator’s office and, in effect, that would result in another judge being appointed to review the Tuesday decision.

The next step in the criminal case will be a final pre-trial hearing, with the date pending the review of Tuesday’s decision.

Olson-DeRosso was charged after an investigation was conducted by the Michigan State Police Wakefield Post, in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Treasury, which performed an audit of township accounts and taxes from 2011 to 2016.

When charges were initially filed, Jacobs alleged Olson-DeRosso issued checks to herself and took cash funds of $196,862 from the township over the five-year period.


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