WESTLAND, MICHIGAN – An attorney plans to use an inadvertent 21-minute recording from an officer’s lapel microphone as grounds to overturn a misdemeanor conviction against a husband who allegedly was beaten by officers trying to mediate a dispute between the man and his wife.
The husband, Jeffrey Kodlowski, suspected his wife of cheating and initiated the March 18, 2009, incident when he took her cell phone in an attempt to prove her infidelity. Marlyn Kodlowski then began a series of phone calls to police that led to the arrival of officers Michael Little and Kyle Dawley to the Kodlowski residence on South Hanlon Street.
Jeffrey Kodlowski’s attorney, Joseph Corriveau, says the recording, captured by Little’s lapel microphone, shows the police overreached their authority and allegedly attacked his client, who was charged with assaulting the officers; he was acquitted of the assault charge and found guilty of resisting arrest.
Although assaulting a police officer is a felony in Michigan, Westland officials did not submit the case to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for review; instead, Kodlowski was charged in 29th District Court under city code violations of assault and resisting arrest.
“The audio shows these officers clearly stepped over the line,” said Corriveau, who filed a motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals in December, after Wayne Circuit Judge Craig Strong refused to hear the case on appeal.
“If the microphone hadn’t been on, this would’ve been just a ‘he said, she said’ situation. But the audio tells the story,” the attorney said.
Corriveau said he also plans to file a civil lawsuit against the police seeking damages for the beating, but is waiting to see how the appeal plays out first.
“(District Judge Mark McConnell) didn’t allow photos of my client’s injuries, or any mention of the beating these officers gave him,” Corriveau said. “The judge also wouldn’t let the jury see a transcript of the audio.”
Westland Deputy Chief Daniel Karrick said he couldn’t comment on the case because it was still being adjudicated, although he said there’s nothing unusual about trying assault cases against officers in district court.
“Most of those cases are charged as misdemeanors,” Karrick said. “I’d say 99 percent of our cases are charged that way.”
“Try to make me leave.”
The incident began at 4:01 a.m., when Marlyn Kodlowski called the Westland Police Department claiming her husband had taken her cell phone and car keys and wouldn’t allow her to leave the house. The desk officer asked to talk to her husband; Jeffrey Kodlowski told the officer, “There’s no fight, like hitting or nothing.”
“Let me ask you this — how come you won’t let her have the keys to leave?” the officer asked. Jeffrey Kodlowski agreed to give his wife the car keys, and the officer hung up.
Marlyn Kodlowski again called police at 4:12 a.m.
Little and Dawley arrived at 4:17 a.m. to find the woman sitting in her van outside the home. She told the officers her husband had handed over her keys and purse, but would not give up the cell phone. “He thinks I’m cheating on him,” she said.
She told the officers she planned to go to her sister’s house.
Corriveau said “it was obvious Mrs. Kodlowski was free to leave” when the police arrived. “At that point, they should have just left,” Corriveau said.
The officers instead entered the house and are heard ordering Jeffrey Kodlowski to give the cell phone to his wife. He refused.
“You don’t believe me or nothing I say; what because I’m the dude here?” he asked.
“You’re a loudmouth; you’re acting like a jerk,” Dawley said.
“Loudmouth? You’re in my house; no one’s yelling at you,” Jeffrey Kodlowski replied. “You come off with this pumping the chest and throwing your authority at me for nothing, dude. You have no right to sit here over a phone.”
“Because you’re acting like a jerk,” Dawley said.
“OK, well, I will act like a jerk and be quiet,” the husband said. “You have no right to sit here over a phone.”
Dawley cut him off: “Try to make me leave your house. Go for it.”
Jeffrey Kodlowski twice informed the officers that he’d had an operation for a brain aneurysm.
“Let’s take him.”
At one point, Marlyn Kodlowski and the officers tried to use her husband’s wallet as a bargaining chip to get Jeffrey Kodlowski to give up the phone.
Again he refused, saying he wanted to learn the code so he could see who his wife had been calling.
Jeffrey Kodlowski is later heard saying, “I’m the victim. I asked you guys to please leave; she’s got the keys to the car, she wants to leave. I talked to an officer on the phone; he said ‘Just give her the keys and go.'”
A few minutes later, Marlyn Kodlowski says she wants to leave. Her husband is heard saying, “I’m curious . . . this is my wallet there?”
“Don’t touch me,” Little said.
The officers later would say Jeffrey Kodlowski had spun Little around when he touched him, but no struggle is heard on the audio. Instead, Kodlowski apologizes twice.
Dawley then says to his partner, “You know what? Let’s take him. (Expletive) him.”
The sounds of a struggle are heard. “Nobody is touching him . . . I was pointing,” Jeffrey Kodlowski says.
“Don’t resist,” Dawley says.
The husband screams, “Man, dude. Ow, ow!”
“Stop resisting,” Dawley says.
“I ain’t doing nothing,” Kodlowski says. “He punched me in the face.”
Marlyn Kodlowski then begs the officers, “Stop, stop. My son is outside.”
“Go outside with your son,” Little says.
“Don’t touch him,” Marlyn Kodlowski says. “You guys, stop. Oh please, you guys.”
When the struggle was over, Jeffrey Kodlowski was bleeding profusely from a huge gash in his head, and is allegedly rushed to Annapolis Hospital.
Curt Benson, a professor at Cooley School of Law, said police officers are required to leave a private residence once they determine no crime has been committed, even if they were invited inside.
“If they believe someone has committed a crime, they can make an arrest,” he said. “But in a case like this, if they weren’t sure who owned the phone, as long as there was no evidence of a crime, they should have told them to talk to a lawyer. They’re required to leave if they’re asked to leave and there’s no crime.
“The problem is, some people use the police as arbitrators in family squabbles,” Benson said. “The police know that, and their job is to de-escalate the situation. It doesn’t sound like that’s what happened here.”