Ex-Rep. Schmidt arraigned on felony drug charges

Former state Rep. Roy Schmidt appears for an arraignment on felony drug charges in Kent County. (June 12, 2015)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Former state Rep. Roy Schmidt has been formally charged with two felony drug counts in connection to a marijuana investigation.

Schmidt, 61, was arraigned in 61st District Court Friday afternoon on two counts of delivering or manufacturing marijuana, which is a felony charge for violating the Controlled Substance Act.

It’s the latest in a series of political and personal mishaps for the former state House member and long time Grand Rapids city commissioner. The first came as the result of a botched attempt to hire someone to run against him in 2012.

Authorities search former state Rep. Roy Schmidt's house on June 10, 2015)
(Authorities search former state Rep. Roy Schmidt’s house on June 10, 2015)

Wednesday, the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team and sheriff’s office raided Schmidt’s home on the city’s West Side, as well as another house he rented. They said the searches were part of an ongoing investigation into the growth and sale of marijuana in the greater Grand Rapids area.

Court records show police found about three pounds of suspected marijuana in his 7th Street NW home and a “considerable amount of contraband” in the house he was renting on Myrtle Street NW.

Investigators say Schmidt first told them he was a card-carrying medical marijuana user and caregiver, but then admitted he sold dope to at least 20 people who either weren’t registered with the state or didn’t have a medical marijuana card.

Detectives met with the county prosecutor’s office on Thursday, at which point charges were authorized against Schmidt. He was arrested and spent Thursday night in the Kent County Correctional Facility.

Grand Rapids District Court Judge Donald Passenger, who went on the record calling himself a professional colleague of Schmidt’s for 20 years, on Friday followed a court services recommendation and ordered Schmidt released on a personal recognizance bond. The judge said Schmidt is not a flight risk.

“Appears from everything in the file I’m able to deduce on a quick read that, at worst, I guess this is a medical grow operation that’s not as tight as it should have been,” Passenger said.

Roy Schmidt leaves the Kent County jail on June 12, 2015.
(Schmidt leaves the Kent County jail on June 12, 2015.)

A short time later, Schmidt was free. He emerged from the Kent County jail around 2:45 p.m., brushing past reporters.

“It’s a serious charge. I take it seriously,” he told 24 Hour News 8’s Joe LaFurgey as he headed to a waiting car.

Schmidt faces three years in prison if convicted.

2012 PARTY-SWITCHING AND ELECTION SCHEME

Schmidt’s name is a familiar one in West Michigan, particularly to the people on Grand Rapids’ West Side. For 20 years, he was generally regarded as a public servant who took care of his West Side constituents.

But Schmidt and his political legacy changed in 2012.

Schmidt served as a Grand Rapids city commissioner for 16 years and then in the state House of Representatives starting in 2008, where he served relatively quietly in the majority of his first two years.

In 2010, Republicans took control of the state House. Schmidt, a Democrat, was re-elected — only this time the Democrats were on the outside looking in. It was a view that Schmidt apparently didn’t like.

A file photo of former state Rep. Roy Schmidt.
(A 2012 photo of former state Rep. Roy Schmidt.)

Just moments before the filing deadline for the primary election in 2012, Schmidt put his name on the ballot to again run for the 76th House seat — but this time, in a surprise move, as a Republican.

In a move that was just as remarkable, another person filed at almost the exact time to run as a Democrat. It made a lot people question the eleventh-hour party switch.

In an interview for “To The Point,” 24 Hour News 8 Political Reporter Rick Albin asked Schmidt whether he had coordinated with the other candidate to execute the switch and have the other man run as his Democratic opponent.

The then-state representative’s answer was less than candid:

“Not at all,” he said. “In fact — maybe I don’t understand the politics or there’s something I’m missing — it would be nicer if I didn’t have somebody on the other side.”

As it turned out, he did know the other candidate and had arranged for him to put his name on the ballot.

Two investigations thoroughly denounced the activity that also involved then-Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. The Kent County prosecutor said the scheme was “clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a ‘fraud’ on the electorate.” But neither inquiry found grounds to file criminal charges.

After the November 2012 general election, Schmidt found himself out of office for the first time in two decades — turned out by the same West Side Democratic-leaning voters who had supported him for so long. Democrat Winnie Brinks replaced him, and she still holds the seat.

In the last interview Albin did with Schmidt, he asked the question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind: “What the hell were you thinking?”

After a pause, Schmidt replied, “Rick, I don’t know either. But as I thought for two months, doing what I have to do and being somewhat of a hermit, thinking and second-guessing myself every day, what the heck did I do?”

Since then, Schmidt has been off the radar save the occasional rumor he might try to make a comeback. Until now, that is.

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