Jack Crofoot is a bad man. So bad he needs to be locked up in the joint. At least that's what Spartan Stores, their attorneys at Warner Norcross, the Grand Rapids City Attorney's office, and apparently even Mr. Crofoot's public defender want you to think. What did this bad man do?
Mr. Crofoot was a regular patron of Spartan's Family Fare grocery store near the intersection of 44th Street and Breton. One day he missed a couple of items in his grocery cart when he checked out. Before leaving the store, he noticed one of them, a bottle of bleach, and then went back and paid for it. Then immediately after exiting the store, he noticed the other item, a bottle of rum he purchased for a family member. (Mr. Crofoot doesn't drink.) As he headed back into the store to pay for that, the store's security guard detained him and refused to let him do so.
Mr. Crofoot missed the bleach and the rum at the check-out because they were out of sight in his cart, and you see, folks, he is legally blind. However, the Spartan rent-a-cop scoffed at his blindness and demanded that he sign documents confessing to theft. Mr. Crofoot refused, and the rent-a-cop called in the Grand Rapids police. As it happens, the rent-a-cop was also a cadet with the GRPD, so he had an incentive to make it appear to his colleague in blue that he was making a good bust and not a screw-up. As it also happens, this conflict of interest is the very reason why the City of Grand Rapids prohibits its police officers from moonlighting as security guards within the city limits. (More on that below.)
So the Spartan rent-a-cop persuaded his brother officer to cite Mr. Crofoot for shoplifting. Understandably, Mr. Crofoot was unhappy about this and had the gall to complain. In fact, his complaint did get the attention of Spartan's manager for security who then reviewed the store's surveillance video of the incident. He concluded that Mr. Crofoot had told the truth and committed no theft. So the security manager contacted the Grand Rapids City Attorney's office to drop the charges. However, Assistant City Attorney Margaret Bloemers refused.
She was miffed that Mr. Crofoot had made a public complaint about the Spartan rent-a-cop's conflict of interest, which forced the GRPD to enforce the moonlighting regulations that its cadet had been violating. So, Ms. Bloemers, who serves as the GRPD's legal adviser, decided to make an example out of Mr. Crofoot and show us slack-jawed yokels that we had better not get uppity when the cops make a mistake. She pressed on with his prosecution in the city's district court.
Meanwhile, Spartan's security manager had been overridden by the grocery store chain's hired gun, Alex DeYonker of the law firm Warner Norcross & Judd. Mr. Crofoot's public complaints about Spartan tarring his name with an unjust prosecution raised the prospect that he might have a meritorious lawsuit against the grocery store. Thus, Mr. DeYonker decided to deter that prospect by bullying Mr. Crofoot into submission. So instead of giving the man a simple apology and gesture of goodwill as the security manager had originally offered, Spartan's jackal -- ahem, Mr. DeYonker -- decided is was best to hold a suspension of the prosecution (rather than an outright dismissal of it) over Mr. Crofoot's head until he knuckled under to Spartan's settlement terms.
Mr. Crofoot didn't agree, because he wanted his name cleared. So Spartan, Warner Norcross, and the City Attorney's office proceeded with his prosecution. Living on a fixed income, Mr. Crofoot needed a public defender and the district court assigned one to him. Unfortunately for him, his lawyer was one of those operators who collects his fee from the public defender's office and then does as little as he can get away with in exchange for it. In fact, he told Mr. Crofoot that he would not enter a plea of "not guilty" on his behalf because it wasn't worth the trouble. He claimed that he had already met with the judge who was determined to convict him. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Crofoot made a big stink about this: He wanted his lawyer to defend him! Finally, his lawyer relented and agree to enter a "not guilty" plea, but he would not do any work toward his defense -- for example, subpoenaing the store's video surveillance tape or the security manager and the store clerks to appear as witnesses. Mr. Crofoot's lawyer explained that such case preparation would take too much trouble.
Of course, we can all marvel at the absurdity of this. However, Mr. Crofoot faces the prospect of doing time, because everyone who should be putting things right by Mr. Crofoot has instead chosen to serve crass, rotten, venial interests that profit by his conviction, as unjust as that may be:
 The Spartan security guard vilified Mr. Crofoot to make himself look good to his superiors at the GRPD;
 Spartan and Warner Norcross have chosen to run a customer through a ruinious process to crush any prospect of a lawsuit for falsely detaining and defaming him as a thief;
 The City Attorney's office has put petty bureaucratic solidarity ahead of justice to smack down a citizen who rightly complained of a police officer's conflict of interest in the matter; and
 His public defender is peeved that his client should be so unruly as to demand that he actually defend him and so make him work for his fee.
Mr. Crofoot's real crime, folks, is that he had the temerity to complain when wronged. He had the nerve to hold people accountable to the rules they claim to abide by. He had the unmitigated gall to demand that his name be cleared by those tarring it. Instead of fixing the problem, the Spartan security guard, Spartan Stores, Warner Norcross, the City Attorney's office, and his public defender chose to vindicate themselves at his expense -- which may end up including a jail sentence. Their craven cowardice in refusing to admit a wrong to falsely justify themselves -- especially those who hold a public trust, like Assistant City Attorney Bloemers and Mr. Crofoot's public defender -- is despicable.
Such is the rule of petty bullies in River City and the supine go-along-to-get-along culture of our public officials, watchdogs, and local media that lets them get away with it.