UPDATE: ‘Enough is enough’: Baraga County prosecutor nixes plea bargain offers for meth charges

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:04 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2023 at 7:58 PM EST
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L’ANSE, Mich. (WLUC) - Baraga County Prosecutor Joseph O’Leary went into more detail with TV6 on Tuesday about his reasons behind removing plea bargain offers for meth distribution-related offenses.

“I can honestly say that not a day goes by where I don’t get another police report involving possession and use,” said O’Leary. “It’s not a problem that’s going away, it’s a problem that’s increasing. I think I speak for law enforcement when I voice my frustration with the whole situation.”

O’Leary says he will still work with meth addicts, who he says are victims. The prosecutor also says he plans to pursue the maximum penalty for convicted distributors and manufacturers.

“They will face the full penalties provided by law,” continued O’Leary. “In the State of Michigan, that’s a 20-year felony. Now, if there are prior felonies, if they have a history with the criminal justice system, it could be even more than that.”

As plea bargains reduce time spent in correctional facilities, some are concerned these longer sentences will result in less room in state prisons.

But according to Michigan Department of Corrections Spokesman Chris Gautz said he does not believe space will be a concern. In fact, he said this decision may have a repelling effect.

“The other impact or effect that it could have been those individuals may see reports like this and hear from the prosecutor,” said Gautz. “And they may choose to base their operations in a neighboring county, so you could see the numbers rise there if you don’t have a similar type of effect in neighboring counties.”

Prosecutor O’Leary says he is aware that his approach may result in more trials resulting in an increase in taxpayer dollars spent.

However, he says he hopes it will be a short-term effect, resulting in fewer drug trials in the future.

Last published: Feb 6, 2023 6:15:47 PM

Baraga County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph P. O’Leary says he will no longer offer plea bargains for meth-related offenses, effective Tuesday.

Plea bargains are a tool used in criminal proceedings all over the U.S. for achieving justice for victims and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions in a cost-effective, timely manner.

As O’Leary explained in an August 2022 interview with TV6, Baraga County has been affected drastically by the rampant use of methamphetamine. In a press release sent late Monday afternoon, O’Leary said he has decided to change his approach toward meth-related offenses by no longer offering plea bargains of any kind in hopes of combating meth manufacturing and addiction in the community.

“I have concluded that something must change in our approach to this scourge,” Baraga County Prosecutor Joseph O’Leary wrote.

O’Leary was elected in 2000.

The full statement from the Baraga County Prosecutor’s Office is below. Watch Tuesday’s TV6 News for more reactions and updated information. This story will be updated.

Baraga County Prosecutor's Office
Baraga County Prosecutor's Office(WLUC)