No perjury charges for former DPD deputy chief Tolbert in Davonte Sanford case

The Wayne County Prosecutors Office says it will not charge former deputy police chief James Tolbert with perjury.

He was accused of lying under oath about evidence that helped to wrongly convict Davontae Sanford of killing four people.

Sanford, who was 14 years old at the time, spent eight years in prison.  Kym Worthy declined to bring charges against Tolbert because there weren't any witnesses who would testify against him, including Sanford who invoked his Fifth Amendment right.

The six-year statute of limitations on the charge was to expire tomorrow.

Davontae was 15 when he pleaded guilty to four murders and was imprisoned in 2008. He's 24 years old now. Sanford walked out of prison Wednesday, after a judge erased the guilty pleas at the request of Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy.

The case appeared closed and unremarkable until lawyers discovered a hit man's confession to the same killings -- along with eight other killings -- just 15 days after Sanford was sent to prison. That touched off years of efforts to get the guilty pleas set aside, but prosecutors resisted at every turn until state police were asked last year to take a fresh look. The hit man's name is Vincent Smothers.

Worthy's office in a statement said that on May 20, 2016, at the conclusion of the re-investigation of the Runyon Street homicides for post-conviction purposes in Davontae Sanford’s case, the Michigan State Police submitted a warrant request to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office seeking the authorization of perjury charges against former Detroit Police Department Deputy Chief James Tolbert.  

Worthy explained the decision to not charge Tolbert was due to Sanford's decision.

"The obvious question is why this office could move to dismiss a case where four people were killed based on James Tolbert's interview with Michigan State Police, but not charge him with perjury? As I have stated, the building blocks of our case were severely undermined‎ by this interview and we requested that the case be dismissed.

“In order to proceed with perjury charges, we must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Tolbert's testimony on July 13, 2010, was false. There were only three witnesses to the drawing of the sketch in question. Two of them, Davontae Sanford and James T‎olbert are unavailable to us. The third person is Sgt. Michael Russell, and his testimony does not support a perjury charge. The bottom line is that there is an important legal distinction between acting on evidence that undermines a conviction, and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that someone has committed perjury,”

Sanford has said that after being released that he wants to move on with his life.

"For a while, of course I'd be like, angry, mad," he said last month. "At the end of the day, the people who played a part in it ... what [are] they doing? They're living their life," he said. "So, me, being mad, angry, didn't do nothing. It would just hurt me. What's the use in being mad?"


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