Virgil Smith’s Uncertain City Council Run Could Have Wide Implications Across Michigan

WDET’s Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio’s Cheyna Roth point to future plea deals — and even term limits.

Former state Sen. Virgil Smith (D-Detroit) hopes to appear on the November ballot for Detroit City Council District 2. He won enough votes in the August primary election to qualify for the November runoff.

But it’s still not a sure thing. That’s because Smith agreed to a plea deal that barred him from running for public office for five years. The Michigan Court of Appeals threw out that provision of Smith’s plea deal. But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is now working on appealing that ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court. 

[Hear Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta talk about Virgil Smith’s case and candidacy on Detroit Today earlier this month]

WDET’s Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio’s Cheyna Roth talk about how this case could have much wider implications in Michigan.

Roth says the Appeals Court is saying in its decision that “voters have a constitutional right to pick their electors.”

“That’s the same point that opponents of term limits say… that you cannot tell people that you cannot elect someone if that’s who (you) want to represent (you),” notes Neher. “So it would be interesting to see, if term limits ever became an issue in court, if this would have big implications for that.”

Roth says this could also have a significant impact on Michigan’s criminal court system.

“It’s very rare to see a court step in and give a blanket exemption about what can be put into a plea agreement,” she says. “For the most part, prosecutors and defendants are given a pretty wide latitude to craft these contracts.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.