COLUMN: Brian Kolodziej's misconduct doesn't discount Ian Elliott's sexual misconduct
After nearly three years of legal battles, former Student Government Association President Ian Elliott was sentenced to one year in prison for sexually assaulting former CMU student Rachel Wilson.
It was a long fight, but eventually Wilson and Landrea Blackmore, another woman who came forward about being assaulted by Elliott at CMU, got the justice they sought at Elliott's sentencing Aug. 2.
On Sept. 9, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced in a press conference that Assistant Attorney General Brian Kolodziej, who prosecuted Elliott on behalf of the state, was forced to resign Friday. He admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with one of Elliott’s accusers. Nessel also explained that Michigan State Police are investigating Kolodziej.
There is no question that a prosecutor having an inappropriate relationship with a victim – especially a sexual assault victim – is wrong and awful.
It’s equally important to note that Kolodziej's misconduct doesn’t change or disprove the cases Wilson and Blackmore brought against Elliott.
Elliott’s defense attorney Joe Barberi told Central Michigan Life after Nessel’s press conference he wouldn’t want to reinstate the case and have a trial because he believes Elliott can “never get a fair trial and due process based on what Kolodziej did” and that he couldn’t “unring” that bell.
Similarly, Barberi told MLive the reason Elliott agreed to “stop the madness” and enter his no-contest plea of going to prison for a year and filing as a sexual offender for life was “because of the evidence put together by Mr. Kolodziej’s behavior.”
Elliott accepted a plea agreement on June 24 in two cases of sexual assault against Wilson, pleading no contest to one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. In Michigan, a no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but when a no contest plea is accepted, the defendant can be sentenced as if they did plead guilty or was found guilty. As part of the agreement, Blackmore’s case against Elliott was consolidated with Wilson’s and both women read victim impact statements at the sentencing.
Barberi’s statements couldn’t be further from the truth. The “evidence” he is referring to includes the testimony of the women Elliott was accused of assaulting. Their credibility should not be called into question because of Kolodziej’s behavior.
I attended many of the court proceedings since the attorney general’s office picked up the case almost a year ago. I saw the immense pain Wilson and Blackmore felt as they testified about what Elliott did to them. I watched their family members cry as they listened to the details.
That was real. That had nothing to do with Kolodziej.
What’s happening now does not discount the things that happened in the past.