Advance Notice: Briefs

Former Michigan senator, Ag director pleads ‘no contest’ to domestic violence

By: - March 22, 2021 3:04 pm

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Updated, 9:32 p.m., 3/22/21, 12:04 p.m., 3/23/21 with comments from Irwin’s attorney

Mitchell Irwin, a Democratic former state senator, state Agriculture director and Department of Technology, Management and Budget director, has entered a “no contest” plea to a single misdemeanor charge of domestic violence in 15th District Court. He faces a sentencing hearing on Tuesday. 

Irwin, 69, is the father of state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and is married to political consultant and Ann Arbor 4th Ward City Councilwoman Jennifer Eyer Irwin. She was the victim of domestic violence, according to the 15th District Court case file obtained by the Advance

Mitch Irwin was arrested at the couple’s home on Jan. 13. He was arraigned that same day and was given a court-appointed attorney for the arraignment. The record shows he has a yearly income of $50,000 a year and a $100,000 in retirement. The document also showed he and his wife pay $3,000 a month for their Ann Arbor home, where the incident occurred. 

Court records show that Irwin entered a no contest plea. Under the plea agreement called a COBBS agreement, a judge consented to no jail time for Irwin. If he had been convicted, he could have faced up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. 

Irwin was a state senator for the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula from 1979 to 1990, including a stint as minority floor leader. He also served as the director of two state departments under former Gov. Jennifer Granhom, a Democrat. 

Eyer Irwin is a partner in Vanguard Public Affairs in Lansing. She formerly worked at MLive from 2000 to 2016. She was appointed to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners in 2016. She was elected to the Ann Arbor City Council 4th Ward seat in November 2020 for a four-year term. 

Eyer Irwin wrote in response to an email inquiry: “You may contact Barbara Niess-May, executive director of SafeHouse,” apparently referring to an Ann Arbor-based organization serving domestic violence survivors. 

Irwin’s attorney, Joseph Simon, emailed a comment Tuesday morning:

“My client deeply regrets this isolated incident. That evening, he drank in a manner that was out of character. He pushed his wife out of the way and she fell, and her daughter called the police. He apologizes and takes full responsibility. They are committed to strengthening their marriage and family.”

This story has been updated with information from the court file.

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Todd A. Heywood
Todd A. Heywood

Todd Heywood is an award-winning journalist with over 30 years of experience. He's worked in print, online, radio and television. His reporting has been cited by the U.S. House of Representatives as well as in the United Nations reports on HIV. He's an avid vintage Star Wars collector and lives in Lansing with his three dogs.

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