Thursday, April 1, 2021

Ex-councilman rejects plea deal; city manager settles

Christopher Sanders
Criminal charges against former Wayne City Councilman Christopher Sanders will be decided in a jury trial following his rejection of a plea deal from the Wayne County prosecutor.

Sanders is charged with filing a false report of a felony, conspiracy to commit false report of a felony and attempted false report of a felony in connection wtih a 911 call concerning a road rage incident on Oct. 17 of 2017. Through his attorney, John Cahalan, Sanders  rejected both proposed plea deals which offered him two years of probation, no jail time, and no personal or third-party contact with Wayne City Manager Lisa Nocerini, the alleged victim in the incident. 

The rejected plea deals required Sanders, 52, to plead guilty to conspiring in a false felony report or pleading guilty to attempting a false felony report along with one count of false report of a misdemeanor. 

Sanders refused both options and has maintained his innocence of the charges since the investigation began three years ago. He has steadfastly denied the accusation that he paid Jimmie Lee Chandler, 29, of Van Buren Township, to break into Nocerini's car on Oct. 16, 2017, plant a starter pistol and what appeared to be drugs inside. When Nocerini left the Wayne City Hall parking lot the same evening, Chandler claims he called 911 to falsely report a road rage incident describing Nocerini's car and claiming she was brandishing a weapon. According to police reports, there was no response to a call of that description at that time although Chandler, arrested later on a separate warrant, subsequently claimed during a police interview that Sanders paid him to plant the items in Nocerini's car and make the calls.

In a plea deal, Chandler received 18 months probation and court fees. He is eligible for community service, according to court records, if he is unable to pay the court costs.

Nocerini claims she found the items the day after they were placed in her car and reported those findings to police. Following an unsuccessful investigation by law enforcement, Nocerini hired a private detective to pursue the matter. That investigation led to charges filed by Michigan State Police and the implication of Sanders by Chandler last year.

Nocerini sued Sanders, Chandler and the City of  Wayne, where she is still employed as the city manager, and has reportedly accepted a settlement of less than $50,000 for damages from the city insurance carrier. The city was liable for any damages awarded in Nocerini’s suit as well as legal fees for Sanders as he was a sitting councilman at the time the alleged incident occurred.