Collette pleads ‘no contest’ to simple assault and battery

Retired Ingham County chief Judge ordered to pay fines, fees

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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 — Retired Ingham County Chief Circuit Judge William Collette entered a "no contest" plea today to a charge of simple assault and battery for pulling a restaurant employee's hair. . 

"No contest" means the person is not admitting guilt or innocence, but for sentencing, the deal is treated as a guilty finding. 

As part of the plea bargain, Collette was required to pay $425 in court costs and fines. He is also to not violate any laws for the next 90 days. If he pays off the court costs and fines and stays out of trouble, the case against him will be dismissed. 

As Jackson District Court Judge Daniel A. Goostrey told Collette what the total court costs would be, the former judge jovially stated, “Always happy to pay.” Collette also thanked Goostrey for “being brave enough for handling my case.”

Goostrey, who heard the case because of recusals in Ingham County,  said the deal was an “appropriate way to dispose of this case.”

The deal was approved, in part, because Collette could face a civil lawsuit, his attorney, Mary Chartier, acknowledged to the court. 

Collette was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery from a May 29, 2021, incident at Dusty’s Cellar in which he pulled a restaurant employee's hair. A criminal complaint was filed with Meridian Township.

The 77-year-old retired judge did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Chartier also did not respond to an inquiry.

Collette admitted during an interview with WLNS in August 2121 that he did pull the woman’s hair to “get her attention” so he could pick up a to-go order for his wife. He said he had no intent to cause the woman any harm. 

After the charges were filed, three female judges on the Circuit Court bench with him accused him of harassment and bullying. Beverly Nettles, Rosemarie Aquilina and Laura Baird said they had filed complaints with the State Court Administrator’s Office, which oversees the courts and judges. The courts are not subject to public records laws, so it was not possible to review their complaints.

Collette denied the allegations by the three female colleagues, instead shifting the blame onto them. He said he confronted Nettles over poor management and “erratic” behavior. She was removed from the bench in 2008 after the Judicial Tenure Commission found she lied twice under oath during disciplinary hearings. 

Aquilina and Baird said Collette, who had the nickname of “Wild Bill” from his years as a defense counsel, was a bully who would make sexist comments, raise his fist in anger and storm into their offices. Collette dismissed their concerns in an interview with City Pulse in August 2021. He said Baird has a “thick file” in the State Court Administrator's Office and chastised Aquilina for signing copies of her fiction book during the Nassar sentencing. 

Collette was a 1967 graduate of Michigan State University and received his J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1970. From 1971 to 1974 he served as an assistant city attorney in Lansing, and from 1974 until 1979 as an independent defense attorney. He then served on the 54th District Court starting in 1979. He was elevated from the District Court to the Circuit Court in 1990. He retired in 2020.

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