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Hugo Mack for Prosecutor 2020 headshot

Ypsi Votes: Hugo Mack's journey from defendant to prosecutor hopeful

Ypsi Votes is a brand new series from the Eastern Echo featuring candidates up and down the ballot in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. In this article, the Echo speaks with Hugo Mack, a candidate for Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney.

Ypsi Votes is a brand new series from the Eastern Echo featuring candidates up and down the ballot in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. Get accessible and in-depth information on the candidates on your ballot. Note: The Echo does not endorse any candidate for any office. 

This article is the first of three articles featuring the candidates for Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney. Check out our feature on Eli Savit here, and Arianne Slay here.

Hugo Mack knows what it’s like to move through the justice system and to completely rebuild as a newly freed citizen. He has experienced the justice system as a defendant and a prosecutor.

And he believes these life experiences make him uniquely situated to lead the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office.

Experiencing the justice system in the defendant’s chair

Mack was found guilty of first-degree sexual misconduct and felonious assault in 1993 for the rape of a woman he was having an affair with, and he served 10 years in prison. Mack pleaded not guilty, and to this day maintains he was wrongfully accused. His license to practice law was taken away at the time but was reinstated in 2010 by the Attorney Discipline Board of the Michigan Supreme Court.

“I know what it's like to pay a debt not owed, I know what it's like to be in the defendant's chair,” Mack said in an interview with the Echo. "I know what it's like to come back from nothing and have to rebuild, so I know what it's like to be a returning citizen. Nobody else can say that you see, so experience is the best teacher."

Mack says that his character and integrity are what allowed him to return to his life practicing law, “I addressed the Michigan Supreme Court . . . and told them of my integrity, and they listened to my whole life story and they said Mr. Mack, we're gonna do something we have not done in 184 years. We're going to restore a law license to you because we find you to be a man of integrity and character.”

A product of Ann Arbor Public Schools and the beginnings of a career right at home

Mack is a product of Ann Arbor Public Schools, where he graduated from Pioneer High School in 1973. He earned a bachelor’s degree with distinction from the University of Michigan in three years. He then attended the University of Toledo’s College of Law and graduated in the top 10% of his class. 

Mack’s experience in practicing law in Washtenaw County is extensive; Mack was an intern for the county’s prosecutor at the time, William Delhey. Mack then accepted a position in the public defender’s office, starting out in misdemeanor court. Mack said he stuck around because he was fascinated with what he could do as a public defender. 

“The prosecuting attorney is the most unique attorney in the world because a prosecutor, according to the Supreme Court, they're supposed to be first and foremost a minister of justice,“ Mack said. "You see, other attorneys exist to represent zealously the interests of their clients, whether that's a civil case or criminal case."

“Well, a prosecutor is supposed to be above that and seek out justice. It's not about winning or losing, so that's why I wanted to be a member of the prosecuting attorney's office because I wanted to address systemic racism and sexism in the system which I've certainly seen [it].”

Mack said he had a 70% success rate in misdemeanor court, representing people with any variety of misdemeanors. He also served for six years in juvenile court, “representing the constitutional rights of juveniles charged with” any type of offenses. 

Since his license to practice law was restored in 2010, Mack has been in private practice, where he says he has defended over 800 victims of domestic violence. 

A campaign for restorative justice

Mack is running his campaign to be a “true minister of justice”, he says he wants to bring restorative justice to Washtenaw County. To Mack, restorative justice means focusing on the individual as a micro-concept, as opposed to the idea of reformative justice. 

“Well restorative justice and reform[ative justice] are two totally different things. They both have noble purposes, but two totally different things. So for example when I say that I am for restorative justice . . . it focuses on the individual . . . anybody who [is] running as a reformer, that is a macro-concept.”

Mack continued, “a reformer is gonna spend all their time trying to eliminate cash bail. Washtenaw is one of the 83 counties of the state. No county prosecutor is going to eliminate cash bail from Washtenaw County. That has to be done on a legislative level. Eliminating cash bail is a macro concept . . . so for somebody to say we're gonna run as reform, eliminate cash bail, it's disingenuous.”

If elected, Mack said one of his first priorities is to issue a message to the law enforcement of Washtenaw County, “the incestuous relationship of friendship between the prosecutor's office of law enforcement which existed for over a quarter-century comes to an end January 1, 2021,” Mack said.

Mack says he wants to focus on the “partnership” between law enforcement and the public, as opposed to the current system, which Mack says allows some law enforcement officials to show favoritism to people they know.

“Accountability is mandatory, an accountability that can only be ensured through a partnership based on mutual respect for different roles in public safety. I will never allow a good cop to be crucified or a bad one to be lionized,” Mack’s campaign website says. 

Mack said he will also let law enforcement know that he takes the issue of excessive force very seriously, “if I believe you used excessive force against one of my citizens, I intend to hold you to account.” 

Mack says his policy of restorative justice means different things for different people. If you're the victim, it means being met with respect and compassion, and it means being a part of the entire process from beginning to end. “It means my job as the next prosecutor is to make you whole,” Mack said. 

For a defendant, restorative justice means, “no overcharging, no railroading, full constitutional rights in the court, no prosecutor misconduct, a fair sentencing recommendation. You know, we don't make our society safe by charging people,” Mack said. 

For law enforcement, it means Mack will be “a partner who will support them in good law enforcement,” while also holding them accountable.

Mack closed his interview with the Echo with a call to acknowledge the humanity of all people. 

“I want voters to know that I have fought for the humanity of all people my entire life," Mack said. "I want voters to know that if they say they are supporters of victims, then be supporters of all victims, acknowledge the humanity of victims of domestic violence, acknowledge the humanity of victims of gun violence, acknowledge the humanity of victims of racial violence, acknowledge the humanity of victims of drug violence, and acknowledge the humanity of victims of wrongful conviction and incarceration.”

“Because the very moment you say my class of victims are worthy of humanity but these other classes of victims are not, you become the very thing that you say you oppose. And I want people to look at me and judge me on my integrity. It's been tried and tested and proven solid for decades, and I ask the citizens of Washtenaw County to make me the next prosecutor. I'm a man of integrity and I will serve them well."

Check back on Thursday for a feature story on Eli Savit, another candidate for Washtenaw County Prosecutor. 

There are no Republican candidates on the ballot for Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney, so the winner of the Democratic primary on Aug. 4 will replace longtime incumbent Brian Mackie, who was first elected as prosecutor in 1992.