Michigan Senator Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor Assault Against Nurse Practitioner
BATTLE CREEK – Sen. John Bizon entered a guilty plea Thursday to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge in district court stemming from an encounter with a female nurse practitioner during an August 2021 medical visit, saying later he did not behave as he normally would that day, due to being ill with the coronavirus.
During a Thursday afternoon plea hearing before 10th District Court Judge Michelle Richardson, Mr. Bizon (R-Battle Creek) pleaded guilty to one count of assault and battery.
"I am guilty of the battery," Mr. Bizon said when asked for his plea.
Mr. Bizon declined comment to reporters in person following the hearing, but later Thursday afternoon he issued a statement through his lawyer, Martin Crandall. Mr. Bizon in his statement called the incident "regrettable."
"As a doctor who spent decades caring for those in need, I am deeply distressed that I unintentionally caused someone to feel unsafe," Mr. Bizon said. "I was very sick at the time of the incident and did not behave as I normally would have. Nevertheless, I take this situation very seriously and have learned from it."
Mr. Bizon worked in the medical practice for nearly 40 years as an ear, nose and throat-otolaryngologist in Battle Creek until 2019. In 2019 the Brookside ENT and Hearing Center was closed following a ransomware attack on the company's computer systems.
Despite the plea, no disciplinary action is planned to be taken within the Legislature, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said in a brief statement.
"With this misdemeanor being addressed by the court and Sen. Bizon taking responsibility for his actions, I do not plan to take further action at this time," Mr. Shirkey said.
The charge against Mr. Bizon carries a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Mr. Crandall asked Mr. Bizon during the hearing if he had inappropriately touched the nurse while she was performing her duties.
"I thought of it more as a friendly gesture," Mr. Bizon said.
He explained that he was "reaching down to get her attention, yes, and I did touch her."
Mr. Crandall asked Mr. Bizon if the victim had identified the touching at the time to be offensive.
"There was nothing at the time that would suggest that it was offensive," Mr. Bizon said. "She took two steps forward and said that she would go and check on my test."
In a police report of the incident, the nurse said Mr. Bizon allegedly touched her inappropriately while in an examination room at the facility when she was going over his medications.
Mr. Bizon allegedly told the nurse that he did not understand her medication recommendation for an over-the-counter medication, so she brought up information on a laptop. While providing an explanation regarding the medication, Mr. Bizon allegedly put his arm around her, placed his hand on her waist, pulled her closer to him and squeezed her waist with his hand.
The police report states that the nurse did not tell Mr. Bizon to stop because she was shocked at what was occurring.
Upon telling a medical assistant at the facility what had happened afterward, the medical assistant allegedly informed her that Mr. Bizon has touched her as well while she was taking his vital signs earlier during his appointment while also making inappropriate comments.
The medical assistant, in an interview with police, said Mr. Bizon allegedly had grabbed her arm and had said his blood pressure had gone up because she was in the room. The report stated the woman said she did not take offense to the grabbing of her arm and the flirtatious remark, saying "older men like to flirt to younger women.
During Thursday's hearing Mr. Bizon said he would have responded if the nurse had said anything, adding he was not yelled at or slapped or anything at the time of the incident.
"I would have apologized at the time if she would have said something," Mr. Bizon said.
Mr. Bizon was asked if since the incident he had found that what has occurred was considered offensive by the victim.
"I found that out when the police arrived," Mr. Bizon said.
A presentence report will be completed prior to sentencing in the case. A date for the senator's sentencing hearing was still to be determined as of Thursday afternoon.
Christopher Elsworth, an assistant Barry County prosecuting attorney, declined to make a statement to reporters following the hearing except to point out that the plea had been entered.
Mr. Elsworth said he expected the sentencing date to be set soon and that it likely would take place in late March or early April.
The incident in question took place on August 14, 2021, at the Oaklawn After Hours Express in Marshall and involved a nurse practitioner at the facility.
A police report was filed with the Marshall Police Department on August 17 by the nurse, who accused Mr. Bizon of inappropriately touching her during an appointment.
During the hearing it was stated that Mr. Bizon was at the clinic to be tested for the coronavirus, where it was determined that he did have COVID-19.
While not being subject to any disciplinary action in the Senate chamber, what impact Mr. Bizon's plea and conduct could have on his reelection campaign remains unclear.
Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), chair of the House Appropriations Committee Track, announced last month he was running for the seat. The Bizon case could be a factor in a potentially major Republican primary battle.
The new 18th Senate District in which Mr. Bizon resides is safely Republican, containing parts of Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Ionia, Kalamazoo and Kent counties.