Michigan Sheriff Who Rear-Ended Car at 100 mph While Drunk is Still on the Job

Six months ago, St. Joseph County Sheriff Mark Lillywhite, while driving his service SUV down a highway at nearly 100 mph while drunk, crashed into a vehicle full of citizens and found himself crawling into the passenger side of his vehicle as first responders arrived.

One of the passengers in the vehicle he hit said there were no headlights on the vehicle that struck them.

Lillywhite refused a breathalyzer at the scene and told troopers he wasn’t driving. He later tested for a .252 blood alcohol level.

His badge and loaded service revolver was found in the console, and two more guns in the trunk.

“I don’t know,” Lillywhite said. “All I know is I went in the ditch and I don’t got no clue.”

The sheriff could have been sent to prison for 15 years on felony charges if anyone had been killed or seriously injured. There were no serious injuries.

Lillywhite pleaded guilty in April to two misdemeanor counts operating while intoxicated and carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to one year probation.

Prior to his sentencing he spent a month in intensive alcohol treatment.

He’s still on the job, with limited options to remove an elected official.

Lillywhite has faced calls to lose his elected post. He filed for divorce with his wife. And he worked two jobs outside of law enforcement while keeping his sheriff title, according to his attorney.

Undersheriff Jason Bingaman said he’s been doing more of the daily work that was previously done by Lillywhite.

In divorce proceedings it was revealed that Lillywhite had been working three jobs, one of them at FedEx, while making approximately $105,000 as sheriff. His wife’s attorney claimed there was “a hostile environment created in this house for many years by the plaintiff with alcoholism.”

In Michigan, a sheriff can only be removed by governor’s order or a recall.

During a County Board of Commissioners meeting on August 15, Lillywhite declined to answer questions about a noticed absence from his job. He walked out of the meeting.

Commissioner Ken Malone said Lillywhite told him he planned to resign, but has not. Lillywhite “hasn’t been at work in months,” Malone said.

The board then voted 6-1 in August to request Gov. Gretchen Whitmer remove Lillywhite as sheriff because he’s neglecting his duties as sheriff, but Lillywhite says he’s not that concerned with the board’s move. Lillywhite would remain in his elected position until the end of 2024 if not recalled or removed.

  • The county’s attorney has been carefully crafting the letter of request to the governor, as he’s doubtful Whitmer will remove the sheriff. Grounds for removal include being guilty of official misconduct; willful neglect of duty; extortion; habitual drunkenness; or convicted of being drunk.
  • Whitmer rejected multiple requests to remove a Republican sheriff from Jackson County in 2019. Sheriff Steven Rand was accused of mocking an employee for his disability, making a comment about an imagined snuff film with a female courthouse employee, using racial slurs, discharging his gun in his office and not filing a report on it and calling a county judge a “scatterbrained c—.”
  • In July, Jackson County settled litigation with a lieutenant who said Rand mocked him for his hearing loss and created a hostile work environment with bigoted, racist and sexist comments. The county settled for a $1.65 million payout.