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Location: Birmingham, MI, United States

Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Politician Gets His Day in Court Against Vandalism

FARMINGTON HILLS - (From today's Oakland Press Newspaper) John Akouri, through his many years in local and state politics, has developed a thick skin. But when a Birmingham man allegedly damaged his car and threatened his life and the lives of his family members after months of negative e-mails and letters, Akouri decided enough was enough. "I could take it when it was just directed toward me," said Akouri, a Farmington Hills city councilman. "But I couldn't take the threats against my family." Akouri will get his day in court today, when the trial of Christopher Cummins begins before Oakland County Circuit Judge Mark Goldsmith.
Cummins is charged with malicious destruction of property worth more than $1,000. Akouri said the charges stem from an incident in Royal Oak in October 2004 when, he said, Cummins damaged his car and made threats. He also said Cummins made ethnic slurs against him. Akouri, who is of Lebanese descent, filed a civil lawsuit against Cummins on Oct. 13. Cummins' attorney, Jeffrey Leib, declined to comment Wednesday. Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Jeffrey Hall said Cummins faces five years in prison if convicted of the felony charge. He said Cummins does not have a criminal record. Akouri said Cummins began harassing him in the spring of 2002. Akouri, former press secretary to U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, was running for state representative. Cummins sent a derogatory letter to a local newspaper, calling Akouri "sniveling," a "parasite" and a "trained monkey." Akouri said his house was also egged and someone damaged his lawn. Then, someone damaged a lawn sign at his parents' home. Akouri said he brushed it off and tried to move on. But another letter was sent several months later, in 2003, to another local newspaper, in which Cummins called Akouri a "political opportunist" and a "problem for the Middle Eastern community." Akouri, who was running for a seat on the Farmington Hills City Council, said he tried to ignore the letter. But Cummins began sending e-mails to Akouri urging him to drop out of the race. Akouri was not dissuaded and won the seat.
On Oct. 21, 2004, Akouri said his troubles with Cummins came to a head. Akouri was leaving the Oakland County Republican Party's headquarters in Royal Oak when he said Cummins approached him and made several comments to Akouri, asking him if terrorist organizations paid for his car. He also made a slashing motion across his throat that frightened Akouri. As Akouri - who was running for a seat on the Oakland County Commission - pulled away from the lot, he said, Cummins damaged his side mirror and kicked his car, damaging it. Akouri filed complaints with the Royal Oak and Farmington Hills police departments. He also got a personal protection order against Cummins. Akouri said he has no idea why he's been having problems with Cummins. He said he barely knows the man and is baffled by Cummins' actions."I've been asking myself the question 'why' for many years," he said. Akouri's civil attorney, Michael Rizik, said Cummins clearly has a problem with his client - one he hopes to resolve soon. "This situation continued to escalate until John took action," Rizik said. For Akouri, the last few years have been stressful and taxing. He said he hopes a jury will see what he's been through and convict Cummins. "My life is public," he said. "I have nothing to hide. If I knew what (Cummins') problem is with me, I'd like to address it."

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">