Temple Kol Ami cantorial soloist allegedly stabbed himself to get out of his contract.
When police officers arrived at Temple Kol Ami to investigate a reported anti-Semitic stabbing, it did not take long for them to believe the story had been fabricated by the supposed victim.
Sean Sammit, the synagogue’s cantorial soloist and music teacher, initially told police he had been stabbed in the parking lot on Dec. 15 by a man who expressed anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant epithets. However, detectives soon believed the evidence did not support Sammit’s story.
“Early in the investigation, it was becoming increasingly clear there were a number of inconsistencies that did not add up. We believed he had made a false report and that there was no threat to the community,” said West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton.
According to the police report obtained by the JN, Samitt did not call 911 after his alleged attack. Instead, he drove himself to the emergency department of Henry Ford Hospital, where a security staff member called police. There, he told detectives a detailed story that included specifics about the alleged perpetrator’s appearance and clothing and the blows they exchanged during the alleged attack.
Meanwhile, officers on the scene said they did not find any evidence of a stabbing in the synagogue parking lot. Once inside, they said they discovered bloody tissues in Samitt’s office and in the men’s bathroom and a bloody knife in the kitchen area.
When police confronted Samitt about the inconsistencies in his story, he claimed he lost consciousness while washing dishes at the synagogue and accidentally stabbed himself, the report said. He told police he made up the story about being stabbed due to having been teased by other employees about his medical condition(s).
Officers later told Samitt they had examined the health data on Samitt’s Apple watch and found he did not lose consciousness. They also informed him surveillance footage from a nearby camera did not display any signs of the attack he had described.
According to the police report, Samitt then admitted he had decided to stage his own stabbing because he wanted to get out of his contract with Temple Kol Ami. Once Samitt confirmed he had fabricated the attack, West Bloomfield police reported the incident to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. On Dec. 20, Samitt was arrested and charged with one count of falsely reporting a felony. He was arraigned the same day at 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills and appeared in court Jan. 2 for a probable cause hearing.
Kol Ami is located on Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield, a virtual “synagogue row” that includes three other synagogues on the same road and the Jewish Community Center not far away.
“When we learned there was an alleged crime of violence connected to a possible hate crime, it was a source of immediate and urgent concern to our department,” said Patton, adding that Samitt, like any defendant, should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. “We called in off-duty detectives and brought in a lot of resources, including tracking dogs.”
Gary Sikorski, the Jewish Federation’s community-wide security director, spoke to members of the West Bloomfield Police Department prior to the news becoming public.
“We have a great relationship with all of our law enforcement and had there been something that the community needed to be aware of, I’m sure we would have been notified immediately and information would have been relayed to the community,” Sikorski said.
Carolyn Normandin, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Michigan, credits the West Bloomfield Police Department for acting “swiftly and very professionally” but stresses the severe impact this false police report has on the community.
“It is very destructive to file a false police report,” Normandin said. “Not only is it illegal, but it doesn’t help anyone. At a time like this, when there is an uptick in anti-Semitism, filing a false police report harms everyone.”
“We already have an elevated concern about these things,” Patton said. “For someone to fabricate this kind of incident wastes our resources and puts a bad light on the community.”
According to information found in Jewish News stories in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History, Samitt came to Temple Kol Ami in August of 2018 as cantorial soloist and also worked as the school’s music teacher. He resigned Dec. 16, a Kol Ami spokesperson confirmed.
“Sean resigned for personal health reasons,” the spokesperson said. “We wish him well in the future. Sean’s musical talents were appreciated during his time here, and we’re very sad for him that he faces these challenges.”
Other online sources showed that Samitt relocated from Arizona, where he was the musical director at Temple Beth Sholom of the East Valley. He is originally from New York and attended Arizona State University, where he assisted in leading services at the Hillel.
Samitt will return to court Jan. 14 for a preliminary examination in front of 48th District Court Judge Diane D’Agostini. If convicted, he could face up to four years imprisonment.
JN staffers Ronelle Grier, Corrie Colf and Keri Guten Cohen contributed to this report.