Petoskey News-Review 1/23/13
Carol Kopenkoskey, who has been charged of 1st degree murder in the Oct. 2 death of her husband, Lyle, was released Tuesday on a $500,000/10-percent bond. Mary Beth Kur, Kopenkoskey’s attorney, was not available for comment Wednesday.
Kopenkoskey was observed in street clothes at the Community Corrections office at approximately 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Community Corrections director Amy Fettig declined to comment on the release, referring to the office of 90th district court.
Her release was confirmed by the Emmet County Jail on Wednesday morning.
The 59-year-old Resort Township woman is currently under house arrest on a SCRAM tether until a GPS tether unit is available, according to the office of the 90th District Court. Once a GPS unit is attached, Kopenkoskey is expected to meet the restrictions set during Monday’s hearing before Judge James Erhart, including Kopenkoskey to display no assaultive or intimidating behavior to potential witnesses in the case, cannot leave Emmet County and must be in her Townsend Road residence between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily. Emmet County prosecutor James Linderman initially requested GPS tether and that Kopenkoskey not be allowed to leave her home.
The release follows a unique 24 hours for the 59-year-old Resort Township woman, who has been jailed since Jan. 3. Following four hours of testimony on the second day of a preliminary exam Monday in 90th District Court, Linderman sought to submit closing arguments in writing. That request prompted Erhart — who has the decision whether to proceed to trial or not — to consider bond, following arguments submitted by Kur at two prior hearings, and Linderman stated he had no objections to the proposed bond with certain restrictions.
Following a brief recess between Kur and Kopenkoskey, they agreed with the proposed bond. Potentially facing her case advancing or not advancing to trial on the charges, Kopenkoskey was instead released at least until Erhart makes his determination on the case.
Petoskey News-Review 10/20/11
Petoskey News-Review 1/11/10
Judge tosses charge of obstructing justice
By Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer
Ajudge recently threw out an obstruction of justice charge issued last year against a former Charlevoix County assistant prosecutor, but the Emmet County Prosecutor’s office is appealing the decision.
On Dec. 14, 90th District Court Judge Richard W. May dismissed the five-year felony charge and another misdemeanor charge against Brien Matthew Seelye, 32, of Boyne City, citing insufficient evidence. Police arrested Seelye, who worked as an assistant prosecutor in Charlevoix County from 2002 through early 2005, in late August.
The charges stemmed from a 2006 Michigan State Police investigation into a sexual assault. Seelye was accused of advising Dustin Hunt, the suspect in the assault, to destroy any computer evidence Hunt might have had of his relationship with the 15 year old victim.
Hunt pleaded guilty on Aug. 18, 2008, to malicious use of telecommunications services and attempted fourth degree criminal sexual conduct. He was later sentenced to serve nine months in jail.
A part of the plea agreement in Hunt’s case required him to cooperate with authorities in their investigation of Seelye. In his opinion in Seelye’s case Judge May said Seelye’s actions did not constitute a violation of common law and therefore a charge of obstruction of justice was not warranted. The judge went on to say that the prosecution’s alternate argument that Seelye should be charged with accessory after the fact (to Hunt’s felony) was also not supported because there is no evidence to show Seelye actually did anything to conceal Hunt’s action, only that he suggested actions that Hunt might take.
The Emmet County Prosecutor’s office filed an appeal of Judge May’s decision in 57th Circuit Court on Dec. 29. No timeline has been set on when the appeal will be heard. Mary Beth Kur, Seelye’s attorney in the case said, “Both my client and I are very pleased with Judge May’s ruling. I continue to believe that felony charges in this case were overreaching and unsupported by the facts. Clearly, the judge did the right thing.
Petoskey News-Review 1/6/09
Judge tosses extortion case against Petoskey man
By Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer
A judge has thrown out the remaining charges in the case against a Petoskey-area man who was accused of extorting sex from a woman, citing a lack of credibility in the woman’s claims.
On Friday, 90th District Court Judge Richard May granted a motion to dismiss two counts of extortion against John Robert Means, 39.
In September, Means was charged with three counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of extortion in connection with the allegations. The crimes are punishable by up to life in prison and up to 20 years in prison respectively.
According to an Emmet County Sheriff’s office affidavit filed in the case, the woman told police that Means told her that he would tell the police that she had committed forgery and embezzlement unless she had sex with him. Police said the woman reported that on several occasions in September she had sex with Means only because he threatened to report to police that she had forged a check or embezzled money from her employer if she didn’t.
In the affidavit police said they had the woman record a conversation between her and Means and that in the recording Means asked her to break up with her boyfriend in exchange for him not reporting alleged crimes to the police. Police said Means later admitted that he had used the threats to force the woman to have sex with him.
However, the case was put on hold in early October around the time that had been scheduled for the preliminary examination when Means’ defense attorneyMary Beth Kur brought new evidence to the court’s attention.
Later that month, prosecutors dropped the three criminal sexual conduct counts. Emmet County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Linderman said those counts were dropped because new evidence had come to light that cast doubt on the chances of a conviction in the case. He said the extortion charges were left in place, in large part because of the evidence from the recorded conversation.
However, on Friday, 90th District Court Judge Richard W. May issued a written opinion dismissing the remaining extortion charges.
The judge wrote that after hearing the woman’s testimony, reviewing the tape of her conversation with Means and sexually explicit video and text messages sent by her to Means he found:
It is the court’s opinion that (the woman) lacks credibility that her sexual contact with the defendant, sexual videos, numerous sexual text messages and attending the Kid Rock concert was a result of threats by him to accuse her of criminal behavior, or that he actually made threats to accuse her of forging her signature and for embezzlement in order to engage in those sexual acts against her will.
In a prepared statement, Kur, Means’ defense attorney, wrote, “Once all the evidence was put on the record before the judge, it was crystal clear that there was no credible evidence whatsoever to justify these charges.”
In the same statement Kur wrote that Means was grateful to his friends and family who stood by his side through what he described as a “nightmare.”
Petoskey News-Review 10/26/07
Woman acquitted in car crash case
By Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer
PETOSKEY – An Emmet County Circuit Court jury has acquitted a Northern Michigan woman on a charge of felonious driving stemming from a February traffic crash that left another driver seriously injured.
Following one day of testimony and about 90 minutes of deliberations, the jury acquitted Jamie Marie Olin, 20 of Alanson Wednesday on one count of felonious driving – a two year charge. The charge stemmed from a two-vehicle traffic crash that took place at about 9:20 a.m. on February 13 on DeKruif Road in Carp Lake Township. Injured in the crash were Olin, her then 1-year old child, and the driver of the other vehicle, Mark Yeager Laura and his passenger, Trevin Michael Teike, both 18, of Levering.
Emmet County Assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara, who prosecuted the case, said Laura was the most seriously injured among the crash victims and still suffers ill-effects from the extensive injuries he sustained in the crash.
McNamara said the prosecution’s theory in the case was that Olin was not paying attention to driving and was traveling down the center of DeKruif Road in the moments prior to the crash. He said the investigation and testimony showed that when Olin realized where she was driving, she over-corrected, which caused her to lose control of the 1996 Saturn she was driving west. Her vehicle slid into the oncoming lane and collided with the oncoming 1995 Plymouth driven by Laura.
McNamara said both sides stipulated that Laura’s injuries constituted serious enough injuries to satisfy the requirement of the charge, but he said the case hinged upon whether the jury believed that Olin demonstrated the requisite “gross negligence.”
Commenting on the verdict, Olin’s defense attorney Mary Beth Kur said, “There was absolutely no credible evidence of gross negligence on my client’s part and we are very grateful that the jury recognized this and did what was right. This was a tragic accident for all involved, not a crime.”
Petoskey News-Review 8/17/07
Fraud Case Tossed in Charlevoix
By Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer
CHARLEVOIX – One of two judges presiding over criminal cases against an Emmet County man accused of using a debt-relief scam to swindle dozens of people out of thousands of dollars, has dismissed some of the charges because it took prosecutors too long to bring him back to the area to face charges.
About a year ago prosecutors in Emmet and Charlevoix counties charged James Michael Frantz, 60, with numerous counts of false pretenses and Debt Management Act violations stemming from allegations that he used a scheme involving a business called Fresh Start Debt Relief Service. Police say Frantz allegedly represented to clients that they could legally eliminate credit card debt forever within one year of entering his program. Authorities said Frantz charged clients a fee based on how much debt they needed to eliminate, but these clients never received any debt relief. More than 150 people – about a third of them from Charlevoix and Emmet counties – have come forward claiming Frantz bilked them out of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
At the time he was charged on Aug. 14 of 2006, Frantz was, and he still is, serving a 51 month federal prison sentence on convictions for tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and medicare fraud.
In a decision issued Thursday, Charlevoix County Circuit Judge Richard M. Pajtas granted a motion by Frantz’s defense attorney Mary Beth Kur to dismiss the six pending Charlevoix County charges. The motion was based on a provision of the law which requires that when authorities in one jurisdiction issue new charges against and place a “detainer” on a defendant who is in custody in a different jurisdiction, that defendant must be brought to trial on the new charges within 180 days of requesting to be tried. The law does not define what constitutes a “detainer.”
Kur argued – and Judge Pajtas agreed – that when police and prosecutors faxed copies of court documents concerning the new charges in August and September it constituted a “detainer.” The court further agreed that letters sent by Frantz to the Charlevoix County Prosecutor’s office in August and September indicating his desire to be tried on the new charges “forthwith” were enough to constitute proper notice.
Authorities brought Frantz to Northern Michigan to face charges in Charlevoix and Emmet counties on May 24, about nine months after he sent the letter asking for a speedy trial. Prosecutors have said the delay was a result of difficulties in making arrangements with federal prison officials to have Frantz brought here.
The prosecution has contended that no one ever placed a “detainer” on Frantz. Charlevoix County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Shaynee Fanara said a state police trooper faxed copies of court documents to the federal prison on the day the charges were issued to comploy with legal requirements that such documents be served on Frantz. Fanara said the prosecutor’s office later faxed additional documents to prison officials at their request.
Fanara said she would likely file an appeal.
Frantz had been scheduled to face a five-day trial on the Charlevoix County charges beginning next week.
Kur argued a similar motion in Emmet County. Emmet County Circuit Judge Charles W. Johnson was expected to release his ruling as early as today, Friday. If Judge Johnson rules in favor of the defense in the Emmet County cases, Frantz won’t be out of the woods as authorities in Cheboygan County recently filed their own charges stemming from Frantz’s involvement with Fresh Start.
Governor Granholm Establishes Advisory Council to Review Clemency Requests – Part of Governor’s Plan to Move Michigan Forward
FROM THE OFFICE OF THE GOV ERNOR
February 16, 2007
Contact: Michelle Begnoche
LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today took steps to continue sweeping reforms in the state’s prison system that are a pivotal part of her overall plan to make government, more efficient and cost effective, which she announced in her State of the State Address earlier this month. In addition to government reforms, the Governor?s plan calls for spending reductions and a tax restructuring plan to ensure that Michigan can grow and compete in the 21st century.
Granholm has signed Executive Order 2007-2 establishing the Executive Clemency Advisory Council to assist the state Parole Board in reviewing clemency applications before they are submitted to the governor for final determination. Granholm?s reform calls for the release of nonviolent offenders from the state?s prisons, starting with medically frail prisoners, non-violent elderly inmates, and foreign nationals who will be immediately deported upon their release.
As we work to invest in Michigan and our citizens we are redoubling our efforts to save money within state government, including finding lower-cost ways to deal with non-violent offenders in our prison system,” Granholm said. “The security of Michigan citizens remains our top priority and this council will work to help us safely reduce the state?s prisoner population.”
Under Executive Order 2007-2, the Executive Clemency Advisory Council will assist the Parole Board with the initial review of applications for reprieve, commutation, or pardon for the limited purpose of recommending to the board whether an individual application has merit. The Parole Board is required by law to make a merit determination for every clemency request. Only applications with merit receive comprehensive investigations by the Parole Board. The initial merit review process requires the Parole Board to dedicate significant resources to each case within a limited time period. The council will alleviate some of the Parole Board?s resource constraints, and will ensure that all clemency requests continue to receive a fair, thorough, and efficient examination.
After the Parole Board reviews each clemency request, it is legally required to recommend that the governor grant or reject the application. Michigan?s constitution gives the governor exclusive authority to decide all clemency requests.
The Executive Clemency Advisory Council will consist of seven members appointed by the governor, and will include representatives from law enforcement, crime victims or their families, and the general public. Members of the council will serve at the pleasure of the governor.
The following individuals have been appointed as members of the Executive Clemency Advisory Council:
Dr. Charles G. Adams of Detroit, pastor of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, appointed to represent the general public.
Ms. Gloria L. Baker of Roseville, accountant with Urban Science Options, appointed to represent crime victims or their families.
Ms. Joyce M. Braithwaite-Brickley of Traverse City, retired, appointed to represent the general public.
Ms. Mary Beth Kur of Petoskey, former Charlevoix County prosecutor now in private practice, appointed to represent law enforcement.
Rabbi David A. Nelson of Southfield, rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom, appointed to represent the general public.
Ms. Janette L. Price of Eaton Rapids, former warden for the Michigan Department of Corrections, now retired, appointed to represent the general public.
The Honorable Rudolph A. Serra of Detroit, former judge of the 36th District Court, now in private practice, appointed to represent law enforcement and designated chair of the council for a term expiring at the pleasure of the governor.
Petoskey News-Review 2/20/07
Drug charge dropped
By Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer
CHARLEVOIX – Prosecutors have dropped a drug delivery charge against an East Jordan man who was charged with the crime after a Boyne City woman was found dead in her apartment last month.
Charlevoix County Prosecutor John Jarema said his office dropped the charge of delivery of the drug Klonopin, a four-year felony, against Christopher Isaiah Hefty, 27, on Feb. 13 after a toxicology report from the dead woman showed no evidence of the sedative and several searches of the woman’s apartment turned up no traces of the drug.
Police arrested Hefty based upon evidence collected as they were investigating the death of Roberta Jane King, 44, who was found dead in her Boyne City apartment on Jan. 14.
According to court documents, police found a note in King’s apartment that made reference to the writer having provided some Klonopin to King. Police said they also found an empty prescription bottle labeled as originally containing Klonopin at the apartment. Police also said Hefty admitted to giving some Klonopin to King a few days prior to her death.
Jarema said the doctor who performed the autopsy on King’s body has determined that she died from an overdose of methadone.
Even before the toxicology report came back, Jarema had voiced his doubts that the Klonopin – if present in King’s system – played a part in her death. He noted that Klonopin is a schedule four controlled substance and far less likely to result in an overdose than many other more potent drugs. The charge against Hefty did not require that he delivered drugs that led to King’s death, only that he provided her with a controlled substance.
Jarema said his office dropped the charge because besides Hefty’s statement, there is no other evidence that he provided King with Klonopin or any other controlled substance. He said the charge was dismissed ?without prejudice,? meaning Hefty could be re-charged if new evidence comes to light.
Hefty’s attorney Mary Beth Kur said that her client had maintained from the beginning that he had nothing to do with King’s death.
?We believe that the police jumped the gun by arresting him on the night she was found dead. They simply had no legally sufficient proof to prosecute him … What is unfortunate is that his name has been dragged through the mud because of his arrest. He is a good kid, not a criminal. He is grateful that the charges have been dropped,? Kur said in a written statement.
In the meantime, Jarema noted that the investigation into King’s death remains active – especially in light of the new information that her death was the result of a methadone overdose. Because methadone is a ?schedule 1? controlled substance, it is possible that the person who provided the drug to King could be charged under a 2005 law that makes delivery of a schedule 1 drug resulting in death a felony punishable by up to life in prison.
King is the ex-wife of Robert Lee King, 40, who in December was sentenced to 24 years in prison for extensive drug dealing in Northern Michigan – including selling drugs to two people who later died of overdoses.
Steve Zucker may be reached at 439-9346, or [email protected].
Traverse City Record Eagle 06/25/2006
Bicyclist sues state police
BY CRAIG MCCOOL [email protected]
PETOSKEY – A man sued the Michigan State Police, accusing them of arresting him and ratcheting up charges in retaliation for his vigorous pursuit of a citizen complaint against an officer. Police insist that everything that happened last fall to Andrew Strane, who spent a night in jail on a charge that ultimately was tossed out of court, was normal. The incident began Oct. 13, when Strane, 26, and a friend were riding bicycles on Mitchell Road east of Petoskey. State trooper Jeffrey Ruthig thought he saw Strane urinating at the shoulder of the road. Strane denied it, and Ruthig later acknowledged he was too far away to be sure. Ruthig pulled up as the cyclists resumed their ride and asked them to stop. They didn’t do so immediately, proceeding instead to parking lot a few hundred yards up the road. When they did stop, Strane and the trooper got into an argument. Ruthig’s report characterized Strane as “obstinate and antagonistic in the extreme.” According to court records, Strane commented on the police officer’s breath and, when asked for identification, said to Ruthig: “Do you see any pockets on me?” Strane denied doing anything wrong and questioned why he was stopped at all. “I acted in a legal manner. I was within my rights. When you don’t break the laws, you shouldn’t be punished,” he told a Record- Eagle reporter. The stop took 45 minutes. Ruthig wrote a misdemeanor ticket for disregarding a police officer. Strane went that afternoon to the Petoskey state police headquarters to lodge a complaint. The state police have a standard ‘Complaint Against Member’ form for allegations of civil rights violations. Post commander Lt. Aaron Sweeney said police didn’t fill one out because Strane didn’t complain that his civil rights were violated. “He complained about the charge,” Sweeney said, adding that Strane was free to avail himself of the court system. Sweeney said he directed his officers not to fill out any complaint forms. Strane was persistent. According to the lawsuit, on Oct. 20, after getting a phone message from police that the situation didn’t warrant any action, he called the post to demand a copy of his complaint. The next day, two MSP troopers arrived at his door and arrested him for resisting and obstructing, a two-year felony charge that had been authorized that day. Strane was never given a chance to appear in court on the initial misdemeanor charge. The appearance date noted on the Oct. 13 ticket was Oct. 27. He was arrested Oct. 21 and spent about 12 hours in jail. “I only know of the timing in relation to when (Strane) decided to make an issue,” said John Peters, a Rochester Hills attorney who filed the lawsuit on Strane’s behalf. “What changed in eight days … with the exception that he wanted to file a complaint against this officer?” Emmet County assistant prosecutor Robert Mendham said he alone made the charging decision. Mendham also said is was not out of the ordinary for prosecutors to process warrant requests for misdemeanor appearance tickets prior to the court date listed on the ticket. “That’s not unusual. There are times when we’ll have a warrant request turned around the same day,” he said. “There are days when you can process something and get it turned around immediately and other days when you can’t.” A judge ultimately disagreed with Mendham that Resisting and Obstructing was an appropriate charge. Emmet District Judge Richard May dismissed the case for lack of probable cause last November. The misdemeanor citation was never pursued. “It’s not against the law to be rude to a police officer,” Strane’s criminal defense lawyer, Mary Beth Kur, told the Record Eagle. “It’s not a good idea, because look what happened to him.” Strane’s lawsuit does not site a specific monetary amount. State police have yet to answer the complaint.
Traverse City Record Eagle 07/06/2006
Editorial: MSP stepped over line with Petoskey bicyclist
The issue: Words between bicyclist, trooper lead to felony Our view: Strong-arm tactics damage police See related story: Bicyclist sues state police – June 25 2006 Send a letter to the editor Bad decisions, bad reactions, bad consequences. There’s plenty of bad and plenty of blame to go around in an incident that resulted in a lawsuit filed by Petoskey resident Andrew Strane against the Michigan State Police and trooper Jeffrey Ruthig, including Strane’s own poor behavior. But the biggest black mark goes to Emmet County law enforcement types who apparently ignored common sense in favor of authoritarian swagger, and needlessly propelled an October incident from dumb encounter to petty and we mean petty felony. Strane, 26, and a friend were on a bike ride last October near Petoskey. They stopped, and Strane was off his bike and standing on the shoulder of the road. For whatever reason, Ruthig, who was on patrol, suspected Strane of urinating near the roadway, though he later acknowledged he had no proof to back up his supposition. Ruthig approached in his patrol car as the bicyclists resumed their ride. He told them to stop, but they continued a few hundred yards before they halted and Ruthig confronted them. Strane wasn’t pleased with the stop and let Ruthig know it in less-than-polite terms. He apparently insulted Ruthig, who wrote in a report that the bicyclist was “obstinate and antagonistic in the extreme.” Of course, Ruthig couldn’t let it go and issued Strane a misdemeanor ticket for disregarding a police officer. No urination, no matter. The citation didn’t go over well with Strane, who proceeded to the state police post in Petoskey to complain about Ruthig and the ticket. State police never offered him the opportunity to file a citizen complaint against the officer and now appear to be splitting hairs over whether they were required to do so. Good police agencies do so, without hesitation. Strane continued to vocalize his complaint against Ruthig to state police, and that’s when people who ought to know better made some extremely bad decisions. Somewhere, someone apparently decided to teach Strane a lesson. Instead of a misdemeanor ticket, Emmet County prosecutors pulled a resisting and obstructing felony out of their hat and a couple of state troopers snatched a disbelieving Strane from his home and tossed him in jail for a night. It was a ridiculous power play by authorities, and transparent enough for a district court judge to fling the case out of court. Strane contends police violated his rights and he filed suit in circuit court. He’s not an overly sympathetic character, in large part because he didn’t respond well when initially confronted by Ruthig. But the actions taken by Ruthig, MSP brass and Emmet County prosecutors are downright scary. Bad decisions by powerful people ultimately create much more damage than do words from a bad-mouthing bicyclist.