The Michigan Court Appeals reinstated charges last week against six men accused of inciting a riot at a May 1998 Ku Klux Klan rally held in front of Ann Arbor City Hall. The charges had been dismissed by Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Donald Shelton in 1999. Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie had appealed Shelton”s decision.
Sung Kim, Michael Fuqua, Adam Lerman, Philip Vandevoorde, Johnathon Hughes and Zachary Thomas will again face charges for tearing apart temporary fencing, throwing rocks at police officers and charging City Hall.
In his opinion, Shelton concluded that the prosecutor failed to prove that “the defendant”s violent conduct caused, or created serious risk of causing public terror and alarm,” two requirements needed in order to file charges of rioting under state law.
Shelton concluded that creating fear amongst police officers is different from creating public alarm because officers are not civilians.
“The prosecution contention that the on-duty police were the “public” within the meaning of the statute is without merit. Such a construction would convert every violent act committed by 5 or more people against a police officer into the crime of riot,” he said in the opinion.
In their opinion, the Court of Appeals Judges Donald E. Holbrook, Jr., Gary R. McDonald and Henry W. Saad said the disagreement over whether police officers are members of the public is not important.
“The statute also applies to violent conduct that creates a serious risk of causing public alarm. Contrary to the circuit court”s reasoning whether police officers are members of the public for purposes of the statute is not the critical inquiry here,” they wrote.
Miranda Massie, the attorney for the six defendants whose charges were reinstated, promised an appeal of the court”s decision and said the results of other cases related to the protest are indicative of the weakness of the case against the defendants.
During the rally, police arrested 19 demonstrators. 15th District Judge Ann Mattson dropped the charges against nine people who were charged with malicious destruction of property. Ten others were charged with rioting. Two were acquitted by juries and another defendant”s felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.
“Our record involved in all the cases in this witch hunt makes me very optimistic that if we have to try the cases, we will win,” Massie said. “There was no riot on May 9, 1998. The community members in two separate juries have already spoken and said there was no riot.”
Massie said the gathering was nonviolent and did not cause public alarm and that minimal damage was sustained. “If you are going to call a handful of broken windows a riot, then there are quite a few riots taking place,” she said.
Massie added that she did not think the Court of Appeals” decision to proceed with the case will be a popular decision. “If they were to win, it would be an extremely negative development for the people of Ann Arbor,” she said.
The Washtenaw County Prosecutor”s Office was unavailable for comment.