In a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, District Judge Elizabeth Pollard Hines ordered Mike Milano — the former Michigan athlete accused of assaulting a hockey player last fall — to stand trial for the incident.
After hearing testimonies from Milano’s former wrestling coach and an additional eyewitness, Hines ruled that the prosecutor provided enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Steve Kampfer, a junior defenseman on the hockey team, sustained head and neck injuries after an alleged altercation with Milano on a Church Street sidewalk near East Quad Residence Hall on the morning of Oct. 12.
Milano, a former wrestler and walk-on running back for the football team, will stand trial for the charge of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder. If a jury finds him guilty, Milano could face up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
At Wednesday’s hearing, LSA senior Nicholas Nedic, who was coming home from a club on the night of the incident, testified that he heard “loud, aggressive talking” as he was walking down Church Street.
After hearing the commotion, Nedic said he looked to his right and saw “one man pick up another man . . . and drive him into the ground.” He said he then heard “a loud crack,” like the sound of a “skull hitting pavement.”
Milano’s attorney John Shea said in an interview after the hearing that he was heartened to hear Nedic’s testimony, which he said confirmed that the confrontation was face-to-face, and not a “sneak attack from behind.”
Shea said this is an important distinction because it corroborates with the testimony of Mike Anderson, Kampfer’s friend who was with him the night of the incident.
The fact that Milano picked Kampfer up from the front, Shea said, proves he was performing a basic wrestling move to subdue him.
Wrestling Coach Joe McFarland, who recruited and coached Milano for two years before Milano quit to join the football team, talked at the hearing about the sport of wrestling and his relationship with the defendant.
After being told of the incident as witnesses described it, McFarland confirmed that it sounded like a common move — a double-leg takedown — that wrestlers are usually taught early in their wrestling careers.
“It’s important to have it ingrained so it becomes instinctive,” McFarland testified. “(The move) is not designed to cause injury.”
Shea said after the hearing that he was glad to hear McFarland confirm that the physical maneuver appeared to be a wrestling move.
“I think that it is significant that Mike didn’t punch (Kampfer) or kick him, or knee him or elbow him,” Shea said. “He employed a wrestling move that he has been taught and drilled until it’s second nature to him.”
Kampfer was not present at the second day of the preliminary hearing, but both his parents were. They were not available for comment.
The pre-trial date was set for March 12, where both sides will meet before Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge David Swartz to determine the status of the case.
Shea said he does not believe a plea bargain will be offered and that the case will go to trial.
“It seems to me that each side has a point of view that is pretty inconsistent with the other,” he said. “And that typically breeds trials.”