Trial date set for sheriff accused of sexual assault — (CM Life)

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CM Life

Posted by copress

February 2, 2000 at 12:00 am

Macomb County Sheriff William Hackel will face a jury trial for two counts of third degree criminal sexual conduct beginning April 17 at Isabella County Circuit Court.

The trial date was scheduled at the final pretrial Tuesday. The trial is expected to last through April 20, but may continue April 24 and 25 if necessary.

At the pretrial, Judge Paul Chamberlain denied the defense’s request to gain access to the plaintiff’s medical and psychological records.

Hackel, 57, pled not guilty to the charges Dec. 17. The charges stem from an investigation conducted by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Police from a complaint made on Oct. 11.

Hackel “could not comment” on the case, under orders from Defense Attorney Jim Howarth.

The complaint was filed by a woman who alleges she was assaulted in a hotel room at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, 6800 Soaring Eagle Blvd. The incident allegedly occurred while Hackel was attending the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association fall conference in October.

“Hackel orally penetrated (the alleged victim) by using force or coercion to accomplish sexual intercourse,” according to court reports.

Howarth said he wanted the plaintiff’s medical and psychological records because they could contain important information.   “It might lead to evidence that would be admissible in trial,” Howarth said.

County Prosecutor Larry Burdick opposed the request on the grounds that the records were not relevant, and on the grounds of a precedent established by a 1994 case, People vs. Stanaway.

Howarth said the plaintiff had stated in an examination after the alleged incident that she was suffering from depression and was taking Paxil, an anti-depressant drug.

As indicated in the medical examination, on the morning of the encounter the plaintiff had not taken the drug and had consumed at least four alcoholic beverages and had suffered sleep
deprivation the night before, Howarth said.    He said the components were not a good mix.

“It could have affected her ability,” Howarth said. “I think the defense has proceeded in good faith.”

Burdick said any police records concerning the plaintiff are available, but he did not see a reason to release medical or psychological reports.

“The request goes beyond the bonds of the court,” Burdick said.

He said as established by People vs. Stanaway, “The defense must establish there is reasonable probability that the material sought.”

He said the defense can hire an expert to determine if there was any impairment of the plaintiff’s abilities.

Howarth said a statement from an acquaintance of the plaintiff included that the plaintiff “has had a troubled life.” Another statement indicated that the plaintiff may have been taking the controlled substance lithium carbonate, which was not revealed in the preliminary exam.

Burdick said he was unaware of the lithium carbonate but the plaintiff had stated in court and medical records from when she was examined after the assault that she was taking Paxil and Prevacid, a drug used for acid-related disorders.

He said the plaintiff indicated she was taking Paxil daily and said she had not yet taken it the day of the alleged assault.

Howarth also requested that criminal backgrounds of the prosecutor’s witnesses be made available, which Burdick opposed.

Chamberlain said he would bring the issue up at a later date, and told both sides to look into laws surrounding the matter.

Burdick said he has not yet chosen witnesses, but plans to within three weeks.

After the pretrial, Burdick said the defense attorney is trying to cast a shadow on the plaintiff’s credibility.

“It’s common for defense attorneys to try to discredit the complainant,” Burdick said. “If it was robbery or burglary, would these kinds of records be requested?”

Howarth said he is confident the defense will win the case.
“This was a very small battle before a very big war. We aren’t really that disappointed. W e’ll carry on with this case without the reports.”

If convicted, Hackel faces 15 years in prison.

Hackel, who has been Macomb’s sheriff for 23 years, was released on a $10,000 surety or 10 percent bond.