ED WHITE

A former Michigan state trooper was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Wednesday in the death of a Detroit teenager who crashed an all-terrain vehicle and died when the trooper shot him with a Taser.

Mark Bessner, who already had a history of misconduct allegations involving Taser use, fired the immobilizing device from the passenger seat of a patrol car while he and his partner chased 15-year-old Damon Grimes in August 2017. State police officials condemned his conduct and agreed that criminal charges were appropriate.

Bessner, who quit the department after Grimes’ death, said he believed the teen was reaching for a gun in his waistband. Grimes, however, didn’t have a weapon.

“There can be no question that Mark Bessner knew that (he) was going to cause some serious harm to Damon Grimes,” assistant prosecutor Matthew Penney told jurors.

Bessner was charged with second-degree murder, but the jury opted for the lesser charge after deliberating for one day. He was immediately taken into custody and sentencing was set for May 2. Bessner could face up to 15 years in prison.

It was Bessner’s second trial: A different jury last fall couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on a murder charge after listening to him emotionally explain how he “absolutely” believed Grimes had a gun.

But Bessner didn’t testify in his own defense during the latest trial. His attorney, Richard Convertino, urged jurors to put aside sympathy for Grimes’ family and place themselves in the trooper’s shoes in a high-crime neighborhood.

“ATVs and guns — that was the perception of those who patrolled those areas,” Convertino said.

Two months before Grimes’ death, an arbitrator had cleared Bessner of misconduct in how he used his Taser while chasing a crime suspect. State police wanted to suspend him for 10 days. The man was handcuffed during a traffic stop but suddenly sprinted away and was able to clear fences.

It’s generally against state policy to use a stun gun on a handcuffed person who’s in custody. Bessner was also accused of misconduct and agreed to a brief suspension for firing a Taser at a handcuffed man in 2014, records show.

Source: Fox News National

A prosecutor urged jurors on Tuesday to convict a former Michigan State Police trooper of second-degree murder in the death of a Detroit teen, saying there wasn’t a “lick of common sense” in firing a Taser at a boy riding an all-terrain vehicle.

Damon Grimes, 15, crashed the ATV and died on a Detroit street in 2017. Mark Bessner is on trial for a second time after the first trial last fall ended without a unanimous verdict.

Assistant prosecutor Matthew Penney said Grimes was joy-riding in a residential neighborhood, a minor offense that didn’t deserve such a tragic result. He said being shot with the Taser was like getting hit with an “electric baseball bat.”

“That’s not a reasonable use of force,” Penney said in his closing argument. “Not if you have a lick of common sense.”

Bessner’s attorneys tried to get his former partner, Trooper Ethan Berger, to testify, but Berger invoked his constitutional right to remain silent. Berger was driving the patrol car when Bessner fired the Taser from the passenger seat.

Bessner declined to testify in his own defense. It was a major shift in strategy: He had offered an emotional narrative at the first trial, telling jurors that he believed Grimes had a gun in his waistband . He said he was “shocked” to learn the boy didn’t have a weapon.

Defense lawyer Richard Convertino said Bessner was assigned to a high-crime area in Detroit where ATV riders were commonly caught with guns.

Bessner’s use of the Taser was “perfectly reasonable” if he felt his life was at risk, Convertino said.

“It was a tense, rapidly evolving, uncertain — uncertain — environment,” he told jurors. “Split second. Not a second. A split second.”

Outside court, Convertino said Bessner didn’t testify because he didn’t believe the prosecutor had met the burden of proof.

“It’s a risk assessment. If there’s no need to present additional evidence in whatever form, you just don’t do it,” Convertino told The Associated Press.

By not sitting in the witness chair, Bessner avoided questions from the prosecutor about an audio recording of him wishing to use a Taser in a different ATV incident. It was a new piece of evidence discovered after the first trial.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

Source: Fox News National

A former Michigan State Police trooper charged with murder in the death of a Detroit teen says he won’t testify in his own defense.

Mark Bessner is on trial for the second time after a jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict last fall. He testified at the first trial but told a judge Tuesday that he will remain silent this time. It’s a major shift in strategy.

Damon (Da-MAHN’) Grimes was 15 years old in 2017 when he crashed an all-terrain vehicle and died after Bessner shot him with a Taser on a Detroit street.

Prosecutors say the Taser was unnecessary and created a high risk of danger. At the first trial, Bessner told jurors that he believed Grimes was armed . The teen had no gun.

Source: Fox News National

A Canadian cab driver has been sentenced to 16 months in a U.S. prison for sending desperate immigrants through a risky international tunnel under the Detroit River.

Juan Garcia-Jimenez wept and apologized Monday in federal court in Detroit. Besides prison, he was fined $8,680, the amount of money paid by nine people who were caught last year when they emerged on foot on the Detroit side of a railroad tunnel.

The 1.6-mile (2.5-kilometer) tunnel is used by cargo trains moving between Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. Prosecutor Susan Fairchild says it’s extremely risky: The walkway in the tunnel is only 17 inches (43.1 centimeters) wide.

Garcia-Jimenez is a 53-year-old Canadian citizen and native of Guatemala. He would drop people off at the tunnel entrance, then drive away.

Source: Fox News National

The U.S. Justice Department won’t appeal a decision by a Detroit federal judge who threw out female genital mutilation charges against members of a Muslim sect.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco calls it an “especially heinous practice.” But in a letter to Congress, he says the law needs to be changed to be constitutional under U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Judge Bernard Friedman in November said the law was unconstitutional because Congress didn’t have power to regulate genital mutilation. The government pulled its appeal on March 30.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was accused of performing genital mutilation on nine girls at a suburban Detroit clinic. She denies any crime and says she performed a religious custom. The girls were from Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.

There still are other charges in the case.

Source: Fox News National

John Engler’s front-row interest in Michigan State University basketball has led to a war of words over the former school president’s availability to speak to investigators about the Larry Nassar scandal .

Things have become so nasty that Engler’s attorney has advised him not to cooperate if state Assistant Attorney General Christina Grossi remains on the case.

The attorney general’s office wants to talk to Engler about campus changes after the sexual-assault scandal involving Nassar, a sports doctor, an interview that could take less than an hour. Engler was interim president for about a year until Jan. 17.

Grossi said Engler was scheduled to be interviewed March 28 in Washington, where he works, because he didn’t plan to be in Michigan earlier. But she suddenly scratched that date this week. Grossi was upset to learn that the former Michigan governor was in a courtside seat at a MSU basketball game on March 9.

She suggested Engler could have carved out time to meet in Michigan long before March 28.

"Your client’s brazen disregard for this investigation and his willingness to lie about his whereabouts is not only appalling but does a terrible disservice to the university," Grossi told attorney Seth Waxman in an email Tuesday.

"As an alumna of Michigan State, I’m embarrassed that our university’s former president can make time to attend basketball games but not to sit to discuss the largest sexual assault scandal in the history of higher education," Grossi wrote.

In response, Waxman said he never indicated that Engler was unwilling to travel to Michigan. The lawyer said he was unavailable during the week of March 4, not Engler.

Waxman told Grossi that he’s advising Engler to decline to speak to investigators unless she is dropped from the Nassar investigation. He accused her of "unfounded attacks" and said her "biases and prejudices" are unethical.

"The fact that the underlying conduct involved unspeakable harms," Waxman said of Nassar’s assaults, "does not give the attorney general’s office and its agents the right to attack, manipulate and deceive innocent people, including Mr. Engler."

Separately, Attorney General Dana Nessel asked the head of MSU’s governing board to demand that Engler cooperate, under terms of his contract. She also wants the university to release more than 6,000 documents related to Nassar.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

Source: Fox News National


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