The judge said it was the first time he had anybody sitting in the next room potentially intimidating a witness.
Content warning: Intimate partner violence
A court hearing on a Michigan assault case was brought to a halt after a sharp-eyed prosecutor realized that the victim's alleged abuser was in the same room as her during a St. Joseph County Court hearing held on Zoom. Deborah Davis, the prosecutor, realized that the victim, Mary Lindsey, was reluctant to reveal the details of the assault during the hearing and appeared to be constantly looking sideways, suggesting she was being intimidated and threatened by someone. Davis, the state attorney assistant, alerted the judge that Lindsey appeared extremely scared, reported Metro. Last month, Mary Lindsey made a 911 call accusing her boyfriend Coby James Harris, 21, of assaulting her during an argument inside her home in Sturgis. Lindsey was being questioned by Davis about the call and assault in front of a judge. Lindsey played down the assault and the call but kept shifting her eyes sideways.
Her boyfriend, Harris, was also attending the video hearing. As the hearing progressed, Deborah Davis got suspicious that they were in the same home and alerted the judge and the cops. "Your honor, I have reason to believe that the defendant is in the same apartment as the complaining witness right now, and I am extremely scared for her safety,' said Davis. "The fact that she’s looking off to the side and he’s moving around – I want some confirmation that she is safe before we continue," announced Davis on the Zoom call. Harris has been ordered to stay away from Lindsey after she made the 911 call. Harris can be seen shaking his head as if hinting to Lindsey to say no. Judge Jeffrey Middleton asked Mary Lindsey where she was at, and she hesitated and looked sideways, before finally confirming she was at home. She gave her address. Middleton then asked Harris for his address and he gave a different address. The judge wasn't convinced and asked Harris to prove his location by taking the phone outside and showing the door number. 'I want you to walk out to the front of the house, show me the house number on the house,' said the judge, according to The Daily Mail.
Harris claimed his phone only had 2% battery and hence could not unplug the phone from the charger to show his door number. The cops were sent to Mary Lindsey's address to check on them. Harris had switched off his phone by then. The cops entered the home and revealed both of them to be at the same address. They arrested Harris. He was arrested while on camera and was smoking a cigarette. He apologized for lying to the judge. "Me and Mary both don’t want the no-contact. I ask that that be dropped. I’m sorry I lied to you. I knew the cops were outside," said Harris.
Judge Middleton replied, "My advice is don’t say anything else. Take the cigarette out of your mouth." He then announced that the alleged abuser's bond was canceled before adjourning the Zoom court hearing. "In addition, the prosecutor is probably also going to charge you with obstruction of justice," said the judge as Harris was being arrested. "It may be a situation of you and Mary want the bond conditions lifted, you want them lifted, she does not. We’re as serious as a heart attack. It’s the first time I ever had anybody sitting in the next room potentially intimidating a witness," said the judge. Due to the pandemic, hearings in such cases have been conducted online, paving way for situations such as this one involving Harris and Mary Lindsey.
Harri then attempted to interrupt the judge again but Middleton warned him of the consequences. "Don’t say any more about it. Your bond is canceled. You’re digging your hole. ‘You hit bottom and you’re continuing to dig. Officers are directed to take him into custody on a bond violation." Harris was initially charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
If you are being subjected to domestic abuse or know of anyone else who is, please visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline website, call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522.