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Police search of vehicle was legal, Alpena County judge says

ALPENA — A Michigan State Police trooper took the virtual witness stand on Monday to testify about a search of a man’s car after the driver was stopped for a defective exhaust.

Trooper Justin Clark, of the MSP-Alpena Post — testifying from his police vehicle while downstate as part of a police presence at demonstrations in Lansing — told Alpena’s 26th Circuit Court he found illegal drugs in a vehicle driven by David Headley, whom he pulled over in September for a traffic stop.

Headley, who was wanted on a non-drug-related warrant out of the Alpena Post, was arrested at the scene and his car was searched, turning up a stash of methamphetamine under the driver’s seat.

Questioned by defense attorney Ron Bayot as to the validity of the search, which was conducted without a warrant and without permission of the driver, Clark explained that, according to MSP protocol — available on the MSP website — officers have to inventory the contents of a vehicle that is going to be impounded after an arrest, for the protection of the vehicle’s owner.

Under questioning, Clark said he had received a tip from the Huron Undercover Narcotics Team a short time before the traffic stop indicating Headley might have a dangerous drug in his vehicle, information that was not included in his written report of the incident.

A search of a vehicle without warrant is permitted if the driver is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment or the officer has reason to believe the vehicle contains something related specifically to the arrest, Bayot said, asking the court to throw out what he called a search for evidence to pin on the defendant.

Saying the search was done legally and following police protocol, Judge Benjamin Bolser denied the defense motion to suppress and dismiss the evidence found during the search of Headley’s vehicle. Headley is charged with a second offense of possession of methamphetamine.

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A man admitted he tried to illegally enter an Alpena home last summer, and now he wants a few months knocked off his prison sentence.

Christopher Cannon, who pleaded guilty to attempted home invasion last fall, appeared in the 26th Circuit Court on Monday to register his dissatisfaction with the two years behind bars to which he was sentenced for the attempted crime.

As part of his plea deal, Cannon claimed, he had been promised a sentence that fell in the middle of the sentencing guidelines, which should have meant a 21-and-a-half-month sentence, not 24, the defense stated.

Stating that the middle of guidelines doesn’t mean the exact middle, Bolser denied Cannon’s motion, letting stand the November 2019 sentence of two to 10 years in prison.

Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski said two years does constitute a mid-range sentence, “albeit not exactly smack dab in the middle.” If resentencing were required, Muszynski said she could provide further witness testimony about the psychological damage inflicted by the attempted break-in that would raise the sentencing guidelines.

“Your client is not the saint that your motion makes him out to be,” Bolser told defense attorney Jayne Carver, referencing Cannon’s lengthy history of breaking-and-entering, thefts, and “peeping Tom-type offenses,” including thefts from unlocked vehicles in the neighborhood on the same night as the attempted break-in.

A surveillance camera caught Cannon trying the door of an attached garage at an Alpena residence, where, he admitted, he intended to steal from the vehicle inside.

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A scheduled status conference for Tylor Quintel, accused of malicious destruction of property and other charges, was postponed when Bayot, Quintel’s attorney, was denied the opportunity to talk to Quintel in a private “breakout room” of the videoconference software used while courts are closed over coronavirus concerns.

Saying the court was already 45 minutes behind schedule and he already knew what would be addressed in the hearing, Bolser refused to allow Quintel into the virtual courtroom, instead scheduling another status conference for mid-June.

With no scheduled defendants in the virtual waiting room, Bolser called for a five-minute break 16 minutes later.

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