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High-speed chase defendants consider pleas

News Photo by Julie Riddle Thomas Guthrie, appearing virtually from a correctional facility in Muskegon Heights, listens to defense attorney Bill Pfeifer on Monday in Alpena’s 26th Circuit Court.

ALPENA — Two men accused of leading police on a high-speed chase in Alpena after furnishing fake prescriptions considered their options in Alpena’s 26th Circuit Court on Monday.

If Mickale Williams, 22, accepts a proffered plea deal, Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski will drop a drug delivery charge in exchange for Williams pleading guilty to possessing a fake prescription, fleeing police, resisting arrest, and failing to stop at the scene of a crash.

Williams and two other men, all from the Detroit area, were arrested in October when police say Williams sped down Chisholm Street, nearly hitting several pedestrians. According to police, Williams swerved into oncoming traffic and hit another vehicle in an intersection while fleeing from police.

Williams and passenger Joseph Marshall fled when approached in the parking lot of a pharmacy, where employees told police someone presented a fake prescription. Forged prescriptions were later found in the car Williams was driving, along with bags of pills, a scale, and a large amount of cash, according to police reports.

Defense attorney Michael Norman suggested the month Williams already served in jail, along with probation, might be an adequate sentence if Williams accepts the plea deal at his next hearing, scheduled for May 17.

A plea deal extended to Marshall, 26, would probably end with jail time but not prison, Black told Marshall’s attorney. Black lowered Marshall’s bond from $150,000, which the judge said didn’t fit the severity of the charges, to $25,000.

The third man, Christian Johnson, 21, pleaded guilty in January to presenting a counterfeit prescription at the pharmacy. He was sentenced to the 114 days he had already spent in jail.

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Also in court on Monday, Nikolas Niezgoda, 31, one of seven people arrested in two days in early January by the Huron Undercover Narcotics Team, pleaded guilty to planning to sell fentanyl, an extremely potent opioid with a high risk for addiction.

The plea agreement comes with a county cap, meaning Niezgoda will only serve jail time and not be sent to prison, as long as Black follows the recommendation of the prosecution at sentencing. As a habitual offender, Niezgoda could be sentenced to up to life in prison for selling fentanyl.

Niezgoda admitted he was caught with the drug in his possession and planned to sell it to Aaron Bissonette, who was arrested with Niezgoda.

Last month, Black denied a request by Niezgoda and Bissonette to be allowed to be married while both are incarcerated in the Alpena County Jail.

As part of his plea arrangement, Niezgoda agreed to testify against several others arrested by HUNT in early January.

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In 2017, an Alpena County jury convicted Thomas Guthrie, now 53, of raping a male victim in 2005. According to a motion filed by Guthrie, an anonymous letter shared with the defense and addressed in court on Monday reveals that one of the jurors in Guthrie’s trial was biased and turned the jury against him.

Muszynski said in her response to the motion that those allegations have been neither validated nor corroborated, and the anonymous letter could have come from a friend of the defendant or from Guthrie himself.

Defense attorney Bill Pfeifer asked for more time to investigate whether a recent change to court rules allows Guthrie to demand a new jury now or if he has to wait until after resentencing ordered by the Michigan Court of Appeals. Guthrie was originally sentenced to 20 to 50 years in prison. The higher court in May 2019 said Guthrie should have gotten a shorter sentence and sent him back to local courts for resentencing.

Originally scheduled in July 2019, the resentencing has been delayed for more than a year and a half because of pending appeals to higher courts, COVID-19 restrictions, and motions filed by the defendant.

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