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Witness says he lied about assault

ALPENA — An Alpena man wants to take back his guilty plea in an assault case after his victim claimed the assault never happened.

Damien Michael Smith, now 26, was sentenced in 2015 to two years in prison after he admitted to threatening a man with a gun in an Alpena apartment building.

The man Smith said he accosted, Christopher Medlin, told Judge Benjamin Bolser in Alpena’s 26th Circuit Court Court on Monday that he lied when he told police about the incident.

Medlin, now 24, was arrested on drug charges in 2014. During interrogation after his arrest, police promised to go easy on Medlin if he gave them information about Smith, Medlin told the court.

Medlin later said he lied about the assault. He changed his story after he and Smith, who were childhood friends, were housed in the same prison, Medlin said under questioning by Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski.

Medlin claimed he had no contact with Smith at the prison.

Medlin said on Monday that he wishes to recant his story because he wants to do the right thing.

A jury in 2015 found Smith guilty of shooting at a Rogers City house from his car. He is serving a minimum 25-year sentence for assault with intent to commit murder, along with multiple shorter sentences for weapons offenses.

In a separate incident, according to Medlin’s original story to police, Medlin was picking up drugs from an upper-floor apartment on Lake Street in Alpena when he received a phone call telling him Smith had followed him up the stairs with a gun.

Medlin told police he turned around to discover Smith on a landing holding a pumped shotgun aimed at Medlin’s face, according to a police report read into the record in court on Monday.

According to the report, Smith demanded money, then hit Medlin in the face with the gun before Medlin escaped down the stairs.

Medlin said on Monday that his story had been a lie.

A police detective and an investigator, produced as witnesses by Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski testified that Medlin had told them his story, as well, and that he brought the incident up himself.

Defense attorney Michael Naughton said the prosecution can’t prove Medlin wasn’t lying and demanded a trial for his client on the assault charge. Smith admitted to the assault in 2015, but he never would have done so if the defense had proof Medlin was lying, Naughton said.

Naughton declined to answer a question from Bolser, who wondered whether both Medlin and Smith should be charged with lying to the court.

Muszynski cited higher court opinions calling for caution in granting retrials based on recanted testimony.

Bolser said he would consider Smith’s request and issue an opinion in coming days.

Smith was sentenced to a minimum of two years in prison for the assault and was discharged from that sentence in June of 2020. He remains in prison for the Rogers City shooting, with an earliest release date of August of 2041, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

In 2017, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled against Smith’s appeal of the jury’s decision in the Rogers City shooting.

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