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In The News: Mich. man pleads no contest in Interstate 71 Greyhound bus ‘threats’ case

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A Michigan man accused of mixing chemicals

A Michigan man accused of mixing chemicals while making “threats against America" on a Greyhound bus was sentenced Friday by Medina Common Pleas Judge Joyce V. Kimbler.

Michael Walker, 58, of Traverse City, Mich., pleaded no contest Friday to disrupting public services, a fourth-degree felony. Prosecutors agreed to drop two additional charges: attempted arson and possessing criminal tools, both fifth-degree felonies.

After a plea deal, he was sentenced to 229 days in jail, but he was credited with that same amount of time served.

“We believe this was a good outcome in view of the strength of the case based on how the (two) witnesses testified at the preliminary hearing," Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman said.

Assistant Prosecutor Matt Razavi said disrupting public services ordinarily carries a six- to 18-month prison sentence.

But Holman said Ohio law makes it difficult to obtain a prison sentence on the charge.

Offenders rarely serve prison time for fourth- and fifth-degree felonies because of a 2010 law that limits judges’ abilities to sentence prison time for these felonies, he said.

Instead, jail time is commonly sentenced, he added.

“There’s frequently times where we would like to send ‘felony four and fives’ to prison," Holman said.

Defense attorney Andrew Parker said he was satisfied with the outcome.

“I am happy with the way the case went and, again, I think we had a very defensible case," Parker said.

Walker was arrested Sept. 7, 2015, on Interstate 71 in Medina County by the Ohio Highway Patrol. Passengers told investigators they became nervous when they saw Walker holding a lighter and lighter fluid while muttering.

Parker said the passengers alleged Walker’s comments could be described as “threats against America."

“There’s no denying he had some pretty not popular beliefs about America, but he’s had some hard things happen in his life," Parker said.

Parker disputed the accusation that Walker was mixing chemicals. He said he believed Walker was refilling his lighter.

Walker served some of his 229 days in Medina County Jail. He was transferred to Heartland Behavioral Healthcare, a Massillon inpatient care facility for mentally ill adults, after he was declared not competent to stand trial in January. During Friday’s proceeding, Razavi presented a nine-page document from a doctor that concluded Walker had been “restored to competency."

Kimbler approved the motion before sentencing.

Parker agreed that his client’s mental health seemed to have improved since the lawyer began working with him. He said he had never had a client restored to competency during his 13 years of law practice in Medina County, but he said he also never had a client declared incompetent.

Holman declined to estimate how frequently defendants are restored to competency, but said one example was a case in 1989 involving a man who pleaded guilty to killing his mother’s boyfriend as an example.

“I’ve seen it happen before," Holman said.

Taken from The Medina Gazette.

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