By Diane Madigan
Independent Court Reporter
34th District Court Judge Brian Oakley ordered Brian Bernard Baker, 17, of Van Buren Township bound over to circuit court on four sets of charges following preliminary exams held May 22.
Baker was arraigned on the evidence on the four cases at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice May 29 before Judge Mark T. Slavens. Baker stood mute and not-guilty pleas were entered on his behalf.
But, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Russo told the judge a fifth warrant had been written for Baker that still needed arraignment. Russo suggested a calendar conference on the four cases to give an opportunity for the fifth case to catch up.
Judge Slavens said he didn’t want this to fall behind and Baker’s attorney agreed, asking for a status conference three weeks out. Judge Slavens said he wanted to set one trial date.
Prosecutor Russo said one or two of the cases may be combined. The judge scheduled Baker to appear in court for a status conference on June 19, for a pretrial conference on July 17 and for trial on Aug. 20. Between six to eight witnesses are expected to be called by the prosecution.
The fifth case, for which Baker was expected to be arraigned on May 31, was for a break-in at 10914 Buchanan on April 5. The charges are 1st Degree Home Invasion, Weapons-Firearms Larceny, Larceny of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, two counts of Felony Firearms and Receiving and Concealing Firearms.
District court on May 22
Three preliminary exams
Three preliminary exams were held at the 34th District Court in Romulus on May 22 and Baker waived a preliminary exam on a fourth charge concerning a break-in at 41408 Coolidge Street.
All the break-ins were in Haggerty subdivision in Van Buren Township between Feb. 19 and April 12.
Baker was arrested by VBT Police on April 12 after leaving the Coolidge Street home and has been in the Wayne County Jail since then.
The first preliminary exam was held on the Feb. 19 break-in at 10991 Buchanan. The witness was Michelle Solak who lives in the home she rents. She said she left for work at 8 a.m. and locked the doors.
She testified a friend called her at 1:15 p.m. to tell her the side door was kicked in. She said she hurried home and found the door kicked in and items from the bedroom were on the kitchen table. She noticed a 10” Samsung tablet was missing, valued at over $400.
She later discovered diamond wedding rings that cost $1,000 when purchased were also gone.
VBT Detective Derek Perez took the stand and answered questions about the April 12 break-in at 41408 Coolidge when Baker was arrested.
Perez said he and Detective/Sgt. Charles Bazzy were alerted by patrol officers and were in the neighborhood. He testified they observed Baker enter the home after first ringing the bell and knocking on the door. Perez said he heard a loud bang at the side door and after 10 minutes he saw Baker exit and walk up Haggerty Road.
Baker was then taken into custody and read his Miranda rights aloud. Perez believes that Baker understood his rights by signing the Miranda form. Baker’s attorney James McGinnis questioned whether the Miranda was properly executed.
Judge Oakley ruled that Miranda was properly executed.
Det. Perez testified that he questioned Baker for up to two hours while a search warrant was being executed at Baker’s home by police. A stolen weapon was recovered at his residence.
Det. Perez said Baker told him he sold the tablet and the wedding ring for $50 at the BP gas station at the North I-94 Service Drive and Haggerty to people in the parking lot. The BP people were not involved, he stressed.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Ragen Lake entered Baker’s statement written April 12 as Exhibit #1. Baker wrote he broke into a house today and last week he got a Kindle, safe, rings, sold in Detroit. Also: “Broke into a house, HP laptop, 357 Magnum and some gold.”
The entire statement was not read in court. Judge Oakley bound Baker over to circuit court on this charge.
The second preliminary exam was held on the 10637 Jackson Street break-in on March 15. Baker is charged with 1st Degree Home Invasion, Larceny of a Firearm, Larceny in a Building and Felony Firearm.
Witness James Laine testified that he and his wife Stephanie live in the house they own. He testified when he went to work that morning and when his wife left and how he came home to find the back door kicked off its hinges. He said the closets were open and drawers pulled out and his handgun was gone. Also missing were two laptops, an iPad, a Kindle Fire, jewelry and some cash.
McGinnis asked Det. Perez if he took any notes during the interrogation of his client and Perez said he had taken notes and that he used them to prepare the material that he sent to the prosecutor to request a warrant. He wasn’t sure if they were in a file or had been discarded.
McGinnis wanted the notes preserved and Judge Oakley asked Perez to preserve his notes, if there are any, and share them with the prosecutor.
McGinnis asked if the interview was recorded and Perez said it wasn’t. (Following the court session, Perez explained that VBT does not record interrogations because, “We do not have recording equipment that meets the standards of the State of Michigan.”)
Perez testified that Baker confessed to stealing a .357 handgun and selling it for $200 in Detroit to a black male named “Otz” from Toledo.
Judge Oakley then bound this case over to circuit court.
11130 Van Buren
The third preliminary exam was for 11130 Van Buren, where Baker is charged with Breaking and Entering a Building with Intent and Attempted 2nd Degree Home Invasion on March 25.
Witness Robin Russ said she rents the home from her mother Susan Carlton. Russ testified that she left her home the day before at 4 p.m. and returned home the following morning at 11.
She testified she noticed the garage door was open and she was sure it was locked when she left. She heard a noise and as she came around the corner of the house she saw a boy, she identified as Baker, standing behind her house. A screen and the glass from a sliding glass window were standing against the house. The side door of the garage was kicked open.
Russ said she was standing two feet away from Baker and she asked him, “What are you doing?”
She said Baker then ran across the back yard and jumped the fence and ran down the Service Drive towards Belleville Road.
McGinnis argued that Russ only saw him for a second or two and didn’t pick him out of a photo line-up. Russ said she wasn’t 100% sure the picture was him and they told her she had to be 100% sure.
Ross said the picture that she saw does not look like him. Pointing to Baker in the courtroom, she said, “That’s the boy that was in my backyard.”
After Oakley bound Baker over on this charge, as well, McGinnis asked that his client’s bond on the Coolidge case be reduced from $25,000 cash or surety to be consistent with the bonds in the other three cases. Oakley agreed to change the bond to $10,000 or 10%, making all four bonds the same.
By Diane Madigan