By Diane Madigan
Independent Court Reporter
A Wayne County Circuit Court jury trial has been set for Feb. 27 for the man charged with the Oct. 24 armed robbery of the Heart Smart Pharmacy in Van Buren Township.
On Dec. 5, Michael Earl-Chavis Lee, 29, of Lincoln Park was brought from the Wayne County Jail to the courtroom of Judge Megan Maher Brennan at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.
Lee has been incarcerated since he was arrested shortly after the robbery by the Van Buren Township Police. The firearms allegedly used by Lee and his 15-year-old accomplice were recovered by VBT Fire Fighters from the detention pond behind Taco Bell on Belleville Road.
Lee’s retained attorney Ronald McDuffie stood with his client for the continuation of a postponed arraignment on the information, a bond-reduction hearing, and a calendar conference.
Lee was being held under a $250,000 or 10% bond and McDuffie sought a lower bond Lee could afford to post.
McDuffie said the DSU referral has been completed and it recommended his bond be reduced to $100,000/10%.
(A DSU referral is an investigation conducted by pre-trial services, explained attorney Jeff Bowdich. They meet with defendants asking questions that lead to more information than what the judge hears on the bench. Based on this information, a lower bond may be recommended or not.)
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Frank Simone, who was standing in for Dominic DeGrazia, said he would fight the reduction.
McDuffie said he had represented Lee before and he had never failed to appear. He said the other charges were a long time ago.
Simone said according to Lee’s record he failed to appear Aug. 5, 2011 in West Virginia and again on March 28, 2013 at 36th District Court.
McDuffie objected, saying these were traffic tickets and there is a strong case that these tickets were not his client’s but those of his cousin, using Lee’s name “interchangeably.”
“Since he will likely be convicted of this crime, why not let him spend the holidays with his family?” McDuffie asked.
Judge Brennan denied the bond reduction after questioning the cousin’s use of Lee’s exact name and pointing out the seriousness of the charges and Lee’s history.
Prior to the bond-reduction hearing, Simone and McDuffie had worked out a plea bargain at the prosecutor’s table. For a guilty plea to Count 1, Armed Robbery, Lee would serve 9 to 20 years.
McDuffie said he wanted the court to be aware that he is also representing the 15-year-old codefendant in this case who has pled guilty and would be sentenced the following day.
McDuffie said he did not believe representing both clients is a conflict of interest.
McDuffie spoke with Lee and also had Lee’s “fiancée” and family members, who were in the courtroom, speak with him, but Lee was not interested in accepting the plea bargain.
Lee and the minor were accused of five felonies each: three counts of Armed Robbery, one of Felonious Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, and one Felony Firearm.
A pre-trial final conference was scheduled for Jan. 21 and a reciprocal order for discovery entered.
McDuffie said a video had not been made available to Lee as evidence. In addition to the video, Prosecutor Simone said that DeGrazia, the prosecutor on the case, has 911 calls and photos which would be shared with Lee’s attorney.
Judge Brennan said the defendant would likely want to see the video prior to rejecting any “future” offers.
Simone said the prosecution would need three days for trial, beginning with the scheduled 9 a.m. Feb. 27 date set by the judge. He said they would produce four civilian witnesses and four police officers.
McDuffie said the defense will call two witnesses.
By Diane Madigan