By Diane Madigan
Independent Court Reporter
It is yet to be decided whether hours of video clips will be allowed to be presented at the jury trial of John Delaney who faces a misdemeanor charge of disrupting a Van Buren Township meeting.
At a court session on Feb. 28, 34th District Court Judge Brian Oakley set the jury trial for May 3, but asked for a conference to be set up before then between him, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney to deal with the tapes to avoid drawing out the trial.
Judge Oakley said he wants the trial to be done in one day.
The court session on Feb. 28 was to discuss the 404(b) motion, made on behalf of Delaney, that would allow the tapes.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Lukiewski was standing in for Assistant Prosecutor Carole Murray to represent Van Buren Township. Former Township Supervisor Paul White and former Director of Public Safety Carl McClanahan were in the courtroom.
Former Supervisor White had Delaney removed from a township board meeting and arrested last Sept. 18 for disrupting a public meeting, a misdemeanor.
Delaney’s attorney James Fifelski said the 404 (b) motion puts the prosecution on notice that there will be extended testimony and video clips at the trial.
Fifelski said the Sept. 18 video will show White glaring at Delaney and calling him out of order when he wasn’t at the podium. Fifelski said Delaney was sitting in the back of the room speaking with someone that was sitting next to him.
Fifelski said the tapes will show that on June 21, 2011, White also had Delaney arrested for a difference of opinion, claiming that what Delaney was trying to state was inappropriate.
Fifelski said he will prove that there is modus operandi evidence to show White censured Delaney’s opinions, ability to speak, and had a pattern of trying to get Delaney removed from meetings.
Fifelski went back to tapes of meeting during the attempted recall of White and others, saying there are segments of meetings where people are in “a wild hoorah”. Fifelski said White gave warnings, but no one was arrested, even when people claimed that White stole newspapers from stores.
Fifelski told the court that he believes the 404(b) motion will point to a clash of ideologies and a system of censorship of Delaney’s right to free speech.
Prosecutor Lukiewski disagreed with the 404(b) motion stating that actions on Sept. 18 should not be shared with actions of other people. He gave an analogy of someone getting caught speeding.
Judge Oakley interjected that inciting a riot is less subjective than speeding.
Lukiewski said that either Delaney caused a disturbance or he did not. In his opinion, the defense is trying to show from past meetings that White schemed to censor Delaney and that the 404(b) motion is not relevant.
Lukiewski cited Rule 404(a), Evidence of character and conduct of witnesses. According to Cornell Law, “… Evidence of a person’s character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait.”
Judge Oakley stated to Lukiewski, “Your argument was that your evidence is going to stand or fall from the day of the meeting,” asking why the prosecution would care if the jury knows that there is some past history?
“You want to use past things to show that Supervisor White was a jerk,” Judge Oakley said to Fifelski. “How can he [White] have a motive to get him to commit crimes? Is this entrapment?”
Fifelski countered that the motive was to shut Delaney down, asking, “Where is the why behind the charge? He [White] has to establish what he did and why he did it. He was responding to Mr. White basically calling him out of order with no basis at all. You can’t even hear anything in the background until at that moment Delaney responds because all of a sudden Mr. Delaney is being singled out.”
“The People don’t have to prove motive,” Prosecutor Lukiewski said. “Motive is not relevant.”
Fifelski responded, “Causation is important. In murder cases where self-defense is entered, maybe there was a prior problem or issue between the victim and the defendant. Courts will generally allow prior bad acts of the victim to explain the self-defense act.”
Judge Oakley reserved his decision on the 404(b) motion, asking for the conference meeting to sort it all out before the trial.
If found guilty of the misdemeanor charge, Delaney could be fined $500 and/or spend 90 days in jail.
Delaney has said he is seeking a jury trial on the charge because in his opinion this actually is an important freedom of speech issue.
By Diane Madigan