The traditional 'what I did on my summer break' exercise is no sooner told than forgotten. So it must have come as quite a surprise to Ashley Poe, 18, of Ann Arbor, when the police knocked on her door, inquiring about a criminal incident from last summer.
And the news could hardly have been worse. The accusation was that Ms. Poe sexually molested two minor children, a girl, age 12 and a boy, age 14. Reportedly, the incidents occurred on July 14.
Since the victims are minor children, details are scant. Reportedly, the children are Ann Arbor area residents, both with long histories of being run-aways.
Ms. Poe's background is also murky. Though she told the court that she was a student at Ann Arbor Tech High School, school officials report that they have no record of Poe attending the institution.
Ultimately, the criminal defendant pled "no contest" to reduced charges. Plea bargaining is a common practice in the Michigan courts. The objectives of that procedure are to alleviate docket crowding and the avoidance of the uncertainties of jury trials.
Under the Michigan Rules of Court, a guilty plea must be knowing, voluntary and accurate.
In accepting a plea of guilty, the judge must inform the defendant of the rights that she is relinquishing by submitting such a plea. Those include the rights to: A trial by judge or jury; to be presumed innocent until proved guilty; to the reasonable doubt standard of proof; to have the adverse, prosecution witnesses appear at the trial; to confront those witnesses; to judicially compel defense witnesses to appear at trial; to remain silent; to testify at the trial if desired, and; relinquishment of the right to appeal the sentence.
The rules are different, however, within the context of a no contest plea. Accordingly, because that type of plea deviates from standard procedure, the defendant is not required to set forth a factual basis on the record. Instead, the judge usually uses the police report as the factual basis, provided that the prosecutor, the Ann Arbor sex crimes attorney and the criminal defendant stipulate to that procedure.
The justification for such a plea is most frequently based on one of two grounds: Either the potential for usage of the defendant's own words against her in a subsequent, related civil suit for money damages, or; that the defendant is unable to recall the incident due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption at the time of commission of the offense.
Nevertheless, a no contest plea is the equivalent of a standard guilty plea.
In this case, the criminal defendant was originally charged with Second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15 year felony. The Washtenaw County prosecutor in Ann Arbor charged Ms. Poe with second degree criminal sexual conduct because one victim was under the age of 13 and the other, though older than 13, was sexually molested during the commission of a felony (an aggravating factor).
The criminal defendant was also charged with criminal sexual conduct third degree, also a 15 year felony. For the purposes of this blog, sexual molestation may amount to criminal sexual conduct third degree where either of the following factors are found: The incident included sexual penetration of a victim between the ages of 13 and 16, and/or; force or coercion was used.
Here, however, in the end, the prosecutor mercifully agreed to permit the teenage sex offender to plead to two counts of "Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct"--a five year felony. Accordingly, the more serious charges will be dismissed.
Moreover, the defendant's Southfield sex crimes attorney was able to bring about a soft landing, with the inclusion of a sentence bargain. Under that provision, the defendant will not be sent to prison, but will serve one year or less in the Washtenaw County Jail. Any prison sentence must exceed one year.
Though many if not most members of the public will find the defendant's lenient treatment unconscionable, nothing could be further from the truth. In view of the fact that teenagers are more prone to making mistakes than adults, primarily because of their lack of life experience, it is eminently reasonable for the authorities to emphasize the sentencing goal of reformation over mere, harsh punishment. What is, in fact, unconscionable, is the destruction of a teenager's entire future without first attempting to set her straight.
Though it may appear as a scene from Die Hard 5, all's well that ends well.
Post by Hillard Fried