Defendant in Shooting Death Pleads No Contest

Anthony Gene Michanowicz, 29, Boyne City, pleaded no contest to careless discharge of a firearm causing death in the 33rd Circuit Court. The charge is a high court misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed in the case, Michanowicz was showing a new .45 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol he had just purchased to Greg Van Stedum and another individual at a residence in the City of Charlevoix on April 14, 2018.

Michanowicz removed the magazine from the gun and handed the gun to the other man who looked at it then handed it to Greg who gave it back to Michanowicz. As Michanowicz was putting the magazine back into the pistol, it fired, killing Van Stedum.

The crime involved states that a person is guilty where, because of carelessness, recklessness or negligence, but not willfully or wantonly, a person causes or allows a firearm under his immediate control to be discharged so as to kill or injure another person.

Michanowicz pleaded no contest because of the potential for civil liability arising from the incident. A no contest plea has the same result as a guilty plea for all purposes related to the criminal case.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 12, 2018 at 9:00 a.m.

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Boyne Falls Man Sentenced to Prison

For the second straight week, a Charlevoix County man was sentenced to prison for stealing drugs.

Trent Jay Cowles, 20, Boyne Falls, was sentenced to serve 30 to 48 months in prison related to an incident which occurred on May 9, 2017 in Hayes Township. Cowles and three other men gained entry to the residence through a window. They were all wearing ski masks.  Cowles was brandishing a fiberglass driveway marker stake. When questioned by police, the men admitted they stole drugs, drug paraphernalia and a gun from the home.

Cowles pleaded guilty to larceny in a building and assault with a dangerous weapon, both felonies with a maximum penalty of four years in prison. In exchange for these guilty pleas, the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit first degree home invasion, a twenty-year felony, was dismissed.

After imposing sentence, Circuit Court Judge Roy C. Hayes III indicated that at a later date he would consider allowing Cowles to serve his time with the Michigan Department of Corrections through the Special Alternative Incarceration program. This program is commonly referred to as “boot camp.”

“We hear repeatedly that the use of drugs is a victimless crime,” Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof said. “However, over and over we see that people who use drugs commit other crimes to fuel their habits. The drugs also cause them to make poor decisions.”

Last week Judge Hayes sentenced Trevor James Blackwell of Charlevoix to prison for tampering with evidence and the theft of medical marijuana plants from two locations in Charlevoix County. Cowles was also a co-defendant in one of those thefts. On that charge, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of larceny over $200 but less than $1,000 in the 90th District Court.

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Charlevoix Man Sentenced to Prison for Marijuana Thefts and Evidence Tampering

On Friday, Sept. 7, Trevor James Blackwell, 26, Charlevoix was sentenced to prison in the 33rd Circuit Court for breaking and entering a pole barn with intent and tampering with evidence. Blackwell was subject to an enhanced sentence because he had previous felony convictions.

According to affidavits filed by police, on Sept. 10, 2017, Blackwell and other individuals broke into two different medical marijuana grow operations where they stole over 100 marijuana plants.

While Blackwell was awaiting trial on these charges, he convinced one of his fellow offenders to write a false letter stating that Blackwell was not involved. The letter was given to Blackwell’s attorney for use in court, but under oath the witness admitted the letter was false.

Circuit Court Judge Roy C. Hayes III sentenced Blackwell to 48 to 240 months in prison on the breaking and entering charge and an additional 23 to 48 months on the evidence tampering charge to be served consecutively. Blackwell received 112 days of jail credit.

Blackwell was also charged originally with larceny $20,000 or more (for the other marijuana theft), home invasion first degree (for the theft of a television on a different date) and witness intimidation. Those charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

“One of the most important parts of the sentence was the consecutive time on the evidence tampering,” Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof said. “It was discretionary by the court, however, the judge agreed that to sentence that time concurrently would give no punishment for the crime. It is important that when someone is charged with a crime that they know if they intimidate witnesses or create false evidence, they will be getting more time behind bars.”

 

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Man Pleads Guilty to Sexual Assault

Tuitamaga Peter Namulauulu, 32, Kewadin, pleaded guilty this morning in the 33rd Circuit Court to assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct involving sexual penetration. The crime carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Namulauulu was originally charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct, Third Degree (Incapacitated Victim), a 15-year felony.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed in the matter, in the early morning hours of April 29, 2018 in the City of Charlevoix, Namulauulu entered the bedroom of a woman who was asleep and sexually assaulted her.

The woman had met Namulauulu earlier that day. She had stayed home while the defendant and a group of friends went out to a bar.

Namulauulu will be sentenced on September 28.

 

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Latvian Man Pleads Guilty to Internet Scam

Karlis Vitols, 29, Miami Springs, Florida, pleaded guilty this morning to obtaining $1,000 or more but less than $20,000 by false pretenses in the 33rd Circuit Court. Vitols will be sentenced on Sept. 14. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Vitols’ plea was entered with the assistance of a Latvian translator as he is a citizen of Latvia. Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office arrested Vitols in Miami, Florida as he was preparing to board a plane to leave the country.

In his guilty plea, Vitols acknowledged that money had been transferred into a bank account in his name that was part of a fraud or scam. According to an affidavit filed by police, a Charlevoix County resident agreed to purchase a classic car online through a website that was purportedly of a car dealership located in Kansas. In fact, the dealership had closed a year earlier and was no longer in business.

The victim wire transferred over $18,000 into an account as directed by the “dealership” and the money was received by Vitols. The victim did not receive his vehicle, but rather numerous excuses for delay. He called the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office.

“This was a result of great police work by Detectives Ben Speigl and Mike Wheat,” Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof said. “They broke down the scheme and found that not only had our Charlevoix County person been victimized, but a number of people across the country had been taken as well.”

“The detectives shared information with law enforcement agencies from other states and the FBI and as a result there will be other prosecutions in other jurisdictions as well. If not for the work of the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office, this defendant would have fled the country. We are very fortunate for a county our size to have detectives of this caliber and a sheriff who supports prosecution of crimes that may involve traveling to other states for investigation and arrest.”

On July 24, 2018, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced they had indicated 25 defendants, including Vitols, with wire fraud and money laundering with the toll of their crimes totaling more than $4.5 million.” (https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/25-defendants-charged-manhattan-federal-court-multimillion-dollar-wire-fraud-and-money). The other individuals are from Kazakhstan, Azerbijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey.

Vitols has a co-defendant, Matiss Puke, who was also arrested in Florida by the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office. Puke is charged with false pretenses and using a computer to commit a crime. Puke was also listed in the federal indictment referenced above.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Medical Marijuana Theft and Use of False Evidence

On Friday, August 3 in the 33rd Circuit Court, Trevor James Blackwell, 26, Charlevoix, pleaded guilty to breaking and entering with intent, a ten-year felony, and presenting false evidence, a four-year felony. Blackwell will also be subject to a sentencing enhancement as a three-time felon which will change the breaking and entering charge to a twenty-year maximum.

Blackwell was set to go to trial on Wednesday, August 8 on these charges as well as additional charges of larceny greater than $20,000 and witness intimidation. Those charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement as was a charge of home invasion.

According to the affidavits of probable cause filed in the cases, Blackwell and three other men, all of whom have already pleaded guilty in connection with the events, broke into two area medical marijuana grow operations and stole medical marijuana.

After the four were charged, Blackwell asked one of his co-defendants to lie for him and to create a letter stating that Blackwell was not involved in the robberies. Text messages between Blackwell and the co-defendant revealed that Blackwell told the co-defendant what to say and sought to have them to lie under oath.

The letter created by the co-defendant at Blackwell’s urging was introduced at Blackwell’s preliminary examination in the 90th District Court and formed the basis for the false evidence charge. The false evidence charged may be served consecutively to the breaking and entering charge as it was committed while Blackwell was on bond.

Sentencing will occur on Aug. 24.

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Charlevoix Man Gets Prison for Sexual Assault on Child

Nicholas J. Thelen, 22, of Charlevoix, was sentenced to 57 to 180 months in prison this morning by Judge Roy C. Hayes III in the 33rd Circuit Court. Thelen pleaded guilty to Criminal Sexual Conduct, Second Degree on March 21, 2018.

Thelen admitted sexually assaulting a seven-year-old victim while she was attending a birthday party. While still at the party, the victim reported the assault to an adult. The case was then investigated by the Michigan State Police.

The plea agreement involved a reduction from the original charge of Criminal Sexual Conduct, First Degree. Charlevoix County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Caitlin Borchard, who prosecuted the case, told the court at sentencing that the plea offer was made out of concern for the victim and not putting her through any greater stress or anxiety.

Borchard stated that the child considered Thelen a “friend” and that he preyed upon her by removing other children from the room, closing the blinds and door before he assaulted her. She also indicated that Thelen had been observing child sexually abusive material for years prior to the assault.

In sentencing the defendant, Hayes noted that sexual assaults upon children are “evil acts” and “regularly cause lifelong damage to the victims.” Hayes sentenced Thelen to the maximum under the sentencing guidelines for the case.

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