[The frustration many of us feel about the ongoing Berrien County police and court abuse - for many decades - is overwhelming. Please spread this story all over the country. Maybe the federal gov. will do it's job. As many know, the following story is not unusual for this county.]
By Scott Aiken
Herald Palladium - March 11, 2008
St. Joseph, MI — A Benton Township man convicted of resisting police during a fire at his house claims a policeman brandished a pistol to intimidate defense witnesses at his trial.
In a motion for a new trial, L.D. Fuse Jr. said township Patrolman Scott Igert exhibited a gun in front of sequestered witnesses in a hallway at the Berrien County Courthouse to intimidate and scare them before they testified.
Five witnesses signed a citizen complaint form attesting to Igert’s behavior, which allegedly occurred on the afternoon of Feb. 21, the first day of Fuse’s trial.
State police at district headquarters in Paw Paw are investigating. A hearing on Fuse’s motion in Berrien County Trial Court is set for Friday morning.
After a two-day trial, a jury found the 50-year-old Fuse and his mother, Laura Fuse, 70, guilty of resisting and obstructing police on Nov. 12 at their house at 1776 Eastland Ave. They face up to two years in prison and are scheduled to be sentenced April 7.
Fuse, a former military policeman in the Marine Corps, and his mother were acquitted of a second charge of disturbing the peace.
Defense witnesses testified the Fuses did nothing to interfere with police. But police testified that restraint was required to keep the two from entering the burning structure.
L.D. Fuse Jr. also seeks a new trial on grounds that the prosecutor did not comply with a pretrial discovery request. Fuse alleges Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sepic misrepresented to the court that a defense witness had no criminal record, then brought up a criminal offense as trial evidence to discredit the witness.
Fuse also claims trial Judge Charles LaSata would not allow the defense to introduce evidence showing that Benton Township police Sgt. Tim Sutherland did not have current certification for the Taser he used to immobilize Fuse at the fire.
The judge erred by not giving a jury instruction on the defense theory of the case, according to Fuse’s motion. The defense claimed that police who arrested the Fuses used force without justification and that the defendants were not resisting.
According to the citizen complaint filed with the court and filled out by defense witness John Fuse, Igert walked out of the courtroom after testifying, then took out a gun.
Igert “pulled it up high and waited a few seconds,” Fuse said in the complaint, then put the gun away and walked past the defense witnesses who were waiting their turns to testify.
John Fuse is L.D. Fuse Jr.’s brother and Laura Fuse’s son.
“You could hear a pin dropped when he was handling his gun,” Fuse said in the complaint.
Later, John Fuse said, he and his family “slept in fear,” too afraid to watch TV or sit in the living room. The complaint was signed by Fuse and four other defense witnesses.
In a separate incident on the first day of trial, John Fuse said in the complaint, Igert followed him into a bathroom and intimidated him by making a quick motion toward his head, as if to strike him.
Benton Township Police Chief Vince Fetke said he would not comment on the case before he has had a chance to talk to the Prosecutor’s Office, which he said might happen today. Igert could not be reached Monday for comment.
Contact Scott Aiken at saiken@TheHP.com.