Accused child predator and former Kingsley school official Karl Hartman was back in court yesterday on an alleged bond violation.
The accusation was that Hartman went to Fife Lake. Hartman’s attorney correctly pointed out that “Don’t go to Fife Lake” wasn’t a condition of bond. The problem with having a “don’t go near the victims” provision is that you can’t expect a defendant to know 100% of the time where a victim is. In fact, the whole point of the bond condition is for the defendant to not know where the victim is. Judge Mumbles added “Don’t go to Fife Lake” to Hartman’s bond condition, which was probably the appropriate outcome for the hearing.
Now cue the pre-trial publicity. Noelle Moeggenberg runs to the media to imply that Hartman was making the victims uncomfortable by trying to be near them. She talks about what the victims are “going through” by being witnesses/victims in the case. Moeggenberg says:
“The importance of no contact in the exclusion zones is to provide the victims with some comfort. We know that he reached out to at least one of the victims prior to being arrested and being placed on bond, so we don’t want them to feel any extra pressures on top of what they’re already going through.”
So. Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 3.6 Trial Publicity, in relevant part:
“Rule: 3.6 Trial Publicity
(a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.
A statement is likely to have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding when it refers to a civil matter triable to a jury, a criminal matter, or any other proceeding that could result in incarceration, and the statement relates to: (1) the character, credibility, reputation, or criminal record of a party, of a suspect in a criminal investigation or of a witness, or the identity of a witness, or the expected testimony of a party or witness;
(6) the fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime, unless there is included therein a statement explaining that the charge is merely an accusation and that the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.”
How are Moeggenberg’s statements not in violation of MCR 3.6? She makes declaratory statements. She accuses Hartman of trying to contact at least one of the alleged victims in the case (before there was any rule that he couldn’t), and trying to interfere with their comfort by violating bond. She says that Hartman was interfering with the victim’s comfort, but it sounds like the victims didn’t even know that it happened. How are her statements not attacking of the character, credibility and reputation of Hartman? How do her comments not prejudice the jury that will ultimately hear this case? The time for a prosecutor to state opinions on a case is after the jury’s verdict and not a moment before.