Terry Starr is the Kalkaska superintendent who is charged with sending a bunch of people letters accusing a teacher of criminal conduct. There was a hearing in the 13th Circuit Court on 12/16 and the case is set for trial in January.
The hearing on 12/16 had to do with the prosecution wanting to admit evidence about things the defendant allegedly did that are unrelated to the case. The prosecution wanted to introduce evidence that Starr once printed an email and mailed it, without including the email address and name block. According to the prosecution this means Starr likes to send anonymous letters. They say that makes him more likely to have sent the letters in the case at hand.
So what the prosecution is getting at is Michigan Rules of Evidence Rule 404b. At a trial, in general, you have to stick to relevant stuff. The prosecution can’t just admit whatever evidence they think shows that the defendant is a crappy person. However, under Michigan Rule of Evidence 404b, the prosecution can admit other acts in evidence in order to show a common scheme or plan. In other words, the prosecution wanted to say, see, this is what Terry Starr does, he sends anonymous letters. Therefore, he must have sent the anonymous letters in the current case. So that’s what the prosecution was trying to do. They were trying to invoke court rule 404b.
Judge Power of the 13th Circuit Court said no to that, and I believe that’s the correct answer. Sending a printed email with no header seems pretty far removed from what Starr is accused of doing in the instant case. The ruling means the prosecutor can’t bring it up at the trial.
The Circuit Court ledger lists the actual charges against Starr. Let’s take them one by one.
MCL 750.411A1B – False report of a felony
It says (I’m shortening it): A person who intentionally makes a false report o crime, to a peace officer, police agency of this state or any other governmental employer who is authorized to receive reports to a crime, knowing that the report is false is guilty of a crime.
To me, this charge is an obvious no. He didn’t make the report to the police. Teachers and school principals just aren’t people who are authorized to receive reports of crime. They’re not. Even if Starr did everything the state is accusing him of doing, his actions don’t meet the elements of MCL 750.411A1B.
mcl 722.633(5)b – intentional false report of child abuse
It says (shortened): A person who intentionally makes a false report of child abuse or neglect knowing that the report is false is guilty of a crime.
My first question is, what does it mean to make a false report of child abuse or neglect? According to MCL 722.633, a report made under the act is made to the Michigan centralized intake system for receiving reports of child abuse. In other words, under MCL 722.633, sending letters to third parties accusing someone of child abuse isn’t making report of child abuse. It’s accusing someone of child abuse, but it’s not intentionally makes a false report of child abuse according to the law.
In my opinion, this charge also fails, even if it all went down exactly like the prosecutor claims.
mcl 750.370 – Falsely and maliciously accusing another
And last, we have falsely and maliciously accusing another of a crime.
It says (shortened): Any person who shall falsely and maliciously, by writing (or another way), accuse another of the commission of any crime, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor
In other words, it’s illegal to purposely, falsely accuse someone of a crime, knowing it’s false.
I think that one is possible. The prosecutor would have to prove first, that the accusations were false and that he made the accusation for a malicious purpose, and second, that Starr knew they were false.
According to the MCL, false and malicious accusation of a felony is only a misdemeanor. So out of all of these charges, the only one that even is a little bit viable is the misdemeanor. Even then, the state has their work cut out for them having to prove Starr’s motives and thought at the time of sending the letters.
I don’t think this one will end in a conviction. But I also didn’t think an Antrim jury would convict an 83 year old for getting the crap kicked out of him by the police, so clearly I’m not that good of a judge of Antrim juries.