The Ludington Torch had chance to witness high courtroom drama at the 79th District Court yesterday.  Newly appointed Prosecutor Beth Hand led the state's charge against local businessman James Nash, saying that he committed an act of domestic violence late last year.  Nash was represented in a 79th District Court jury trial by public defender Becky Lederer, who along with Hand and Jordan Miller, make up the slate of candidates vying for the position of Mason County Prosecutor which will effectively be decided in the August primary elections as each are running as Republicans. 

Our interest in this trial was ginned up by the scrap dealer facing the serious misdemeanor charges brought up against him.  Nash had faced some even more serious charges back in 2021 when deputies slapped some resisting and opposing officer felonies on him for actions that were not supported by the available body/dash cam footage; they did clearly show that he was roughed up.  County deputies were probably not fully satisfied when Nash was able to plea deal it down to community service in lieu of jail.  

We had not only followed along with that misuse of the justice system by needless prosecution, we followed along with a prior incident involving the alleged victim in this case (we will call her 'Alice'), back before she was in a romantic relationship with Nash.  The Ludington Police Department arrested her in August 2023 for ironically the charges of domestic violence and multiple charges of R&O.  Body cam footage I received from that incident showed that once again our police forces acted improperly, effectively assaulting her and charging her with a DV charge that wasn't well-founded under the circumstances.  The Ludington Torch has equal empathy towards these two actual victims of our local justice system and current prosecutor.

Nash would actually put forth the money to bond Alice out of jail after that incident and this relationship began, with Alice, who was effectively homeless, moving into Nash's Victory Township house shortly thereafter.  Late on the night of December 9th, 2023, that relationship would reach a new level.  Police involvement.  

Reportedly, a neighbor two rural houses away called 911 to report a commotion over at the Nash house.  Within ten minutes, Deputy Robinson (in the process of being field trained) arrived with Sergeant Pranger from the MCSO.  They would knock on the door and patrol around the house.  They would find Alice outside with blood on her face.  They would learn from her that Nash wanted her off the property.  Nash was nowhere to be found, so they went into his house and allowed her to collect her stuff, before taking her to the women's shelter.

The 911 recording and the testimony of Deputy Robinson were heard in court and backs the facts in the paragraph immediately above.  Seven members of a jury chosen that very morning heard all that and more before the state's star witness, Alice, took the stand and the state's case and its composure fell apart.  After six hours of jury selection, testimony and exhibit-displaying, Judge John Middlebrook would declare a mistrial after Prosecutor Hand effectively rang a bell that couldn't be unrung of prejudicial disclosure that she never should have explored.  

The judge may have saved Ms. Hand from the inevitable acquittal that seemed likely to happen.  She had only wanted to show a small portion (about 5 minutes) of a body cam video that was far from conclusive in showing that any domestic violence occurred that night.  When the defense attorney is clamoring for the state to show the full video and is actively opposed by the prosecutor, it's a good sign that the parts of the video that the defense was never given the opportunity to show was exculpatory towards the defense's proposition that nothing beyond a verbal eviction happened that evening. 

 

Few would argue that Hand may have the upper hand on projecting herself in court than the meek and respectful Lederer (seen above), and that is a good quality in a prosecutor.  But on this day, Lederer would subtly outfox the career assistant prosecutor from Oakland County, by quickly noticing the prejudicial testimony that was elicited by Hand and standing firm in calling for either a dismissal or an opening up of the rabbit hole that Hand excavated by introducing Alice's prior legal history and suggesting that Nash was involved in witness tampering or worse, all without disclosure to the defense.

But even before that, by stressing that more of the video should be shown and by noting that the video parts shown did not help the prosecution show the major element of their case by any means, she was able to convince the judge that no jury remedial instruction could recork the genie's bottle.  Beyond that, she was able to subtly plant the seeds of doubt in a reasonable juror's mind that once Alice was effectively not allowed back in Nash's house, that she would once again be homeless and might have a hard time finding shelter-- unless she could get moved to the front of the line in the women's shelter by claiming domestic violence had occurred.

The problem was the video evidence of the night in question seems to point in that direction and the star witness claims she has a hard time distinguishing between what really happened and what she has been told has happened.  What really happened on June 3rd, 2024 is that a train wreck happened, engineered by your new appointed prosecutor, Beth Hand.  

This isn't the type of case a wise prosecutor should be bringing to court in the first place-- inconclusive evidence, unreliable witness, etc.  Yet, this is one of many cases that our current prosecutor has taken to court when the police have submitted their reports and suggest that domestic violence has occurred even when the 'victim' indicates it hasn't.  Yet, when a Michigan State Police Trooper is pinned for DV by a real victim of domestic violence with injuries and accusations, this same prosecutor goes out of her way to keep his name out of the newspapers.  

Yet at the end of all that happened yesterday, with all of the evidence at best inconclusive, and at worst manufactured, our new appointed prosecutor tells us all that she will be back to court on this witch hunt against James Nash, with a new pretrial already scheduled for June 24th, 2024.  Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon, quietly once again, Trooper Seymour (unseen in the courthouse by this reporter) had a pre-trial which has led to some plea deal which will be considered on July 3rd.  

If such foolishness and incongruency is what you want in your prosecutor, you should vote to retain Beth Hand in August.  If you want fairness to return to Mason County, consider a candidate who defends against injustice meted out to our people.

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This reporter's article write-up reminds me of similar written cases that came out of Oakland Michigan. Home to Beth Hand, and her time spent there in the justice system. Are we now seeing a repeat of such incidents here in Ludington? A so-called shell game, or slight-of-hand?

Probably.  I expect a Republican prosecutor to be tough on criminals, but at the same time protect the rights of individuals (both victims and accused) and uphold the ethics of the profession.  I've seen Beth Hand in action and she's definitely a statist in temperament toting the blue line, right or wrong.  This betrays her past in Oakland County where she served under two Democrat prosecutors whose record spoke for itself.  

Lederer gets no respect, her signs were sent to the Mason County Democrat HQ at the old McDonald's Bakery rather than the Republican HQ further up James Street.  She had to retrieve them and is reportedly doing her own distribution of the yard signs.  Hand seems to have gotten the upper hand by getting a lot of lawns that VanderWall usually secures through the county Republicans; apparently, she has gotten along okay with the RINOs who don't research her record.  Jordan Miller, the other candidate seems competent and confident enough for his assistant prosecutor work in Manistee, but I want more info on him (good or bad) before deciding he's the better candidate or not.

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