In the 16 years the Ludington Torch has been monitoring and covering legal events of the local courthouse, this year we have been witness to the biggest miscarriage of justice we have ever seen there.  A man was quietly sentenced on the afternoon Friday, May 24th by 51st Judge Susan Sniegowski for a maximum incarceration in prison of 17 years (albeit the sentences are concurrent, so the max was 10 years).  His actions which led to such a sentence:  sending several text messages to his probation officer regarding matters concerning his terms of probation

Where's the crime?  That's what we were wondering here, so we looked through the voluminous court file at the beginning of the year and found some allegations without a lot of foundation.  A man was put on probation and given a phone in order to communicate with his probation officer, it was agreed that he would use texts as his main form of communication with her.  Over a relatively short period of time, he sent her a high amount of text messages based solely on the terms of his probation and crimes that he had witnessed in the community that took place in his presence. 

A probationer is required to contact his probation officer when certain conditions of the probation are triggered, his belief was that he was meeting those requirements; her belief was that she was getting too many reminders.  She sent a text back meant to try to get him to limit his texts, acknowledging her need to still be contacted when certain things happened.  The man did not want to be violated for breaking the terms of his probation, so he continued to notify her of everything that may be liberally construed to violate those terms or needed to be reported.  She had enough texts in a short while and had her friends in the justice system go after the man for "aggravated stalking" and using a computer to commit a crime" for his efforts to avoid being violated.  

A review of the court pleadings and briefs filed by Prosecutor Lauren Kreinbrink (corrected: this was originally ascribed to APO Beth Hand) shows no objectionable content among the texts, just a high volume received in less than two weeks (this number was disputed by defense, but fell somewhere between 80 and 162 distinct texts in roughly 12 days).  Those texts were not available without review and edit by the court clerk, but since content wasn't the basis of the pleadings, we decided to wait until the bench trial, oddly enough, held on Valentine's Day.

After listening to the testimonies of the probation officer, her supervisor, and the defendant, one thing became clear.  However many text messages were sent to the probation officer, they all concerned notifications or questions about valid concerns of the terms of the probation.  Nothing of a personal nature was ever sent, the only photo was a face selfie of the probationer showing that he changed his appearance by dying the gray out of his hair; he was under threat of being violated if he didn't report that he altered his appearance. 

He was found guilty of aggravated stalking and using a computer to commit that crime by Judge Sniegowski for effectively sending too many text messages to his probation officer regarding matters concerning his terms of probation. If I repeat this too often, it's because I still can't believe it.

These are the stubborn facts behind the case (23-4339-FH) of the State v. Lance Craig Eichler.  This is far from being the "people's" case and is strictly "the state's" case, since the supposed victim is MDOC's Probation Officer Megan Myers, and everybody that has gave air to this seemingly baseless claim against Eichler is an employee of the state or its subdivisions who seem surprised and upset that someone on probation would actually try to follow its terms to the letter with unobtrusive and informative text messages.  

Lance Eichler (in orange) with Attorney Ravi Gurumurthy and four peace officers within earshot of their consultation at the Mason County Courthouse.  

The repercussions of this case, where a person on probation is receiving up to 17 (concurrent) years in prison for sending too many reports (subjectively determined by a MDOC officer) mandated by the terms of their probation, are frightening.  If one should run afoul of the law, deservedly or not, and are integrating back into society after incarceration, should they need to worry about sending too many updates to their PO and getting charged with stalking and using a computer to commit a crime-- or not do so and get violated for not reporting as per the terms of probation?

This case even gets more ridiculous and provocative once you have a look at the cast of characters, let's start with the convicted felon.

Lance Eichler, the Accused

I first learned about Lance Eichler by receiving a phone call from the jail in early January.  I normally don't get contacts like this, but he related his story-- pretty much what has already been related here: he was in jail and looking at two felonies for texting his PO updates so he wouldn't be violated.  He had found out about my secondary job in advocating for the unjustly accused and was hoping I might be able to help him out.  I found his story hard to believe but to humor him, I checked the court records on January 9th.  They affirmed his story and seemed to me at the time a gross misuse of the justice system.  

Eichler was very task-oriented in getting out his story to me and other agencies that might offer him some release from what seemed to be an unfair prosecution by sending out postcards and making phone calls to those he thought may help him out of his predicament and set things right with the justice system in the county.  I could see how some might take this as harassment, but to his credit, after I showed myself sympathetic to his plight and started receiving more phone calls from him at the jail, I set limits for the calls, and he complied with those.  

Throughout much of his life, Eichler expressed himself through his music and artwork.  If one Googles his name, you will find a couple of articles in the MCP reflecting the state's viewpoint/actions on his case, but you will also see him grinding his guitar as a member of multiple bands in the Berrien County area.  Like many artistic inclined people, he often has a hard time expressing his thoughts to others without using those media and tries to convey an inordinate amount of material without much regard for whether you're able to keep up with him or whether you take an interest in what he's talking about.  

If one were to observe this behavior and label this 'flaw' they might designate it as falling in the autism spectrum; think of Dustin Hoffman's title character in "Rain Man", an autistic savant.  Such behavior has been portrayed by the state in this case in court and in their briefs as bordering on the psychotic or sociopathic in order to make their case, when the text messages themselves show only that he was trying his hardest to keep his PO apprised of his reintegration into society in the least obtrusive way.  Nothing introduced at trial was threatening or personal in the text messages, and no other signs of harassment or stalking behavior was ever introduced other than the quantity of texts sent over probation-related materials.  Myers herself would testify under cross examination that no other contact or behaviors beyond the texts were ever made.  

At hearings, as a witness at his bench trial, and sentencing elocution, Eichler would often talk so fast over mundane legal errata that he actually hurt his defense by doing so, and definitely made the court reporter test her skills.  But such eccentricity should never have led to a conviction on the two charges leveled against him, given the text message contents to his acting PO and the fact that he was diligently trying to not be violated by reporting and asking probation-related questions.  

Why was the accusation ever made and if the PO was unsettled by the quantity of texts, why didn't she just admit her own inability to handle the influx and let MDOC assign a different PO to Eichler rather than having him face trial against some serious charges?  Let's take a look.

Probation Officer Megan Myers, the Accuser

Like Eichler, I never knew Myers personally before this year, and yet I eventually noticed after the bench trial that she played a significant part in another injustice played out last year.  At several Ludington school board meetings (here and here for example) I brought to the trustee's attention the trespassing of one mother from sporting events for a year on the flimsy basis of another mother's complaint about her being disruptive.  The complainant was Megan Myers and the relief that she got from the LPD and the LASD was extraordinary and possibly unprecedented to say the least, being that the trespassed mother only exercised protected speech before practice started in order to figure out why her child was being bullied (by Myers' son).  

Before that incident, Myers had learned that she could manipulate the local justice system to do her bidding in the Eichler case.  Not content to have the MDOC just switch Eichler to another PO, Myers took the extraordinary step to press charges against Eichler for lighting up her phone notifications too often.  These would always be misrepresented in the media by the prosecutor as hundreds of times, but that was falsely overstated.

On the witness stand, she did her best to portray herself as a sympathetic figure to a sympathetic prosecutor and sympathetic judge.  And yet when her testimony was weighed, one had a hard time thinking that a reasonable probation officer would be creeped out by a probationer fulfilling their reporting requirements in such detail.  At the sentencing she coldly watched the court sentence Eichler and smiled as four police officers were in the court room and two were posted outside so as to make the statement that Eichler was a dangerous convict who may fly into a maniacal rage (even though there is nothing in his record to indicate that was a possibility).  Her apparent glee in the matter throughout (when she wasn't testifying how tough mentally and emotionally on her it was to see a dozen texts in her inbox) was more unsettling to this reporter than any of Eichler's offsetting behaviors.  

Eichler's behavior throughout the ordeals were consistent with his own autistic and artistic condition, I would label Myers behavior as being closer to the psychotic and sociopathic as she could mercurially go from one emotion to another on the stand trying to make you believe that she was a great PO, unless you sent her too many texts, then she's a victim who needs 'justice' meted out for her.  

Myers past came up briefly in court when the defense touched on her seeking mental health counseling in prior years for some issue that the court would not allow to be addressed.  Perhaps because it was the fact that she played a prominent role in a federal case over 5 years ago called Wheatley v. West Central MI ETC.  Plaintiff Karen Wheatley in that case was an independent contractor for the local MDOC where Myers works.  The case originated from the sexual harassment she reportedly received from Megan Myers and the MDOC's efforts to accommodate Wheatley.  In pleadings Wheatley lists many times that she was harassed by Myers, with the court record indicating that Megan Myers had been:

• asking Wheatley if she had a phone number that was safe in case she wanted to send her a picture of a "phat pussy"

• looking at plaintiff and smiling and licking her lips

• whistling at her

• hugging Wheatley from behind

• calling Wheatley "sexy hootchie mama" and telling her she looked sexy

• tell Wheatley her high-heeled shoes were sexy

• catcalling Wheatley; and

• making a statement about Wheatley bleeding into a jar of pickles

The federal court record notes that those claims were not refuted and the local MDOC made the efforts to make it so that Wheatley was never left alone with Myers due to the unwanted/unwelcome sexual advances being made on her by Myers.  And it may be the only time ever that the term "phat pussy" made such a record.

Four years after she was portrayed in federal court as the epitome of sexual harassment, she comes back as the victim of... too many text messages about terms of probation.  And she is fully backed by the system and supervisor that knew she had a history of bizarre harassing behavior, a system that would find her the victim of something bad and look at giving one of her assignments a decade in prison for trying to abide by his terms of probation by using text messages.  

The victim here is obviously not Megan Myers, she is the perpetrator of making the local justice system a mockery of justice.  A laughingstock that not enough people are courageous enough to find the humor in, being that they worry that the system will rear its ugly countenance against them and assign them to prison for a decade or more on frivolous charges like we see here.  

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This article is very troubling. I read it again because it is unbelievable and removed an earlier comment i made about the disdain it makes me feel toward the parole officer and how she has seemingly twisted the justice system.

The things she said that were exempted from the prior case involved with her sexual harassment case are vulgar and disgusting. She shouldn't work for any public office, imo. What was the conclusion of that trial and any punishment?

This case of her manipulating the system because she can''t handle the workload (of perhaps an overly anxious guy wanting clarification on his parole responsibilities) is another reason she should seek work elsewhere not so much in the public business.

What was the guy in jail for, and is the Mason County judge taking out past issues on him now?

In 2021, he was charged with attempted assault with a dangerous weapon in Mason County and sentenced in 2023 in Judge Sniegowski's court.  I have heard his version and seen the court record back in January, it seemed to be a very forced conviction.  His OTIS record shows two incidents in his past from different counties.  In 2018, he had stalking and using a computer combo in Berrien County, deja vu.  Back in 2008, it was illegal entry and assault in Kent County.

Eichler fully owns the 2008 charge, but he has indicated that the Berrien County incident led to a state review of the county which found it was acting improperly.  He hopes that happens here in this case, because if I'm a reasonable enough person, I don't see a crime in what he did, and what I do see is a court/correction system out of control.

I read the link to the Wheatley case you provided, X, and found that Wheatley was determined to be an independent contractor so her case was in effect dismissed because as an independent contractor she couldn't sue MDOC or Michigan Works placement (my plain English summary).

Fascinating injustice where the alleged nasty sexual texts and allegations are not tried. So Myers gets away with it (if she actually did it). Am I correct?

What I also found disturbing is how an offender (Wheatley with an OWI) was used initially for community service to help other prison releasees. That seems like a weak link and makes one wonder if Wheatley's accusations can be believed? I didn't dig deep enough into attached documents to see whether those nasty texts from Myers to Wheatley were actually produced as evidence (or got to that stage). If they did, there is a fault in our Justice system, imo, that an Independent Contrator was dismissed from suing for "bloody pickle" sexual harrassment (unless Wheatley filed wrongly). What kind of deprived mind do we have working for the MDOC ? And how many more? It does look like MDOC supervisors were initially concerned. The situation reminds me of how when a person (i.e., Myers) is not corrected, their penchant to do evil emboldens their deprived mind.

https://www.bizapedia.com/mi/megs-massage-llc.html

Is this the same Megan Myers as Meg's Massage ?   If so, is this part of MDOC and Mason County Parole Office benefit to parolees?

You've located her secondary job.  Is there anything more upsetting than being in the middle of a full-body massage with a client and get a notification on your phone that you check and just find out that it's one of your probationers notifying you of their latest employment, housing, etc. update or concern? 

One of the more interesting parts of the trial was when Defense Attorney Gurumurthy asked Myers about some of the app icons visible on the printouts of her text messages.  One was reportedly from Onlyfans, an odd app for a PO to have on her work phone.  Myers is a disgrace to the profession, but a much greater disgrace is the justice system's embrace of her.  

Exactly as far as being "interrupted" and who is she entertaining in these "massages" out of her home? With history of sexually deviant verbal abuse as she went to court over, makes one wonder how deviant her massages are. Really disgusting. She should resign as a Probation Officer and move her dirty mind to Sin City.

SO now on with her second job Meyer gets her jollies off on unsuspecting clients in the form of doing a massage.Brings  new meaning to Roman hands and Russian fingers.She is the one that needs mental help.

It seems that Mr. Eichler does have a problem with stalking, however he has been convicted and is paying his dues. This situation with his PO is something totally from left field. According to legal definitions I have read, the stalking he is being accused of with his PO does not meet the smell test for being a crime. In our society anyone can claim to be a victim, even a PO. The problem here is that those in charge with interpreting and charging an individual with a crime and those given the power to convict and judge over that person charged must get to the truth and must uphold the law. It seems to me that the police the prosecutor and the judge all failed to do their jobs. They seemed to be all leaning toward a personal vendetta to take Mr. Eichler off the streets for as long as possible. Did anyone in the prosecutor's office or the judge recommend a psychological evaluation of the defendant to determine if he may have been unstable with a condition that was not recognized when the charges were leveled against him? The evidence in this particular situation is very flimsy and seeing as how the prosecutor and judge are female,there may have been some prejudice regarding Eichler's past as it relates to the current charge. After all no matter how minor Eichler's action may have been as well as not having anything to do with stalking, this was an easy call for the prosecutor and judge to use the often misused statute regarding habitual criminal to pad their personal conviction records.

Excellent review of the material, Willy, and it reminds me about something else that I failed to add to the record.  Like many people on the autism spectrum, he has a hard time reading other people's feelings.  I believe this has led to some of his harassment/stalking charges from past girlfriends (there are at least 2 instances altogether, none led to more than misdemeanors), the police reports are actually in the court record, which I suggest all who are interested in this case take a look at this case court record at the county clerk's office. 

And so why do they assign Eichler a female probation officer, and a bizarre one at that with her own mental issues?  My belief is that they were trying to get him back into the pokey, and I also believe it might be because he was talking smack about conditions at the jail from his last go round.  Nothing better to discredit his reviews by putting him in prison before he gets any chance.  i wouldn't be surprised that Ms. Myers is more upset that in all those 130 texts sent to her from Eichler that he didn't show interest in her at all.

Good points. Eichler should have someone advocate for his mental state. Even high anxiety is not helped by jail time. I see decrepancies how men are treated for mental issues than women are. Seems that often women with mental issues are taken to Pinerest or Brightwell and not charged thru courts.

As far as Myers hurt feelings that Eichler didn't proposition her, unless she's a swinger, her side seems to be catcalling Wheatley types with disgusting images of blood in pickle jars. In my lifetime I haven't heart such depravity and if you google the slang term, it pulls up Myers legal case. She needs to go to Pinerest, imo.

When I google Megan Myers all I get is an old listing for counseling services. Is this the same person?

Probably, but since it is a common name and surname you may want to put additional qualifiers in your Google search, like "Mason County" or Ludington.  You will not only find "Meg's Massage" but the federal court case too once you look deep enough.

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