Thursday, March 14, 2013

Judge shows flexibility in leneint sentence

Yesterday was a crazy day in the Macomb County Circuit Court.

Three sentencings were held, and each of them could have resulted in jail or prison time. But none did.

Lenient courts?  Not really. None of the three defendants is a typical "career criminal."  Each made a bad choice at a time and hopefully learned a lesson. They're getting their second chance.

Still, Sterling Heights cops aren't happy with Judge Mary Chrzanowski's freeing Caroline Hocking-Sullivan, 49, who was convicted of attempted murder and three assault charges for charging at cops with a knife in her home. The woman was shot in the breast and has since recovered.

Sentencing guidelines were 14 to 25 years, and Chrzanowski lowered it significantly to 4-20 years. That didn't surprise me. I expected her to depart below the guidelines.

I was a little surprised she released her on bond pending the outcome of her appeal. Judge Mary must think the defense has a legitimate appellate issue in the prosecution's playing snippets of the recording of Caroline's statement to cops while she was lying in a hospital bed after being shot and under the influence of alcohol and an over-abundance of prescription pills she consumed. It wasn't the prosecution's fault. Defense attorney Tim Barkovic admittedly probably should have demanded a mistrial at that time. He settled for a "curative" jury instruction.

I give Barkovic credit -- he asked the judge to declare a mistrial or force a new trial based on his "ineffective assistance of counsel," the legal term for an attorney screwing up. Tim said, "I will throw myself under the bus."  But the judge denied his requests and admitted that the appeals court will certainly take a close look at it.

There's passion in both sides in this case. Assistant Macomb prosecutor Steve Fox heatedly argued for a long prison term for Caroline, and atypical for him raised his voice when arguing to the judge, "She tried to kill a police officer!"

Judge Mary made a good point when she noted the acrimonious nature of the courtroom battle in the  Hocking-Sullivan case has overshadowed the people involved in the case -- four good cops and a woman who has had a difficult life. She singled out Tim as being "overzealous" in his defense in which he has attempted to demonize the cops.

The incident affected the cops, as they testified to that in court and through Fox at Wednesday's sentencings. Having someone charge you with a knife and having to shoot the person cannot be an easy thing to forget. It affected the cops, especially Maureen Merpi, who was charged at and fired the gun shot.

Meanwhile, Caroline is a nice woman who has gone through tough times. Police were called to the home by Caroline's sister who suspected she overdosed since she was suicidal.

The incident in a strange way has been a wake-up call for her.

She was brutally raped in 1986 in the presence of her infant child in her crib. She's been haunted by the incident and likely suffered from post traumatic distress syndrome. The rapist was caught and sent to prison but tried contacting her from prison and after he was released. He even showed up at front door one time, pretending to be a delivery man.

That's why she slept with a knife.

Caroline says she is off the meds and trying to become a stronger and better person, particularly for her three adult daughters, whom all seem like nice young women. She has undergone counseling and is participating in group therapy which she says also allows her to help others.

The incident has "made my family closer," she said.

Supporting her throughout the ordeal has been not only her daughters but her sister and niece and their families, and other relatives.

Maybe it's asking for too much, but maybe she and the cops can meet and talk some day. They probably would like each other, or at least understand each other.


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