Former police officer sentenced after ramming his girlfriend's car
July 14, 2004
(Muskegon County, June 14, 2004, 12:20 p.m.)
A former Muskegon Heights police officer accused of ramming his girlfriend's car is sentenced to18 months probation and fines.George Hubbard was charged with two felonies - assault with a deadly weapon and malicious destruction of property.
In February, he pled guilty to a lesser charge of a misdemeanor count of domestic violence.
Hubbard has been on unpaid suspension since he was charged in December 2002.
Former police officer pleads guilty to ramming girlfriend's car
(Muskegon County, May 18, 2004, 6:13 p.m.)
A former Muskegon Heights police officer accused of ramming his girlfriend's car has pled guilty to the crime. George Hubbard was charged with two felonies, including assault with a deadly weapon and malicious destruction of property.
On Tuesday, he pled guilty to a lesser charge of a misdemeanor count of domestic violence.
Hubbard has been on unpaid suspension since he was charged in December 2002.
Police Chief George Smith tells 24 Hour News 8 that Hubbard can continue to serve with a misdemeanor on his record but that no decision will be made until he is sentenced June 14.
JUDGE BARS EVIDENCE AGAINST SUSPENDED HEIGHTS POLICE OFFICER
Wednesday, 12, 2004
By John S. Hausman
Muskegon Chronicle, MI
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling has led a Muskegon judge to throw out a major part of the prosecution's evidence against a suspended Muskegon Heights police sergeant charged with ramming his ex-girlfriend's vehicle.
The Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office plans to ask 14th Circuit Judge James M. Graves Jr. to reconsider his April 29 order in the case against Sgt. George Hubbard. Hubbard, 54, of Muskegon Heights is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and malicious destruction of personal property worth at least $1,000 but less than $20,000. Both are felonies.
Graves' ruling bars the prosecution from using statements the alleged victim made to police the day of the incident, Dec. 29, 2002. In two separate Muskegon police interviews, the woman said Hubbard used his pickup truck to bump her smaller vehicle twice while she was in it, once in the front, once in the back.
The woman soon recanted her accusations, saying Hubbard only struck her vehicle once, and only accidentally when he slid on the ice trying to leave her driveway. She later invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, making her unavailable to either side at trial.
Without the woman's trial testimony against Hubbard, her statements to police were central to the prosecution case. Graves' ruling partially granted a motion by defense lawyers Al Swanson and Holly Spillan. The judge rejected another part of the motion that sought to bar tapes of the woman's three 911 calls while the alleged incident was under way. Those tapes are admissible at trial, Graves ruled.
Swanson praised the portion of Graves' ruling throwing out the police-interrogation evidence. "I think it was a great ruling, in that he kept out the major statements consistent with the Supreme Court ruling," Swanson said. However, Swanson said he will ask the Michigan Court of Appeals to reverse Graves on the 911 issue. Swanson said he also will ask the appeals court to stay Hubbard's trial -- now scheduled to start next Tuesday -- pending a decision on his appeal.
The final part of Graves' ruling is not in dispute. Graves barred use of the woman's testimony given last year at Hubbard's 60th District Court preliminary examination. Her testimony, contradicting what she told police the day of the incident, halted after the district judge advised her she had the right not to incriminate herself. She then invoked the Fifth Amendment before Swanson had a chance to cross-examine her.
That continuing inability to cross-examine is the reason for Graves' ruling. The judge ruled that using the woman's statements to police would violate the U.S. Constitution's "confrontation clause" -- the Sixth Amendment right of every accused person to confront and question the witnesses against him.
Citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the case of Crawford vs. Washington, Graves ruled that the woman's statements to police constituted "testimony," thus making her a "witness" against Hubbard at the time she made them. And because the defense has never had a chance to cross-examine her, that means allowing prosecutors to use the statements at trial would violate the constitution, Graves decided.
In the Crawford decision, issued in March, the Supreme Court for the first time defined testimony as including "statements taken by police officers in the course of interrogations."
Graves ruled differently on the 911 tapes. The judge found that a person calling 911 "is not making statements which the party 'would reasonably expect to be used prosecutorially,"' in contrast to statements made under police interrogation.
Prosecutor Tony Tague said Tuesday his office will file a motion asking Graves to reconsider his ruling about the alleged victim's statements to police.
The legal issue for prosecutors is whether the woman's statements were a result of police "interrogation," the word the Supreme Court used in its recent ruling. The prosecutor's office argues that her initial police interviews did not constitute "interrogation" because they occurred in the immediate aftermath of the incident when the main issue allegedly was her safety, not Hubbard's prosecution.
"This is a completely new area of the law," Tague said. "We will be filing a motion for reconsideration to allow Judge Graves an opportunity to provide guidance to both prosecutors and defense attorneys as to the implications of the new law.
"We think this is a great opportunity for Muskegon County to define state law by giving a clear definition of what exactly constitutes interrogation by a police officer," Tague said.
Tague said his office will pursue the case against Hubbard even if Graves rules against the prosecution, although Tague acknowledged the case would be more difficult.
"Unfortunately, in this case the victim has become reluctant to cooperate with the prosecution," he said. "This is a common syndrome in domestic violence cases. We intend on proceeding with the case with any evidence which is available."
Asked if the case still would be pursued as a felony, or with the charges reduced to misdemeanors, Tague answered, "certainly we're re-evaluating the case based on the victim's complete lack of cooperation but will attempt to continue with the prosecution, because we have prior statements that clearly indicate that she was assaulted."
Chief to keep job despite charges against 3 cops
Thursday, January 23, 2003
The Detroit News
By Associated Press
MUSKEGON HEIGHTS -- Three police officers have been charged with felonies in the last 30 days, but key city officials say they support Police Chief George Smith.
Muskegon County Prosecutor Tony Tague says he is working with Smith to correct "problems within the department," while urging city officials to take a hard look at the situation.
"I can assure the citizens of Muskegon Heights that something is going to be done," Tague said. "Whatever the problem is, it's going to get solved, because we as a community can no longer tolerate this type of conduct."
In the latest case, Sgt. Phillip E. Coleman, 41, was charged Thursday with criminal sexual conduct and writing checks on insufficient funds, the Muskegon Chronicle reported.
On Dec. 31, Sgt. George Hubbard, 52, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly ramming a friend's car.
And on Dec. 17, road patrol officer Neil Siebert, 26, was charged with assault in connection with an alleged road rage incident. "These are not work-related incidents," said City Manager Melvin C. Burns II.
Muskegon Heights police sergeant charged with assault
Tuesday, December 31, 2002
George Hubbard also faces a count of malicious destruction of property, accused of ramming his truck into his girlfriend’s car yesterday, at her home at Forest Ave. and 7th St., near downtown Muskegon.
She said he followed her to the Muskegon police department when she went to report it, and rammed her car again.
He was off- duty.
Muskegon Heights Police Chief George Smith was shocked, saying Hubbard is one of his "more reliable people, a counselor" for young officers, and very "mild-mannered."