The commander of the Petoskey Michigan State Police who was facing a domestic violence charge has taken advantage of a plea agreement that will likely result in no conviction being entered on his record. Special domestic violence prosecutor Mike Findlay said F/Lt. Aaron Sweeney, 41, pleaded no contest on Oct. 11 to a charge of domestic violence stemming from a Sept. 6 incident. A no-contest plea is like a guilty plea in that the person is held responsible for the crime and a conviction is entered in the record. Such pleas are only allowed in cases where the defendant either cannot remember the circumstances surrounding the crime because of intoxication or that the case could have possible civil implications. In Sweeney's case, his pending divorce from the victim in the case was the basis for the no-content plea, Findlay said. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Sweeney was given a deferred sentence. That means that if he successfully completes the six months of probation - which includes paying several hundred dollars in fines and costs and participating in counseling - the conviction will be removed from Sweeney's record. Findlay said such deferred sentences are very common in domestic violence cases such as Sweeney's, where a defendant has no prior convictions. He said Sweeney was not given special treatment because of his position and said the plea was offered after consultation with the victim in the case. Emmet County Sheriff's deputies arrested Sweeney late on Sept. 6 after officers were called a report of a domestic disturbance at a home in Little Traverse Township. Authorities have not provided details of the incident, but said no one was injured in the incident. Sweeney was not available before press time today, Wednesday. State police officials earlier said they would be conducting their own internal investigation into the incident, but said such investigations typically do not begin until after the criminal portion of the case has been completed.
A Michigan State Police Trooper pleads no contest to domestic violence charges. In September First Lieutenant Aaron Sweeney of the State Police Post in Petoskey was charged with assault and battery. He has since pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge and was put on six months probation. If Lieutenant Sweeney does not violate any terms of the probation, there will be no conviction on his record.
PETOSKEY — A deferred sentence could mean a clean record for a Michigan State Police command officer accused of domestic violence. Lt. Aaron Sweeney, commander of the state police post in Petoskey, was fined $500 and ordered to a term of probation with anger management sessions after he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count, Emmet District Court records show. Judge Richard May signed the order Oct. 11. If after six months Sweeney has not violated any probation terms, no conviction will be entered in the public record. Sweeney, 41, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence after an incident with his wife at the couple's Little Traverse Township home. Prosecutors and Emmet County sheriff's officials repeatedly declined to discuss specifics about the incident. Court records showed that special prosecutor Michael Findlay, an assistant state attorney general assigned to domestic violence cases in northern Michigan, offered the deferred status program as part of a plea agreement. Sweeney declined comment and referred questions to his attorney, Joseph Kwiatkowski, who did not return phone calls. The court took Sweeney's plea under advisement, Findlay said. "The judge is kind of hanging this over his head, and as long as he does what he's supposed to, the conviction never gets entered," he said. Findlay said Sweeney did not receive special treatment. "Any defendant, doing what he did, with no prior record and no history of assaultive behavior, would have been offered a deferred sentence," the prosecutor said. "Deferred sentences get used an awful lot with first-time offenders." Findlay declined to discuss specifics of the incident, saying only that the victim suffered no injuries. A conviction on Sweeney's record, now an unlikely event, could have jeopardized his career, as those convicted of domestic violence are not, under federal law, supposed to posses firearms.
The now ex-Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Department deputy, Brian VanMeter, was facing reckless driving and assault and battery charges after he allegedly chased down, with his car and while off duty, a man seen leaving his estranged wife’s home. VanMeter was originally charged with a felony count of assault with a dangerous weapon (the car). But a judge threw that charge out. The court eventually accepted an extremely generous plea down to a traffic ticket of careless driving. The victim didn’t want to testify. Part of his plea included VanMeter’s agreement to resign, an agreement that he would not sue the sheriff’s office or the county over the ending of his employment. Plus, the ex-deputy received back pay for the time he was on suspension. The special prosecutor said the move to allow for VanMeter to receive his back pay.
As a community, we have a right and a duty to hold our law enforcement officers to a high standard, whether they are on the job or on their day off. It follows that the courts and the policing agencies themselves, along with the everyday cop, need to meet those standards every day — as difficult or trying as that may be. Police officers must conduct themselves in a manner above and beyond the rest of us, be beyond reproach. They need to understand this and, we suspect, that most of them do understand this. If they cannot keep themselves to a higher standards, when they slip and fall and fail, it is up to our courts, our governments and ourselves to assure those high standards of accountability. It is with particular dismay that we read where one local police officer, who strayed done to prevent the county from the hassle and expense of arbitration. That’s a lame explanation and smacks of special treatment. Another police officer who crossed over the line also saw ramifications recently, though in this case the punishment seems to fit the offense. Michigan State Police officials have demoted and re-assigned the former commander of the Petoskey post following an internal investigation into minor domestic violence allegations. Aaron Sweeney, 41, was given a one-grade demotion from first lieutenant to lieutenant and re-assigned to a position as a trainer with the agency’s fire investigation unit in Gaylord. The disciplinary action follows a department investigation into an incident that took place at Sweeney’s residence on Sept. 6. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Sweeney was given a deferred sentence. That means that if he successfully completes the six months of probation — which includes paying several hundred dollars in fines and costs and participating in counseling — the conviction will be removed from his record. Police officers are people, too. They make mistakes, like we do. But they have chosen a profession in which, for the good of the society they serve, they must be held accountable for those lapses in judgment above and beyond what their fellow civilian citizens could expect if they made the same mistake. Yet in VanMeter’s case, we see the opposite. We see a light wrist-slap for a serious offense, and justice is not served by this message of leniency.
TRAVERSE CITY — A Charlevoix County Sheriff's deputy involved in an alleged off-duty road rage incident has resigned his position and will pay $200 in fines and costs after he admitted responsibility to a civil infraction. District Court Judge Michael Haley accepted Brian VanMeter's plea to careless driving Monday in an early morning hearing in Traverse City. Careless driving is not a criminal offense. The plea agreement required VanMeter, 42, to resign as deputy for Charlevoix County and admit he drove carelessly. But a resignation agreement with the sheriff's department allows him to receive back pay from his suspension in October until his resignation Monday and a letter of reference from the sheriff's department, said Mary Beth Kur, his attorney. The reference letter "will not disparage Brian VanMeter,” according to the agreement. VanMeter initially was charged with felonious assault and reckless driving in October after he witnessed a man leaving his wife's residence and allegedly "threatened and intimidated” the man with his Chevrolet Malibu on M-66 near U.S. 31 in Charlevoix County's Marion Township, state and county authorities said at the time. The two vehicles never made contact, and no injuries resulted. The altercation was allegedly part of an ongoing feud between VanMeter and his wife, which involved several other incidents between the couple, Kur said.
CHARLEVOIX — The special prosecutor appointed to handle an assault case involving a now ex-Charlevoix County Sheriff’s deputy and the former deputy’s attorney say a host of factors played into a last-minute plea-agreement that prevented the case from going to trial Monday. Brian VanMeter, 42, of Charlevoix had been slated to face a one-day jury trial in 90th District Court Monday on misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and assault and battery. But on Friday VanMeter pleaded responsible to a civil infraction of careless driving in exchange for which the other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to pay $200 in fines and costs. VanMeter was employed as a deputy with the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s office at the time of the Oct. 5 incident that led to the charges. Although VanMeter was not on duty at the time of the incident, county sheriff George T. Lasater placed VanMeter on unpaid suspension a short time after. Both attorneys in the case said the deal also included an agreement on VanMeter’s part to resign from his position effective at 5 p.m. Monday and an agreement that he would not sue the sheriff’s office or the county over the ending of his employment. For his part, Lasater agreed to pay VanMeter for the time while he was on suspension and to provide him with a letter confirming his time of employment with the sheriff’s office and the fact that he resigned, the attorney’s said. The case was prosecuted by Antrim County prosecuting attorney Charles Koop, who was appointed to handle the case by the state attorney general’s office at the request of Charlevoix County prosecuting attorney John Jarema. Koop said a call from the victim saying he didn’t want to proceed with the case was one factor that played into the plea deal. Another factor, Koop said, was that the agreement “provided certainty that (VanMeter) will not be reinstated (to his deputy position).” Koop explained that the move to allow for VanMeter to receive his back pay was done to prevent the county from the hassle and expense of arbitration. “In my experience, if the sheriff had fired him, you’d be looking at three months of arbitration. With the attorney’s fees, it would far exceed the cost of just paying him,” Koop said. VanMeter’s attorney, Mary Beth Kur, said her client took the plea deal, because he felt it was in his and his children’s best interest, given the risks involved in going to trial. “From the beginning (VanMeter) has maintained his innocence in all criminal charges,” Kur said. “His acceptance of the plea illustrates that. If anything, this incident amounts to a simple traffic matter.” “When he balanced all the risks of going to trial against a traffic ticket and a $200 fine and not having to put his kids through the publicity surrounding the trial, the choice was pretty clear,” Kur added. The charges stem from an incident that took place in and south of Charlevoix early Oct. 5 between VanMeter and his estranged wife’s boyfriend, Brad Sanderson. According to police reports and earlier testimony, VanMeter allegedly confronted Sanderson shortly after he had left the VanMeter home. Sanderson said VanMeter threatened him and then followed Sanderson as he drove back toward Charlevoix. Sanderson said VanMeter drove aggressively, following very closely at times and eventually forcing him to stop near the intersection of U.S. 31 and M-66. Sanderson said VanMeter got out of his car and, after attempting unsuccessfully to make Sanderson get out of his car — ostensibly intending to fight with him — VanMeter fled the scene. VanMeter was originally charged with a felony count of assault with a dangerous weapon (the car). But a judge threw that charge out following a preliminary examination in November. The judge found that there was not enough evidence showing that VanMeter had the “specific intent” to use his vehicle to put the alleged victim in fear of immediate harm to warrant sending the matter on the circuit court.
TRAVERSE CITY — The trial of a former Charlevoix County Sheriff’s deputy who was accused of chasing down and then assaulting his estranged wife’s boyfriend was called off at the last minute Friday when the defendant agreed to accept a plea agreement in the case. Brian VanMeter, 42, of Charlevoix had been slated to face a one-day jury trial in 90th District Court today, Monday, on misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and assault and battery. Instead, court officials said, VanMeter pleaded responsible to one count of careless driving, a civil infraction. None of the attorneys involved in the case could be reached before press time today. Charlevoix County Sheriff George T. Lasater said part of the plea agreement included that VanMeter resign from the sheriff’s office, effective today. VanMeter, who was not on duty at the time of the incident, had been on unpaid suspension since shortly after the incident occurred. The charges stem from an incident that took place early Oct. 5 between VanMeter and his wife’s boyfriend, Brad Sanderson. VanMeter and his wife are in the midst of what his attorney Mary Beth Kur described in court as highly contentious divorce. At the preliminary examination, Sanderson testified that he and VanMeter first crossed paths near the driveway of VanMeter’s home shortly after Sanderson had left the home. Sanderson said VanMeter threatened him and ordered him to leave the property. Sanderson testified that as he drove away from the home toward Charlevoix, VanMeter gave chase in his car. He said VanMeter drove aggressively behind him revving his engine and racing up to within a few feet of his rear bumper before backing off. Finally, Sanderson testified, VanMeter forced him to stop near the intersection of M-66 and U.S. 31 where he said VanMeter got out of his car, came over to Sanderson’s car and opened his car door saying “get out of the car.” Sanderson said the his vehicle’s seatbelt caused the door to shut and he quickly locked the door. He said when VanMeter could not re-open the locked door, he pounded on his driver’s door window and then returned to his car and fled the scene at a high speed. Sanderson said he believed that VanMeter wanted to fight with him. VanMeter originally faced a felony charge of assault with a dangerous weapon (the car). But in November a judge threw out the charge finding that there was not enough evidence to show that VanMeter had used the car to put the victim in fear of immediate harm.
CHARLEVOIX — A judge dropped a felony assault charge against a sheriff's deputy who allegedly threatened another man with his car. A judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence against Charlevoix County sheriff's deputy Brian VanMeter to sustain the felony charge, though VanMeter still faces three misdemeanor counts for an alleged road-rage incident last month. VanMeter, 42, was initially charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, a four-year felony, and reckless driving, a misdemeanor, following an incident in early October. He allegedly spotted a man leaving his estranged wife's home and initiated a late night car chase on M-66 that ultimately lead to a confrontation. Grand Traverse District Judge Michael Haley dismissed the felony assault charge at a Nov. 3 preliminary examination. VanMeter now faces two misdemeanor assault and battery charges and a reckless driving count. Felonious assault must be committed using a dangerous weapon. There is no weapon component to the misdemeanor assault charges. "The theory was that there was an assault and the dangerous weapon used was the motor vehicle," said VanMeter's attorney, Mary Beth Kur. "The judge said there was no probable cause to believe there was an assault with the car." Antrim County Prosecutor Charles Koop was assigned to be the special prosecutor in VanMeter's case and said the two assault charges are both for threatening behavior: allegedly trying to force open the victim's car door after both vehicles were stopped, and then pounding on the victim's windshield. VanMeter, a deputy with Charlevoix County for the past four years, was off duty at the time of the incident. He has been suspended without pay since his arrest. The dismissal of the felony charge will not have an immediate impact on his employment status, Charlevoix County Sheriff George Lasater said. "He's suspended ... until these cases have been disposed of, then I'll make a decision," the sheriff said. Kur said a plea agreement in the case is unlikely. "There was some discussion about a plea ... but I think it's going to trial on the misdemeanor charges," Kur said. "I asked for a trial as soon as possible."
CHARLEVOIX — A Charlevoix County Sheriff's deputy is suspended without pay following an alleged altercation that landed him in jail, state police said. Brian VanMeter, 42, is free on $10,000 surety bond and is charged with felonious assault and reckless driving for allegedly "threatening and intimidating" another man with his Chevrolet Malibu on M-66 near U.S. 31 in Marion Township, state and county authorities said. The alleged incident occurred at about 2 a.m. Thursday over "some type of personal situation," said Lt. Amos Horton, a detective lieutenant at the Michigan State Police's 7th district headquarters. VanMeter's divorce lawyer, Mary Beth Kur, said the incident was prompted when VanMeter witnessed a man leaving his wife's residence. "There were some verbal exchanges," Horton said, but added "there was no contact between the vehicles and there was no injuries that resulted." Troopers responded to the early-morning 9-1-1 call, but when they arrived the situation had calmed and VanMeter had left the area, Horton said. State police arrested VanMeter Friday. VanMeter was off duty at the time of the altercation. The deputy's wife has since filed a personal protection order against him, Kur said. "There is definitely more to this than what meets the eye," Kur said. "(VanMeter) is looking forward to having his day in court." Charlevoix County authorities conducted the initial investigation before turning it over to state police in an effort to avoid the "appearance of impropriety or favoritism," a county press release states. VanMeter has been a Charlevoix County deputy since September 2002 and had "no major disciplinary actions" on his record, Undersheriff Don Schneider said. VanMeter's arraignment in 90th District Court is scheduled for Oct. 17. The felony assault charge carries a possible four-year prison sentence. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor.
CHARLEVOIX - An alleged incident that lead to the arrest of a Charlevoix County Sheriff's Deputy last week appears to have started with an encounter at the deputy's home. On Friday, state police arrested Charlevoix County Sheriff's deputy Brian VanMeter, 42, of Charlevoix on charges of felonious assault and reckless driving stemming from an alleged incident that took place early Thursday. Charlevoix County Sheriff George T. Lasater has since placed VanMeter on unpaid suspension pending the outcome of the criminal case and an internal investigation. According to a Michigan State Police affidavit filed in the case, the Petoskey-area man who is the alleged victim in the case told troopers that he had been at the VanMeter residence, located several miles south of Charlevoix and left the residence at about 1 a.m. Police said the man reported that shortly after leaving, he received a call from VanMeter's wife indicating that she was receiving several calls registered as “blocked” on the caller ID. The man told police that he turned around and drove back to the VanMeter home. He told police that as he was about to enter the driveway, he noticed a vehicle parked about 200 feet from the home. He said the driver of the vehicle turned on its lights, “spun a doughnut” and approached the driveway where the alleged victim had stopped. The man told police that VanMeter got out of his car, approached the Petoskey man's car and asked him to get out. The man said he got out of the car at which time VanMeter told him he knew “what was going on” at the home and then allegedly threatened the man twice, purportedly saying he would “kill him with one hand.” Court records show that a divorce proceeding was filed in 33rd Circuit Court between VanMeter and his wife on Aug. 31. The man told police that VanMeter told him to get off his (VanMeter's) property and that the man then left in his vehicle. The man said VanMeter immediately got into his car and began following him as he drove toward Charlevoix. The man told police that as VanMeter followed him he (VanMeter) was revving his engine and would race up behind his vehicle to within a few feet of his rear bumper and then brake hard, and then back off. The man said VanMeter repeated this process several times as they neared Charlevoix. The man told police that as the two vehicles neared the U.S. 31/M-66 intersection - at about the driveway to Glen's - VanMeter allegedly passed the victim's car and stopped in front of him in the middle of the road, causing the victim to stop. The man said that VanMeter got out of his car, came over to the victim's vehicle, grabbed the door handle and opened the car door saying, “Get out of the car.” The man said the door swung open, but closed again because of the seatbelt after which the man said he locked the door. The man told police that VanMeter then pounded once on the man's driver's-side door window with his right fist and then left the scene, allegedly running a red light at the U.S. 31/M-66 intersection. No injuries or vehicle damage was reported in the alleged incident. The affidavit does not indicate what, if any, statements VanMeter made to them about the alleged incident. VanMeter was arrested on the charges Friday and has since been released from jail after posting a $10,000 surety bond. He is slated to be arraigned on the charges on Oct. 17. The court file did not list an attorney for VanMeter Monday. Felonious assault (also called assault with a dangerous weapon) is a four-year felony. Reckless driving in a misdemeanor charge. Charlevoix County officials have asked investigators from the Michigan State Police 7th District headquarters in Williamsburg to handle the investigation to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
CHARLEVOIX - A Charlevoix County Sheriff's deputy has been suspended after he was arrested last week on felonious assault and reckless driving charges. Charlevoix County sheriff George T. Lasater, in a joint release with Charlevoix County prosecutor John Jarema and Charlevoix police chief Gerard Doan, confirmed that deputy Brian VanMeter was arrested Friday stemming from an incident that took place early Thursday morning in the city of Charlevoix. VanMeter was released from jail later on Friday after posting a $10,000 surety bond. According to the release, Charlevoix and Charlevoix County officials asked detectives from the Michigan State Police 7th District Headquarters in Williamsburg to take over the investigation “to ensure there is no appearance of impropriety or favoritism,” the release read. Lt. Amos Horton, with 7th District headquarters, said the incident involved allegations that VanMeter used a motor vehicle to “threaten or to intimidate” another man following a “road rage-type” situation early Thursday. Horton did not have extensive details of the incident available to him, but said dispatchers at 9-1-1 received a report of the incident, but by the time police arrived the situation had defused and VanMeter was no longer in the area. He said troopers from the Michigan State Police post in Petoskey handled the initial investigation and VanMeter was arrested Friday based upon their investigation. Horton said there were no reports of injuries stemming from the incident. He said VanMeter was not on duty at the time of the incident. Lasater said he has suspended VanMeter without pay pending the outcome of the criminal case and an internal investigation. Felonious assault (also known as assault with a dangerous weapon), is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor. VanMeter is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in 90th District Court on Oct. 17. Court files do not yet list an attorney for him. Police officers receive medals
Petoskey News-Review (MI)
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Author: Steve Zucker News-Review Staff Writer
CHARLEVOIX - When Charlevoix County Sheriff George T. Lasater attempted to serve a court order on a man at a Korthase Road home early Sept. 23, he literally came face-to-face with the metal of a shotgun barrel. Monday, nearly 10 months after the incident, Lasater and four of his deputies found medals pinned to their chests for their actions on that day. Lasater, Charlevoix County Prosecutor Mary Beth Kur, and four deputies received awards from the National Sheriff's Association in front of a handful of friends, family, elected officials and media gathered in the Sheriff's Department Monday. Michigan State Sen. Jason Allen R-Traverse City, Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners Chairman Randolph Frykberg, Charlevoix resident Bill Schuiling and Aaron Westrick participated in the presentations. The awards handed out Monday included the Purple Heart to Lasater; the Medal of Valor to deputies Brian VanMeter and George R. Lasater and Undersheriff Don Schneider; the Medal of Merit to Det./Sgt. Don Sproul and the Sheriff's Award to Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Beth Kur. The awards were all related to an incident that took place in the early morning hours of Sept. 23 when Lasater and three other officers went to the Korthase Road of John Shulick to serve him with court papers. As Lasater ascended a stairway in the home, he was met by Shulick who rammed the barrel of a shotgun into Lasater's mouth, knocking out several teeth and knocking the sheriff down the stairs. Schneider, VanMeter and George R. Lasater rushed to the sheriff's assistance. Police from all over Northern Michigan, including a special swat-like team surrounded the building for about a day and a half. Shulick was eventually arrested when he was found hiding in a neighbor's boat. A jury later convicted Shulick of several criminal charges and he is now serving consecutive 5-10-year and two-year prison sentences. VanMeter, George R. Lasater, and Schneider received their awards for their actions following the assault on the Sheriff on the morning of Sept. 23. Sproul's award was for his efforts in the investigation that eventually led to Shulick's conviction. Kur's award was for her efforts in prosecuting the Shulick case.
Following the ceremony, Scheider, who took charge of the incident for its 32-hour duration, said he was especially proud of the actions taken by George R. Lasater and VanMeter as they rushed in from outside the home to come to the sheriff's aide.