Monday, January 8, 2007

Deputy Brian Vanmeter - Sentenced - Charlevoix SD

Also See:
Deputy Brian Vanmeter charged with felony assault [Oct 05, 2006]

Deputy resigns as part of plea deal
Traverse City Record Eagle, MI
January 14, 2007

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.

Plea deal lightens ex-deputy's conviction
Petoskey News-Review, MI
By Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 4:12 PM EST

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.

Deputy pleads guilty to careless driving
Petoskey News-Review, MI
By Steve Zucker News-Review staff writer
Monday, January 8, 2007 11:47 AM EST

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.

Cop's assault charge dropped
Traverse City Record Eagle, MI
Nov. 07, 2006
Record-Eagle staff writer

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."

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