Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Commissioner James Vaughn - Kent County

JAMES VAUGHN, KENT COUNTY COMMISSIONER. ASSAULT. JUNE 17, 2008



Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn









Injuries suffered by Ida Beene Cross during assault.









Ida Cross held her ground in a dignified manner during a trial that the Grand Rapids Press referred to as "Commissioner's unruly love triangle on trial".
"I'm a lady...." Ida stated during questioning on the stand...and that she was.







Commissioner Vaughn was found guilty of aggravated assault and domestic violence [March 2009 trial]. Vaughn was sentenced to 30 days in jail; ordered to pay $2,388 in fines; ordered to pay Ida Cross's medical expenses; ordered to submit to domestic violence counseling and drug testing; ordered to one year probation; and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
Judge Jeannie LaVille refused to allow Vaughn to post bail and ordered him to begin his jail sentence immedidately. "The court finds his attitude and lack of acceptance of responsibility is a serious aggravating factor in this sentence," Judge LaVille said. [April 2009 setencing hearing]








Vaughn's co-defendant Cassandra Mitchell was also found guilty of assaulting Ida Cross [March 2009 trial]. Mitchell was sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay $545 in fines, along with joint-restitution to Cross.
At the April 2009 sentencing hearing, Judge LaVille immediately sent LaValle to jail. "You do not come to this court with a clean slate," LaVille said. "Both (prior convictions) reflect an inability to control your temper and conform to the law."









Commissioner Vaughn released from jail
Spent 3 weeks behind bars for assault
Updated: Monday, 11 May 2009, 4:13 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 11 May 2009, 4:13 PM EDT
http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/kent_county/Commissioner_Vaughn_released_from_jail





GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Kent County commissioner James Vaughn is out of jail, about three weeks into a 30-day sentence for assault.

Vaughn was sent to jail after being convicted of beating Ida Cross, who wanted to back out of a three-way tryst with Vaughn and another woman.

Vaughn still will be on probation for one year, must perform 100 hours of community service and must pay $2,300 in restitution.










Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn taken to jail straight from court to begin 30-day sentence
Published: Friday, April 17, 2009, 2:17 PM
Updated: Friday, April 17, 2009, 8:05 PM
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/04/kent_county_commissioner_james_5.html




Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, right, was sentenced by Judge Jeanine LaVille in Grand Rapids District Court on Friday afternoon. Vaughn was convicted on misdemeanor charges of assault and domestic violence charges against victim Ida Mae Cross. Vaughn was taken to the Kent County Jail from the courtroom after being sentenced to 30 days behind bars. [Lance Wynn. The Grand Rapids Press]




Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn was taken to the Kent County Jail straight from court today after being sentenced to 30 days behind bars for an assault case that included graphic details about three-way sex.

Vaughn's girlfriend at the time, Cassandra Mitchell, 39, was also sent straight to jail to serve a 30-day sentence, with credit for one day served.

Grand Rapids District Judge Jeanine LaVille declined to allow Vaughn, 66, to post bail while he considers an appeal. She also declined to allow Mitchell time to make arrangements for her children.

After sentencing, Vaughn attempted to reach for his hat, but a deputy began taking him away to jail and a family member grabbed it to give it to an officer.

LaVille said even though Vaughn has no prior criminal history, his lack of remorse after an assault conviction contributed to her decision to have him begin his sentenced immediately.

"The court finds his attitude and lack of acceptance of responsibility is a serious aggravating factor in this sentence," LaVille said.

Vaughn told the judge "this whole incident didn't play out right."

"I respect the court's decision," he said, then added. "It's hard for me to swallow this, because it's not truth, and it's not fair, and a lot of it is fabricated."

The judge also said he must pay $2,388 in fines, and make joint payments with Mitchell to Cross to cover her medical expenses. She also said Vaughn must submit to domestic violence counseling, serve a year of probation, submit to drug testing, and perform 100 hours of community service.

Vaughn, a Grand Rapids Democrat who was re-elected to his county post in November, was convicted of aggravated assault, a misdemeanor, for an attack on Ida Mae Cross, 47, a woman he had dated for years. The incident happened after a proposed three-way sexual rendezvous at his Southeast Side home in June 2008 turned sour.

The charge carried a penalty of up to a year in jail.

Mitchell was found guilty of a lesser charge, assault and battery.

Cross spoke before Vaughn's sentencing and asked for both to be given the maximum penalty. She declined to make a statement before Mitchell was sentenced.

"The wounds James Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell inflicted upon me continue to haunt me," said Cross, saying she suffers from flashbacks and depression, and lost her job.

LaVille said Mitchell's prior convictions, and prison and jail time contributed to her decision to the send her to jail immediately.

"You do not come to this court with a clean slate," LaVille said. "Both (prior convictions) reflect an inability to control your temper and conform to the law."

Mitchell was also ordered to pay $545 in fines and joint-restitution to Cross.
Before her sentencing, Mitchell told LaVille she was sorry for her part in the matter, but said she was provoked.

"I would have seriously been harmed," Mitchell said. "I was thinking of my children all along."

Cross and friends and family of Vaughn declined to comment after the sentencing.
Reached after the sentencing, Kent County Corporate Counsel Dan Ophoff said there was no action the County Commission could take to remove Vaughn from office.

"The research suggests that the governor might have some ability here, but I don't even think it triggers at this point because it's generally for a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor," he said.

Ophoff said all the of the county commissioners are "of a mind this is an unfortunate incident."

Kent County Commissioner Brandon Dillon, a Grand Rapids Democrat, said the commission doesn't have any authority to do anything.

"I can't speak for everybody, but I certainly respect the decision of both the jury and judge," Dillon said. "Ultimately, Jim is going to have to be accountable to the people who elected him."






Kent County Commission accepts Commissioner James Vaughn's apology after conviction
Published: Thursday, March 12, 2009, 7:38 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2009, 7:46 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/kent_county_commission_accepts.html




Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn



GRAND RAPIDS -- Friends and colleagues of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, convicted on misdemeanor assault charges, are waiting to see whether he backs with action the public apology he issued Thursday.

Vaughn, 66, a Grand Rapids Democrat, last week was convicted of assault and domestic violence charges against Ida Mae Cross, a woman he'd dated for years. The charges stemmed from a fight after a proposed three-way sexual tryst last June with another woman soured.

Vaughn apologized to his constituents and fellow county commissioners for any embarrassment the situation created, during the public comment section of Thursday's county board meeting.

"I have always attempted to represent my district and the county in a positive manner and believe that my history of service has demonstrated that commitment," Vaughn read from a statement.

"My desire is to continue to serve my constituents and the public while the process continues," he added. "Again, my sincere and genuine apologies to my friends and colleagues."

Immediately after his conviction, Vaughn vowed to appeal the matter and pursue slander allegations. He also said he'd continue with plans to travel two days later to Washington D.C. to represent the county at a conference, but later canceled those plans.

Fellow commissioner Jim Talen, D-Grand Rapids, said many felt Vaughn owed the community an apology. He said calls from his constituents exploded after word of Vaughn's intention to travel to the National Association of Counties' Legislative Conference.

"Commissioners and others I talked to felt that his attitude seemed to be arrogant, that he didn't seem to understand the gravity of what was happening to his credibility and that he needed to be contrite about it," Talen said. "On the other hand, the reality is that Jim Vaughn was legitimately elected by his constituents even after the incident became public and it's not up to the commission to disenfranchise his constituents."

Commission Chairman Roger Morgan, R-Rockford, accepted Vaughn's apology, but later said he had investigated whether the county had the authority to unseat Vaughn.

Morgan conceded the ordeal had been "uncomfortable" for all involved.

Morgan said state law allows only the governor to remove elected officials for felony convictions. Therefore, any consideration by the county is moot.

"Our hands are tied by state law," Morgan said. "We didn't have the authority to remove him. The fact is that Commissioner Vaughn stood up before the commission and apologized and I take that apology at face value."

Longtime former Commissioner Paul Mayhue and a friend of Vaughn's said the apology likely stems from a combination of Vaughn's sincere regret and public pressure.

"You've got The Press calling for an apology, you've got his constituents, but I think basically he did it on his own," Mayhue said.









James Vaughn apologizes to constituents, fellow commissioners
Published: Thursday, March 12, 2009, 9:27 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2009, 7:45 PM
Rick Wilson
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/james_vaughn_apologizes_to_con.html




James Vaughn in court last week.



Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, convicted last week in an assault case involving a sexcapade with two women, publicly apologized this morning at a meeting of the county board.

"I would like to apologize to constituents of the 17th district and my colleagues on the Board of Commissioners for any embarrassment this situation has created," said Vaughn, 66. "I have always attempted to represent my district and the county in a positive manner and believe that my history of service has demonstrated that commitment.

"My desire is to continue to serve my constituents and the public while the process continues. Again, my sincere and genuine apologies to my friends and colleagues."
County Board Chairman Roger Morgan, R-Rockford, spoke when Vaughn was finished.

"I'm sure this has been a difficult time for you. I accept your apology," Morgan said.

When a jury convicted him last week on charges of aggravated assault and domestic violence, both misdemeanors, an unrepentant Vaughn vowed to continue as a Kent County commissioner, appeal his conviction and file lawsuits for slander and defamation.

"This was a misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding is still going to be cleaned up," he said March 5 outside the courtroom.

The prosecution said Vaughn and his girlfriend, Cassandra Mitchell, 39, assaulted Ida Mae Cross, 47, a woman he had dated for years, after a proposed three-way sexual rendezvous at his Southeast Side home in mid-June turned sour.

Vaughn, 66, was convicted of aggravated assault, a misdemeanor. He could be sentenced to up to a year in jail on April 17.

Despite the pending charges, Vaughn easily won re-election in November in his Southeast Grand Rapids district.










Editorial: Convicted Kent County commissioner Vaughn should make a public apology
Published: Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 9:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 9:04 AM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/opinion/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/editorial_convicted_kent_count.html

WHY IT MATTERS Elected officials with tarnished reputations can lose the clout needed to effectively advocate for constituents.

Elected officials are representatives of the governmental bodies on which they serve, and of the people. The conviction last week of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn on assault and domestic violence charges not only tarnishes his reputation but reflects badly on the County Board. Mr. Vaughn owes the victim, his constituents and his colleagues on the board a public apology. The mea culpa should also include a pledge that nothing like this will ever happen again.

The case included unseemly details of a three-way sexual tryst gone awry that ended in physical violence. Intimate details of Mr. Vaughn's personal life were revealed in court and in media reports. It was not a flattering picture and well below the standard of behavior expected of an elected official.

Mr. Vaughn, a long-time commissioner, and Cassandra Mitchell, a girlfriend, were convicted of assaulting Ida Mae Cross after she refused to participate in a sexual act at his home. Mr. Vaughn, who has vowed to appeal, contends he was only trying to break up a fight between the two women. He faces up to a year in jail on the assault charge. The domestic violence charge is a 93-day misdemeanor.

No matter what sentence is imposed, Mr. Vaughn has sullied his reputation and likely lost or greatly diminished the respect his colleagues and constituents had for him. He should work diligently to regain both.

Elected officials should be held to higher standards and expectations. They are duty-bound to set good examples. Public officials have to always be aware of how their personal behavior can negatively affect their ability to advocate for their constituents. If they lose clout, so do the people they represent.

That's not to say that every elected officials who has had a run-in with the law or experienced a personal failing should be booted out of office. People are human and sometimes make mistakes. They must learn from them. Nothing revealed at trial indicates that Mr. Vaughn has a history of being involved in violent incidents. He wasn't convicted of a felony that might have precipitated removal from office.

That said, Mr. Vaughn should show some indication that he "gets it." Assault and domestic violence are not trivial issues. But his demeanor, out-of-court comments, and testimony during the trial seemed cavalier. That includes his initial
tone-deaf decision to attend a conference in Washington, D.C., just days after his conviction. He reconsidered after a brief conversation with County Board Chairman Roger Morgan.

As a county commissioner, Mr. Vaughn represents Kent County whenever he travels and for whatever purpose. The idea of him taking a county-paid trip immediately after his conviction was untenable to everyone but Mr. Vaughn it seems.

The case against Mr. Vaughn had not come to trial when voters in his southeast Grand Rapids district re-elected him in November -- though the charges and some details of his conduct had been made public. It's ultimately up to voters to decide if they remain confident in his ability to be an effective advocate for them on the County Board.

None of that, however, absolves Mr. Vaughn of responsibility for his own misguided actions -- behavior that should occasion contrition, not the blissful indifference he has displayed.










Polpourri: Conviction in assault trial doesn't quiet Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn
Published: Sunday, March 08, 2009, 6:00 AM
Updated: Sunday, March 08, 2009, 10:33 AM
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/conviction_in_assault_trial_do.html




Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn



In his assault trial last week, Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn appeared unflappable, holding court in hallways during breaks and sharing laughs with friends.

The easy smile left when a jury found him guilty of aggravated assault and domestic violence in a proposed sexcapade with a couple of lady friends. But the personable commissioner, who easily won re-election, wasn't done talking. He vowed an appeal and slander suit, and said it was just a misunderstanding.

His veteran attorney, Charles "Chip" Chamberlain, perhaps concerned that judges prefer remorseful defendants, finally shushed his client, who awaits an April 17 sentencing, and led him to the elevator.










Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn backs out of taxpayer-funded trip on heels of his conviction
Published: Friday, March 06, 2009, 12:29 PM
Updated: Friday, March 06, 2009, 3:29 PM
By Jim Harger
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/kent_county_commissioner_james_4.html




James Vaughn, Kent County Commissioner, will not take a planned trip to Washington, D.C. as originally planned. Paul L. Newby II. The Grand Rapids Press



GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn said today he will not attend a National Association of Counties conference in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

The reversal comes one day after the Grand Rapids Democrat said he planned to make the taxpayer-funded trip, which would have required a judge's permission for out-of-state travel.


RELATED CONTENT
• Commissioner Vaughn's "Order of Special Conditions of Bond" (PDF)

http://blog.mlive.com/grpress/news_impact/2009/03/bailbondforms-james-vaughn.pdf









"I decided that it might not look right," said Vaughn, convicted by a Grand Rapids jury on two assault charges Thursday.

"I don't want to do anything that the people don't think is right."

Vaughn, who was charged after a fight broke out between himself and two girlfriends last summer, claims he is innocent and plans to appeal the verdict.

Kent County Board Chairman Roger Morgan said he asked Vaughn to reconsider his plans to attend the legislative conference with six fellow county commissioners.

"I told him I was just requesting that he not attend the conference and that he should kind of pay attention to the issues that are here," said Morgan, R-Rockford.

"He told me at that point that he had made a decision not to attend," Morgan said. "It was a very short conversation."

Jim Day, executive assistant to the board, said the county should be able to recoup the $200 per night hotel reservation for Vaughn. He said they also were pursuing refunds on the $200 flight and the $495 conference fee.










Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn keeps plans to attend D.C. conference despite misdemeanor convictions
Published: Friday, March 06, 2009, 8:09 AM Updated:
Friday, March 06, 2009, 2:17 PM
By Jim Harger
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/kent_county_commissioner_james_3.html




Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn talks with co-defendent Cassandra Mitchell after he was found guilty Thursday of two misdemeanor charges of aggravated assault and domestic violence. Jon M. Brouwer. The Grand Rapids Press




UPDATE: Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn backs out of taxpayer-funded trip on heels of his conviction
GRAND RAPIDS -- Two days after his conviction for aggravated assault and domestic violence, Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn plans to attend a conference in Washington.

"It's been on my calendar for a year," Vaughn said. A county probation official said it's up to a judge to decide if Vaughn can make the trip despite being found guilty Thursday of two misdemeanors.

Vaughn, 66, plans to join six other commissioners at the National Association of Counties' Legislative Conference. The county will pay $1,300 each to cover flights, three nights in a hotel and conference fees.

Although Vaughn said he can attend the conference under the terms of a $3,500 personal recognizance bond he posted after his arrest last summer, other county officials are not so sure.

"I never gave Mr. Vaughn permission to leave the state; that's not my decision," said Jim Peck, deputy chief of Probation Services.

Peck said the decision is up to Grand Rapids District Judge Jeanine LaVille, who presided over Vaughn's trial. "The decision will be made by Judge LaVille and Judge LaVille only."

LaVille was not available for comment.

Vaughn, who has represented the county's 17th District -- which covers Southeast Grand Rapids -- since 2000, could be sentenced to up to one year in jail in a case that involved a fight last June between Vaughn and two of his girlfriends.

Brandon Dillon, one of Vaughn's fellow Democrats on the county board, said he hopes Vaughn will stay home.

"I think Jim should be more focused on his legal issues here at home than going to Washington, D.C.," said Dillon, who plans to attend.

"The court decision that was reached (Thursday) has to be taken into consideration if you're talking about representing the county on official business," Dillon said. "I hope Jim is reasonable enough to come to that conclusion himself."

Vaughn, who maintains his innocence and said he plans to appeal the conviction, said there is no reason he should not attend the conference.

"Nobody told me I shouldn't go," he said. "Do I look like a flight risk with a 30-year job and a house?"

Other commissioners planning to attend the three-day conference include Carol Hennesey, Dean Agee, Harold Voorhees, Richard VanderMolen and Bob Synk, according to Jim Day, executive assistant to the Board of Commissioners.

Hennesey, Agee, Synk and VanderMolen also plan to take spouses along at their own expense, Day said. Plans call for the group to fly out Saturday and return Tuesday.

Day said the commissioners will stay at the Marriott Ward Parkman Hotel for about $200 a night. Vaughn has registered for a single room, he said.










After conviction for assault, Commissioner James Vaughn vows to appeal, file lawsuits for slander and defamation
Published: Thursday, March 05, 2009, 6:18 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 05, 2009, 8:33 PM
By John Agar
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/commissioner_james_vaughn_foun.html




Jon M. Brouwer. The Grand Rapids PressKent County Commissioner James Vaughn, right, and his attorney Charles Chamberlain listen to the verdict being announced in court Wednesday morning.




GRAND RAPIDS -- Despite his conviction in an assault case that gained notoriety for its lurid sexual details, an unrepentant James Vaughn vowed to continue as a Kent County commissioner, appeal his conviction and file lawsuits for slander and defamation.

"This was a misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding is still going to be cleaned up," he said Thursday outside Grand Rapids District Judge Jeanine LaVille's courtroom.

The prosecution said Vaughn and his girlfriend, Cassandra Mitchell, 39, assaulted Ida Mae Cross, 47, a woman he had dated for years, after a proposed sexual rendezvous at his Southeast Side home in mid-June turned sour. Vaughn, 66, was convicted of aggravated assault, a misdemeanor. He could be sentenced to up to a year in jail.

A separate jury Wednesday found Mitchell guilty of a lesser charge, assault and battery.

Vaughn, re-elected county commissioner in November, said the conviction won't interfere with his public duties. He also works in the job-training program at Grand Rapids Community College.

Interim GRCC President Anne Mulder said: "We have no comment at this point in time."
The prosecution said the defendants seriously injured Cross in the late-night fight.

The defendants blamed Cross for causing the trouble when she grabbed a glass vase, and Vaughn insisted he only tried to separate the women during a fight. Defense attorneys noted discrepancies in Cross' statements to police and her testimony at trial.

One of the six jurors -- all men -- described the case as "intricate," but he did not want to discuss it. Another declined to comment, while others could not be reached.

Vaughn, however, was willing to talk, at least until his attorney, Charles "Chip" Chamberlain, convinced him to keep quiet.

Vaughn considered his conviction an injustice, and said it exposed problems in the justice system. He said there are "people in jail for nothing. I see why."

At least twice, he said, "I will be appealing tomorrow." He added that he would be "filing defamation and slander charges," but did not go further.

Chamberlain said: "We respect the jury's decision but we're disappointed with it."

The jury deliberated about four hours over two days before finding Vaughn guilty of aggravated assault and domestic violence.

Assistant Ionia County Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet, handling the case for local prosecutors because of Vaughn's county position, said "the verdict was consistent with the evidence, so we're very happy."

Cross, in the courtroom when Vaughn's verdict was read, declined to comment.

Sheremet said Cross likely "has a lot of emotions."










Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn found guilty of assault charges
Published: Thursday, March 05, 2009, 11:30 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 05, 2009, 6:24 PM
By John Agar
The Grant Rapid Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/kent_county_commissioner_james_2.html




Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn talks to his attorney Charles Chamberlain after he was found guilty today of aggravated assault and domestic violence in a case that involved two girlfriends. Jon M. Brouwer. The Grand Rapids Press




Update, 11:35 a.m.
Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn said he will appeal.
"We'll be appealing tomorrow," he said after the verdict. He said there are "people in jail for nothing. I see why."
He said he will continue in his post as county commissioner. "This was a misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding is still going to be cleared up."
Vaughn's lawyer said he respects the jury's verdict but is disappointed with it.

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn was found guilty today of aggravated assault and domestic violence in a case that involved two girlfriends.

The jury verdict came in just before 11:30 a.m. The assault is a one-year misdemeanor, and the second charge a 93-day misdemeanor.

One of the women, Cassandra Mitchell, 39, who was tried with Vaughn before separate juries, was convicted Wednesday of a lesser charge, assault and battery, in the alleged attack on Ida Mae Cross, 47.

The trouble started after a proposition for three-way sex between Vaughn and Cross, his long-time girlfriend, and Mitchell, whom he met in September, testimony showed.

Vaughn, 66, was charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence in the mid-June fight at his home. Vaughn contended he was only trying to break up a fight between the two women.

The six-man jury deliberated for an hour Wednesday and almost three hours today.

Defense attorneys contended that Cross was just as culpable in the dispute as anyone else.

The lurid details elicited in trial testimony devastated those involved in the case.
Cross, in her testimony, said: "I'm a lady, not a whore."

The three provided conflicting statements during testimony, with Cross blaming the defendants for attacking her, and Mitchell blaming Cross.

They had met at Vaughn's home late on June 16 after he and Cross attended a family gathering after his brother died.

Cross said Vaughn propositioned her about a three-way sexual encounter, while witnesses at the family gathering said she sounded OK with it, and talked loudly about going to Vaughn's home for the tryst.

Vaughn testified that trouble"(Cross) popped Ms. Mitchell in the head. Then, it was on," Vaughn testified.

"After Ms. Mitchell got popped, she started swinging. They were swinging, and I was in between them. ... I just broke up a fight."

Assistant Ionia County Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet told jurors Vaughn was no peacemaker.

She prosecuted the case so that there was no appearance of conflict of interest with Vaughn serving as a county commissioner.

Defense attorney Charles "Chip" Chamberlain attacked the credibility of the alleged victim, and said she would not have stayed at his home three hours after the fight if she feared Vaughn.










Photos: Commissioner James Vaughn's assault trial
Published: Thursday, March 05, 2009, 7:11 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 05, 2009, 7:14 AM
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/multimedia/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/photos_commissioner_james_vaug.html




Defense attorney Kevin Floyd, right, questions Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn during Vaughn's misdemeanor assault trial. Lori Niedenfuer Cool. The Grand Rapids Press





































































Jury finds Commissioner Vaughn's girlfriend guilty of assault during 3-way sex, jury still out on Vaughn
Published: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, 8:58 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 05, 2009, 11:39 AM
By John Agar
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/jury_find_commissioner_vaughns.html




Cassandra Mitchell listens as the jurors found her guilty of assault on Wednesday. At left is lawyer Kevin Floyd. At right is Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn. Paul L. Newby II The Grand Rapids Press




Update: Commissioner James Vaughn found guilty
GRAND RAPIDS --
In the court case involving Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn and two of his girlfriends, a jury Wednesday convicted one of the women involved in the explosive triangle.


A jury found Cassandra Mitchell, 39, guilty of assaulting Ida Mae Cross after a proposition for a three-way sexual tryst.

Today, a second jury was to resume deliberations in the case against Vaughn, 66, who is accused of accused of aiding and abetting aggravated assault and domestic violence.

Mitchell, originally charged with aggravated assault, did not want to comment after the jury of five women and one man, deliberating about an hour, found her guilty of the lesser charge.

"I don't want to talk to you, OK?" she said.

Defense attorney Kevin Floyd did not want the lesser charge included as a possible verdict -- "all or nothing," he had said.

He doubted Grand Rapids District Judge Jeanine LaVille would sentence Mitchell to jail for the misdemeanor, but the lurid details that came out this week in the high-profile trial were as devastating to his client as the criminal charges. The victim was just as responsible as anyone for the trouble, Floyd said.

For Cross, 47, the trial wasn't easy, either. On Wednesday, she told an attorney: "I'm a lady, not a whore."

While the trio offered differing accounts, all agreed it turned ugly almost as soon as it started, with blood, broken glass and bad feelings left behind after the June 17 melee in Vaughn's home. Vaughn allegedly convinced Cross to take part in a three-some just hours after Vaughn's family gathered after his brother had died.

The prosecution says Vaughn helped Mitchell attack Cross. Mitchell said Cross attacked her. Vaughn said he only was trying to keep the women apart.

"(Cross) popped Ms. Mitchell in the head. Then, it was on," Vaughn testified.
"After Ms. Mitchell got popped, she started swinging. They were swinging, and I was in between them. ... I just broke up a fight."

He said he often referred to Cross as "crazy lady" and "psycho," while he called Mitchell "38," her age before her last birthday.

Throughout trial, Vaughn, re-elected to the county board in November, has appeared relaxed, often smiling during breaks. Grand Rapids Police Detective Matthew Kubiak described Vaughn as "rather jovial" in a jailhouse interview soon after the incident occurred.

He showed more concern for the blood on his carpet than the women, Assistant Ionia County Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet told jurors in her closing argument. She discounted any notion that Vaughn, with blood on his shirt and necklace, played peacemaker.

Sheremet was brought in to prosecute the case so there is no appearance of conflict of interest, given Vaughn's county role.

Defense attorney Charles "Chip" Chamberlain said Cross was desperate not to lose Vaughn, and stayed hours at his home despite her injuries.

"For over three hours, she's with Mr. Vaughn after this fight. Is this a woman with a (legitimate) fear for her life?" he asked jurors.

He questioned Cross' credibility because she said she did not know Vaughn asked her to be part of a threesome, despite witnesses testimony that she talked about it hours earlier.

He also questioned her accounts of a glass vase damaged in the fight after she said she threw it without hitting anyone, and broke it on a table. He also tried to cast doubt on the severity of her injuries, and said a doctor found no signs of choking or blunt-force trauma.

"The reason is, that did not happen," Chamberlain said.










Jury deliberates after closing arguments in Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn assault trial
Published: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, 4:59 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, 9:04 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/jury_deliberates_after_closing.html




Defense attorney Kevin Floyd, right, questions Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn during Vaughn's misdemeanor assault trial. Lori Niedenfuer Cool The Grand Rapids Press




GRAND RAPIDS -- A jury this afternoon started to deliberate the fate of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, who is charged with aggravated assault stemming from a fight at his home last June.

Ionia Assistant Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet and Vaughn's defense attorney, Charles "Chip" Chamberlain, recounted differing versions of the evidence police collected while breaking up the dispute, which arose after the commissioner requested to have three-way sex with Ida Cross and Cassandra Mitchell.

Mitchell, Vaughn's girlfriend, is also charged with assaulting Cross.

Sheremet said Vaughn sustained only a minor injury to his ankle, suggesting he was holding Cross on the couch as she was being attacked by Mitchell.

She discounted any notion that Vaughn was trying to break the fight up, given the blood on his shirt and necklace. She believes he was holding Cross down when she scratched him and injured the commissioner.

Testimony showed Vaughn held considerable power over the women, and that the fight began when Cross backed out of an attempted sex act together -- done at Vaughn's urging -- Sheremet said.

Vaughn was "jovial" during an interview at the Kent County Jail and was concerned about himself and not the women, Sheremet said.

Chamberlain, meanwhile, said Cross was fighting with Mitchell because she didn't want to lose Vaughn to the other woman. Cross and Vaughn had been involved in a relationship.

"For over three hours, she's with Mr. Vaughn after this fight. Is this a woman with a (legitimate) fear for her life," Chamberlain said, noting Cross did not leave Vaughn's house.

She was trying to "make up with Vaughn," Chamberlain said.

The defense attorney also pointed out that Cross gave conflicting accounts on how a glass vase used during the assault was shattered.

Chamberlain questioned the severity of the alleged victim's injuries after a doctor found no evidence of blunt force trauma or choking.

"The reason is that it did not happen," he said.

Vaughn, during the entire incident, was acting in self-defense and was trying to break up a fight between the women, Chamberlain said.

Jurors will deliberate until about 6 p.m. and be sent home if they have not reached a verdict.










Prosecutor says James Vaughn's girlfriend viewed the other woman as a threat
Published: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, 1:33 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, 4:47 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/detective_on_james_vaughncassa.html


Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, center, and his girlfriend Cassandra Mitchell, right, are in the courtroom during a break today from their misdemeanor assault trial in Grand Rapids. A fight broke out at Vaughn's house after a dispute over a sexual encounter involving the couple and Ida Mae Cross. Lori Niedenfuer Cool . The Grand Rapids Press.



GRAND RAPIDS -- A prosecutor said this afternoon Cassandra Mitchell, the girlfriend of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, viewed another woman, Ida Mae Cross, as competition who threatened her relationship -- and its financial rewards -- with Vaughn.

Cross is the alleged victim of an attack last June after a sexual tryst involving Vaughn and the women turned ugly. A fight broke out, with a glass vase used as a weapon.

In her closing argument, Assistant Ionia County Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet, handling the case to avoid any conflict of interest with Kent County prosecutors, urged jurors to look at photographs of Cross, with serious injuries to her arms, face and back, and those of Mitchell, who showed minimal signs of injury.

She pointed out inconsistencies in Mitchell's statements given to police and in her testimony.

But defense attorney Kevin Floyd said the trouble actually started in September 2007, when Cross found out Vaughn, 66, was dating Mitchell, too. He said Cross started the trouble, and his client was only defending herself.

"The thing abut Ida Cross is, it appears. ... that this event happened on June 17,2008.. .. The opportunity wasn't until June 17, when there was a boiling point, a flash."

"Ida Cross, she had her eyes on that prize a long time ago, and she was going to protect it," Floyd said.

"They say love makes you do crazy things, but that is above and behind. Ida Cross is responsible for everyone getting cut, including herself."

The jury hearing the Mitchell case is listening to closing arguments, with Vaughn's jury to hear arguments a little later.

In a police interview after a fight at Vaughn's home, Mitchell blamed the trouble on Cross.

Mitchell told Detective Matthew Kubiak that "'If she wouldn't have hit me, I wouldn't have done anything to her,'" Kubiak testified today.

Vaughn and Mitchell are co-defendants accused of assaulting Cross after the sexual tryst ended. Mitchell told police that Vaughn got between the women as they fought.

"She stated that he put his hand on (Cross') neck, and his other hand was holding Ms. Mitchell back," Kubiak testified in Grand Rapids District Court.

She told police that Vaughn did "absolutely nothing," and that Vaughn did not hit Cross.

Vaughn, who testified earlier today, said he agreed with Assistant Ionia County Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet that he once told reporters that "I should have kicked them out of the house and let them kill themselves in the yard."

Floyd, representing Mitchell, and Charles "Chip" Chamberlain, representing Vaughn, have rested their case.










James Vaughn, Kent County Commissioner, takes stand in his defense for assault
Published: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, 11:23 AM
Updated: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, 12:57 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/the_grand_rapids_press.html



Kent County Commissioner, James Vaughn demonstrates to the court how he tried to separate two women during a fight at his home on June 16. Vaughn is on trial for a misdemeanor assault. The Grand Rapids Press. Lori Niedenfuer Cool.




Ida Mae Cross on the stand Wednesday. Lori Niedenfuer Cool.The Grand Rapids Press



GRAND RAPIDS -- Taking the stand in his own defense, Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn this morning denied hitting or choking Ida Mae Cross, and insisted he was only breaking up a fight between two girlfriends after a sexual encounter ended badly.

He said he didn't realize that Ida Mae Cross had a broken glass vase in her hand when she started hitting Cassandra Mitchell, and later, Vaughn.

"(Cross) popped Ms. Mitchell in the head. Then, it was on," he said.

"After Ms. Mitchell got popped, she started swinging. They were swinging, and I was in between them."

Vaughn, 66, and Mitchell, 38, are on trial in Grand Rapids District Court as co-defendants charged with misdemeanor assault.

"I just broke up a fight."

He did not realize he had been cut while breaking up the fight. He said he often referred to Cross, 47, as "crazy lady" and "psycho," while he referred to Mitchell as "38," her age.

The three went to his home late June 16 after gathering at his sister's house following a wake for his brother.

There, Cross acknowledged in testimony today, she flirted with Vaughn but said she had no interest in having sex with Vaughn and his other girlfriend.

"It's not my character," she said.

She had earlier tried a threesome, but only because "I felt I was threatened, and held hostage at the time."

She denied testimony by others at the sister's gathering that she talked about having a three-way sex act with Vaughn and co-defendant Cassandra Mitchell.

"I'm a lady, not a whore," she said.

One of Vaughn's sisters, Joyce Robinson, said Cross said loudly that she was willing to have sex with Mitchell after she first had sex with Vaughn. Robinson said she left the porch.

"It was disgusting. ... I was embarrassed."

Cross also said she was angry when she found out in September 2007 that Vaughn was also dating Mitchell, and damaged his car.

"I was upset, mainly that he lied."

She eventually accepted Vaughn's relationship with Mitchell, she testified.










Co-defendant in Commissioner Vaughn's assault trial testifies she was victim of second woman's jealousy during 3-way sex
Published: Tuesday, March 03, 2009, 7:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 03, 2009, 9:35 PM
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/codefendant_in_commissioner_va.html



Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, with attorney Chip Chamberlain, listens to his girlfriend Cassandra Mitchell testify she was attacked with a vase by Ida Mae Cross in Vaughn's home after a dispute over a sexual encounter involving the three.Photos by The Grand Rapids Press/Rex Larsen.




Cassandra Mitchell, girlfriend of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, testifies in court how she was attacked by Ida Mae Cross.



GRAND RAPIDS -- The two-jury trial of a Kent County commissioner and his girlfriend -- now going into its third day -- has included graphic testimony of three-way sex.

On Tuesday, Cassandra Mitchell explained her version of events from the overnight hours of June 16 and 17.

She said that far from being the perpetrator of an assault on Ida Mae Cross, she was the victim of an attack motivated by jealousy. Mitchell said Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn told Cross that if she did not want to participate in three-way sex with him and Mitchell in his Southeast Side home, she should go home.

Instead, Cross, 47, became enraged, Mitchell testified. Cross left the bed where she and Vaughn had been having sex and Mitchell had tried to join in, but was rejected by the other girlfriend.

Mitchell said Vaughn, 65, did not get involved in the fighting and never choked or punched Cross, as she and Ionia County Assistant Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet contend.

Sheremet went over Mitchell's testimony, getting the 38-year-old to admit that she told conflicting stories about the incident. Mitchell told a 911 operator she used the glass to cut Cross, and told a Grand Rapids detective that she put her hands around Cross' throat during the scuffle.

However, Mitchell's defense attorney, Kevin Floyd, elicited testimony from her that the basic facts never changed: she was defending herself from an attack by Cross.

Floyd presented testimony earlier from emergency-room personnel in which she told them she was attacked by her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend with a vase.

Registered nurse Joan McCrone said Mitchell said she had reported the incident to police, but was not expecting them to take action.

"(Mitchell) said police wouldn't do anything because it was a very important man involved," McCrone said.

Mitchell's sister Tammy Thomas testified she saw Mitchell not long after the incident and helped treat injuries on her face and hands.

"She had an 'egg' right here," Thomas said, pointing to her forehead. "It was sticking out there and I was like, 'Wow.' "

Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital personnel who treated her several hours later did not note any injuries to her head.

Wednesday, Vaughn's attorney Charles "Chip" Chamberlain will continue his defense case and the county commissioner is expected to take the stand.

Two nine-member juries hearing the case together in Grand Rapids District Court. The misdemeanor assault charges have a maximum penalty of one year in jail.










Commissioner James Vaughn's assault trial continues with key witness grilled on differing details
Published: Tuesday, March 03, 2009, 5:08 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 03, 2009, 7:34 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/commissioner_james_vaughns_asa.html


Cassandra Mitchell, the girlfriend of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, testifies in court how she was attacked with a vase by Ida Mae Cross after a dispute over a sexual encounter involving all of them at Vaughn's home. The Grand Rapids Press/Rex Larsen.




Kent County Commissioner, James Vaughn,right, with his attorney, Chip Chamberlain, listens to his girlfriend Cassandra Mitchell testify. The Grand Rapids Press/Rex Larsen.



GRAND RAPIDS - Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, 65, and girlfriend, Cassandra Mitchell, 38, are charged with assaulting Ida Mae Cross, 47, after she says she refused to engage in sex. Here is the story and updates from the courtroom.

Updated 5:05 p.m.
The trial of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn will stretch into a third day, with Vaughn expected to be among the final witnesses.

In graphic testimony this afternoon, Cassandra Mitchell explained her version of events from the overnight hours of June 16 and 17.

She said that far from being the perpetrator of an assault on Ida Mae Cross, she was the victim of an attack motivated by jealousy.

Cross and Vaughn were in bed, Mitchell said, adding that when she tried to join them Cross got up and began knocking items off of shelves and tables. She later yelled, "I was here first," about her relationship with Vaughn, Mitchell said.
Updated 2:02 p.m.

Cassandra Mitchell's lawyer, Kevin Floyd, has called Dr. Robert Waller to the stand to describe cuts on Mitchell's hand. Mitchell told him the cuts, some of which required stitches, were the result of an assault by her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend.

Waller is the first witness in the defense case. After Floyd presents his five or six witnesses, Vaughn's lawyer, Charles "Chip" Chamberlain, will present his case.

Updated 1:09 p.m.
Defense lawyers will begin presenting witnesses this afternoon and Commissioner James Vaughn is expected to testify.

After a day and a half of prosecution witnesses, Assistant Ionia County Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet ended her case around noon.

The trial, which began on Monday, was expected to take two days, but now it appears likely that it will wrap up on Wednesday or Thursday.

Original post: 12:08 p.m.
A key witness in the assault trial of Kent County commissioner James Vaughn was grilled on the stand this morning about differing details she gave about a fight inside Vaughn's home.

Vaughn, 65, and his 38-year-old girlfriend, Cassandra Mitchell, are charged with assaulting Ida Mae Cross, 47, after she says she refused to engage in sex.

Shortly after the incident, Cross told police that she twice hit Mitchell with a glass vase or bowl, Officer Thomas McCarthy said. She did not say that she first broke the glass on a table, McCarthy said, a detail she included in testimony Monday.

Cross said she was traumatized and tired when she gave conflicting accounts of the overnight events of June 16 and 17.

McCarthy, during cross-examination by defense attorney Kevin Floyd, also testified he believed he had probable cause to arrest Cross for assault, but the line of questioning ended when a prosecutor's objection was upheld.

Also today, police officer John Newberry testified he happened to run into Mitchell at a local convenience store about 1:45 a.m. after the incident in Vaughn's home, and she told him she was assaulted by a woman named Ida. She was not interested in filing assault charges, the officer testified.










Alleged victim in James Vaughn assault trial says she was traumatized when she gave police conflicting stories
Published: Monday, March 02, 2009, 9:46 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 04, 2009, 1:45 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/victim_in_james_vaughn_assault.html




Cassandra Mitchell, left, and Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, right, are co-defendants in a trial for assaulting Ida Mae Cross during a fight in Vaughn's home June 17. Press Photo/Lori Niedenfuer Cool




Ida Cross demonstrates her testimony for the jury today. Press Photo/ Lori Niedenfuer Cool



GRAND RAPIDS -- Ida Mae Cross said she was traumatized and tired when she gave conflicting accounts of her alleged assault at the hands of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn and one of his girlfriends.

The first day of testimony wrapped up today in the two-day assault and domestic violence trial of Vaughn.

Monday's trial was grueling for witness and alleged victim Cross, who recounted the night she said she was assaulted by the 65-year-old commissioner and his 38-year-old girlfriend, Cassandra Mitchell, after refusing to perform a sexual act last June.

The defense lawyers grilled 47-year-old Cross and during the course of her testimony she admitted giving different statements to police about whether or not she started the physical confrontation by throwing a glass vase at Mitchell.

Cross said Mitchell struck and cut her with glass she now says she broke on a table, not on Mitchell's head. At the same time she was being assaulted by Mitchell, Cross now says she was being choked by Vaughn as he punched her in the face.

Ionia County Assistant Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet, who is handling the case for Kent County prosecutors to avoid any appearance of conflict, asked Cross why she told an officer not long after the alleged assault that she had thrown the vase at the pair.

"I just didn't want to relive it," Cross said. "I was just tired and exhausted. I felt if someone loved you, they wouldn't do things to hurt you or abuse you or try to manipulate you."

After the alleged assault, Cross said she let Vaughn drive her home, which was questioned by the defense.

"When you're in love, you do crazy things," she said.

The commissioner and the alleged victim had an off-again, on-again relationship with Vaughn sometimes paying Cross' rent and car payments. Cross also once drove her car into Vaughn's following an argument.

She said the assault came after she refused to be part of three-way sex in the overnight hours of June 16 and 17. Cross said she had participated in a similar act earlier in the month and didn't like it.

Earlier in the day of June 16, Cross said she was at the wake for Vaughn's brother, who died of cancer, and she then returned to Vaughn's house at 1288 Cambridge Drive SE late that night.

Not long after they arrived, Mitchell showed up, according to Cross. Vaughn allegedly asked Cross if she'd like to perform oral sex with Mitchell and then the glass was broken and the assault or fight began.

Cross said she would not have gone if she had known Mitchell was going to be there.

Vaughn contends that she did know, and that Cross had talked about it with people at the wake.

Mitchell's lawyer, Kevin Floyd, says she was defending herself against Cross.

Vaughn's lawyer, Charles "Chip" Chamberlin, says the politician was just trying to break up the fight between the two women.

"Somebody hits you in the face with a glass vase, the fight is on," Floyd told jurors during his opening remarks.

There are two nine-member juries hearing the case together in Grand Rapids District Court. The misdemeanor assaults charges have a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

Testimony was to continue Tuesday, with police and detectives taking the stand and the defense presenting its case, which could include testimony from the defendants.










Witness in James Vaughn assault case grilled by defense lawyers
Published: Monday, March 02, 2009, 5:40 PM
Updated: Monday, March 02, 2009, 11:10 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/witness_in_james_vaughn_assaul.html

UPDATE: Victim in James Vaughn assault trial says she was traumatized when she gave police conflicting stories.

GRAND RAPIDS -- The first day of testimony wrapped up this afternoon in the two-day assault and domestic violence trial of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn.

It was a grueling day for witness Ida Mae Cross, who recounted the night she said she was assaulted by Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell after refusing to perform a sexual act last June.

As defense lawyers grilled Cross, she admitted giving different statements to police about whether she started the physical confrontation by throwing a glass vase at Mitchell.

Mitchell's lawyer, Kevin Floyd. says his client was defending herself against Cross, who ended up losing the fight.

In testimony earlier today, Vaughn's lawyer,Charles "Chip" Chamberlain, said his client was simply trying to break up a fight between the two women.

Testimony continues Tuesday, with police and detectives taking the stand and the defense presenting its case, which could include testimony from the defendants.








Assault trial begins for Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn
Published: Monday, March 02, 2009, 11:47 AM
Updated: Monday, March 02, 2009, 5:26 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/assault_trial_begins_for_kent.html



Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, center, and co-defendant Cassandra Mitchell, left, and Vaughn's attorney, Chip Chamberlain, stand for the jury to enter in their trail for assaulting Ida Mae Cross, who says she rejected participating in a three-person sexual encounter.The Grand Rapids Press Photos/ Lori Niedenfuer Cool.



Ida Mae Cross demonstrates for the court how Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, held her neck during an altercation in Vaughn's home June 17.



GRAND RAPIDS --Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn claims he was trying to break up a fight between two women and defend himself, his lawyer said in his aggravated assault trial that began today in Grand Rapids District Court.

Prosecutors say Vaughn, 65, and co-defendant Cassandra Mitchell, 39, had propositioned Ida Mae Cross for a "three-way sexual encounter" at Vaughn's home in June.

Vaughn's lawyer, Chip Chamberlain, said Vaughn was just trying to break up the fight between the two women. Vaughn had just returned from funeral visitation for his brother, according to testimony.

Both Vaughn and Mitchell are on trial in the same courtroom, with two, nine-person juries in Judge Jeanine LaVille's courtroom.

In opening statements, Mitchell's lawyer, Kevin Floyd, said Cross hit Mitchell across the face with a glass vase. He said any injuries Cross sustained were a result of that.

"Somebody hits you in the face with a glass vase, the fight is on," he said.

Cross took the stand and contended she wanted no part of a three-way sexual encounter.

Prosecutors introduced photos showing blood spattered throughout Vaughn's house.

Ionia County Assistant Prosecutor Aubri Sheremet is handling the case for Kent County prosecutors to avoid any conflicts of interest.








Jury picked, date set for assault trial of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn
Published: Thursday, February 05, 2009, 11:51 AM
Updated: Thursday, February 05, 2009, 7:46 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/02/jury_picked_date_set_for_assau.html



Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn


GRAND RAPIDS -- A jury was selected today and a March 2 date set for the District Court trial of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn.

Vaughn is charged with assaulting Ida Mae Cross during a June 17 fight in his home. Cross told police that Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell propositioned her for a "three-person sexual encounter," police wrote in a warrant affidavit.

She refused, Mitchell pushed her and Cross grabbed a glass container and threw it at Mitchell as she fell, she told police.

She said Vaughn then "choked her with both hands," according to police. Vaughn, 65, insisted he only tried to break up a fight between the women.

He will be tried on a charge of aggravated assault. Jury selection for Mitchell on the same charge is set for Feb. 19.










Court hearing for Kent County Commissioner Vaughn delayed at least a month
Published: Friday, November 21, 2008, 8:52 PM
Updated: Friday, November 21, 2008, 8:53 PM
By The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2008/11/court_hearing_for_kent_county.html



Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn


GRAND RAPIDS -- A Kent County Commissioner will wait at least a month to learn if he will face trial on aggravated assault charges at the same time as an alleged accomplice.

Prosecutors are asking Grand Rapids District Judge Jeanine Laville to consolidate the trials of James Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell after they allegedly assaulted Ida Mae Cross during a June 17 fight in Vaughn's home.

The dust-up occurred after Cross allegedly refused an invitation to participate in a sex act with the other two.

Laville adjourned a Friday hearing when neither Mitchell nor her attorney, Kevin Floyd, appeared in court.

Cross suffered injuries to her eye, arms and ears, police said.

Vaughn, who represents the city's Southeast Side, has maintained his innocence and said he was trying to break up the fight.










Kent County commissioner claims privacy invaded
Friday, September 05, 2008
By John Agar
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-43/1220620550108270.xml&coll=6

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn expects to be cleared of allegations he assaulted a woman in his home.

Vaughn also said he thinks his privacy was invaded by public disclosure of items found -- such as plastic handcuffs, which he said were not his -- that he thinks have nothing to do with the allegations.

"You just violated," Vaughn said Thursday, after The Press reported on court documents filed in Grand Rapids District Court.

He said his attorney did not want him to discuss the case, but he wanted everyone to know that he did not commit a crime.

"I am just looking forward ... to being vindicated and clearing my name," he said.

The alleged victim, Ida Mae Cross, told police Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell "propositioned" her for a "three-person sexual encounter," police wrote in a search warrant affidavit.

Cross told police she refused and then Mitchell pushed her.

Cross said she grabbed a glass container and threw it at Mitchell as she fell, records showed.

She said Vaughn then "choked her with both hands," records showed.

Vaughn, 65, insisted he only tried to break up a fight between the women. He said he can't believe he faces an aggravated-assault charge based on the alleged victim's story.

"You really question the whole system," Vaughn said.

He said his constituents continue to support him, and he hasn't let the allegations keep him from helping them out. Everywhere he goes -- neighborhoods, church or the store -- he gets support, he said.

If he made a mistake, he said, he would have admitted it, taken his punishment and moved on. But he insisted he did nothing wrong.

As a politician and community leader, he said, he can take the heat, but the allegations have been harmful to his family, especially his adult children, he said.

"I'm looking forward to court. I didn't do anything. ... I just can't wait to clear this mess up."










Kent commissioner Vaughn says he will be vindicated of allegations he assaulted a woman
by John Agar
The Grand Rapids Press
Thursday September 04, 2008, 6:34 PM
http://www.mlive.com/grpress/news/index.ssf/2008/09/kent_commissioner_vaughn_says.html

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County commissioner James Vaughn expects to be vindicated of allegations he assaulted a woman at his home.

Vaughn also thinks that his privacy was invaded by public disclosure of items found -- such as plastic handcuffs, which he said were not his -- that he thinks have nothing to do with the allegations.

"You just violated," Vaughn said Thursday, after The Press reported on court documents filed in Grand Rapids District Court.

He said his attorney did not want him to discuss the case, but he wanted everyone to know that he did not commit a crime.

"I am just looking forward ... to being vindicated, and clearing my name," he said.

The alleged victim, Ida Mae Cross, told police that Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell "propositioned" her for a "three-person sexual encounter," police said in a search warrant affidavit. Cross told police she refused, before Mitchell pushed her.

Cross said she grabbed a glass container and threw it at Mitchell as she fell, records showed.

She said Vaughn then "choked her with both hands," records showed.

Vaughn, 65, insisted he only tried to break up a fight between the two women. He can't believe that he was charged based on the alleged victim's story.

"You really question the whole system," Vaughn said.

He said his constituents continue to support him, and he hasn't let the allegations keep him from helping them out. Everywhere he goes -- neighborhoods, church or the store -- he gets support. A lot of people complain about unfairness in the judicial system, he said.

If he made a mistake, he said, he would have admitted it, taken his punishment, and moved on. But he insisted he did nothing wrong.

As a politician and community leader, he said he can take the heat, but said the allegations have been harmful to his family, especially his adult children.

"I'm looking forward to court," he said. "I didn't do anything. That's what's frustrating. ... I just can't wait to clear this mess up."










Court documents reveal new information about charges against Kent County Commissioner
WZZM Channel 13 NEWS
September 04, 2008
http://www.wzzm13.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=98094

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (WZZM) - Court documents show Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn had blood on his clothes when police responded to an alleged attack at his home.

Ida Cross claims in June Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell attacked her after she refused to have sex with them.

Cross claims Vaughn choked and punched her and Mitchell cut her with broken glass.

The documents also show during their search police found blood in several rooms as well as sex toys and a video camera above the bed.

Vaughn denies the assault charges and says he was only trying to break up a fight between the two women. In August he pleaded not guilty to charges of misdemeanor assault and domestic abuse.










Evidence in assault case: blood on Vaughn's clothes
Thursday, September 04, 2008
By John Agar
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-43/1220534149248220.xml&coll=6

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn had blood on his clothes when police responded to a report of an attack on a woman in his home this summer, new court documents show.

It is part of the evidence that led to an aggravated-assault charge.

Other evidence detailed in search-warrant affidavits filed in Grand Rapids District Court included sex toys and a video camera installed over a bed. Police reported the findings in a search of the home of the 65-year-old commissioner accused of assaulting a woman after she refused a sexual advance.

The affidavits detailed the alleged victim's version of the incident, which she said turned violent when she rebuffed a request to have sex with Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell.

Vaughn is charged with aggravated assault, a high-court misdemeanor, and domestic violence. He had a pretrial conference Tuesday, with a settlement conference to be set.

Mitchell, 39, of Kentwood, is charged with aggravated assault, and could plead as charged, court records showed.

The cases are being handled by Ionia County Prosecutor Ron Schafer because of potential conflicts with Kent County prosecutors.

Grand Rapids police Detective Pete Kemme wrote in search-warrant affidavits that police interviewed the alleged victim, Ida Mae Cross, at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital after the June 17 incident in Vaughn's home, 1288 Cambridge Drive SE.

Kemme said Vaughn and Mitchell "propositioned Ida Cross to engage in a three-person sexual encounter."

Cross reportedly refused, and the women argued in the living room. Cross told police Mitchell pushed her. As she fell, Cross grabbed a large glass container -- either a vase or a fruit bowl -- and threw it at Mitchell.

The glass container broke.

Cross told police "Vaughn choked her with both hands, and Ida Cross hit James Earl Vaughn back in response, while Cassandra Mitchell picked up a piece of the broken glass container and ... began cutting her with the broken piece of glass, causing several lacerations on Ida Cross' face and wrist," Kemme wrote.

During the fight with Mitchell, Cross said "Vaughn grabbed her throat with one hand, choking her, while punching her in the face with the other hand," records showed.

She told police Vaughn ordered Mitchell to leave, which she did, before Vaughn drove Cross home.

When police went to Vaughn's home, officers noticed blood on Vaughn's clothing and body, and on his home's front door.

Vaughn told police that blood was "all over his carpeting," Kemme wrote.

In searching the house, police looked in a drawer and found various sex toys, along with red plastic handcuffs. Police also noted an Omni digital recorder above the bed in the room, records showed.

The alleged victim was Vaughn's on-again, off-again girlfriend.

Vaughn, who could not be reached for comment, earlier said he was only trying to break up the fight.










Police say they found blood when investigating assault complaint at Kent County commissioner's home
by John Agar
The Grand Rapids Press
Thursday September 04, 2008, 5:13 AM
http://www.mlive.com/grpress/news/index.ssf/2008/09/police_say_they_found_blood_wh.html

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn had blood on his clothes when police responded to a report of an attack on a woman at his home this summer, new court documents show.

It is part of the evidence that led to an aggravated assault charge.

Other evidence detailed in search-warrant affidavits filed in Grand Rapids District Court included sex toys and a video camera installed over a bed. Police reported the findings in a search of the home of the 65-year-old commissioner, accused of assaulting a woman after she refused a sexual advance.

The affidavits detailed the alleged victim's version of the incident, which she said turned violent when she rebuffed a request to have sex with Vaughn and Cassandra Mitchell.

Vaughn is charged with aggravated assault, a high-court misdemeanor, and domestic violence. He had a pretrial conference Tuesday, with a settlement conference to be set.

Mitchell, 39, of Kentwood, is charged with aggravated assault, and could plead as charged, court records showed.

The cases are being handled by Ionia County Prosecutor Ron Schafer because of potential conflicts with Kent County prosecutors.

Grand Rapids police Detective Pete Kemme wrote in search-warrant affidavits that police interviewed the alleged victim, Ida Mae Cross, at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital after the June 17 incident at Vaughn's home at 1288 Cambridge Drive SE.

Kemme said Vaughn and Mitchell "propositioned Ida Cross to engage in a three-person sexual encounter."

When Cross refused, the women argued in the living room. Cross told police Mitchell pushed her. As she fell, Cross grabbed a large glass container -- either a vase, or a fruit bowl -- and threw it at Mitchell.

The glass container broke.

Cross told police "Vaughn choked her with both hands, and Ida Cross hit James Earl Vaughn back in response, while Cassandra Mitchell picked up a piece of the broken glass container and ... began cutting her with the broken piece of glass, causing several lacerations on Ida Cross' face and wrist," Kemme wrote.

During the fight with Mitchell, Cross said "Vaughn grabbed her throat with one hand, choking her, while punching her in the face with the other hand," records showed.

She told police Vaughn ordered Mitchell to leave, which she did, before Vaughn drove Cross home.

When police went to Vaughn's home, officers notice blood on Vaughn's clothing and body, and on his home's front door, police said.

Vaughn told police that blood was "all over his carpeting," Kemme wrote.

In searching the house, police looked in a drawer and found various sex toys, along with red plastic handcuffs. Police also noted an Omni digital recorder above the bed in the room, records showed.

The alleged victim was Vaughn's on-again, off-again girlfriend.

Vaughn, who could not be reached, earlier said he was only trying to break up the fight.










Assault charge could land Kent commissioner in jail
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
By Nate Reens
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-42/1216734931247390.xml&coll=6

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn and a Kentwood woman have been charged with aggravated assault for an alleged attack in Vaughn's home last month.

Vaughn, 65, was arraigned Monday in Grand Rapids District Court on the high-court misdemeanor, and Ionia County Prosecutor Ron Schafer has authorized an arrest warrant for Cassandra Marie Mitchell, 38.

The pair are accused of assaulting Ida Cross, 46, during a June 17 dispute in Vaughn's home, at 1288 Cambridge Drive SE. The argument unfolded after Cross said she rebuffed a request to engage in a sex act with Vaughn and Mitchell.

Cross, Vaughn's on-again, off-again girlfriend, said the commissioner jumped on her on the couch and started choking her. He also struck her on the face with his fist as Mitchell cut Cross's wrist with a piece of a vase that she had thrown, Cross said.

If convicted, Vaughn and Mitchell face up to a year in jail.

"I think they're getting what they deserve," Cross said Monday. "They put themselves in that predicament and should pay the consequence.

"They really could have killed me, and I really feel that they could have been charged with something more serious."

Neither Vaughn nor his attorney, Chip Chamberlain, could be reached for comment.

Vaughn, who represents Southeast Grand Rapids, last month said he did not expect to be charged because he had done nothing wrong while intervening in a "cat fight."

"I should have kicked them out of the house and let them kill themselves in the yard," Vaughn said then.

Mitchell could not be located for comment. Schafer was uncertain when she was to be arraigned.

Schafer, is handling the case after Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth cited potential political conflicts.

Cross said she still is recovering from her injuries, including a wrist tendon that had to be surgically repaired. She has not returned to her work in a packaging department. "It was bad, but it could have been worse," she said. "It's changed my life."










Family of alleged assault victim wants Vaughn to resign
Friday, June 27, 2008
By Ken Kolker
The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- A special prosecutor assigned to investigate domestic assault allegations against Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn said he likely won't reach a decision on possible charges until after July 4.

"Generally, when we get these cases assigned to us, it takes some time," Ionia County Prosecutor Ronald Schafer said Thursday.

Vaughn, 65, said he expects he will not face charges.

His only mistake, he said, was allowing two women, including an ex-girlfriend, to continue what he called a "cat fight" in his Southeast Side home.

"I should have kicked them out of the house and let them kill themselves in the yard," he told reporters Thursday while on a tour of the Kent County Jail with other commissioners.

On Thursday, family members of Ida Cross, 46, came to a county board meeting to ask Vaughn to apologize and resign. But they arrived just minutes after the public comment portion of the meeting ended, so they issued a statement after the meeting calling for Vaughn to resign.

"Knowing this guy abused our sister, we want him out of office as soon as possible," said Cross' brother, Jarvis Beene Sr. "He should not be representing our county."

Cross, who has described herself as Vaughn's on-again-off-again girlfriend, has said Vaughn jumped on her on the couch and started choking her and striking her on the face with his fist, while another woman struck her with a piece of a vase.

Beene said Cross has stitches on an eye, an ear and her lip from the alleged 1 a.m. assault at Vaughn's home on June 17.

Vaughn was jailed for six hours last week on a probable-cause allegation of aggravated domestic assault, but he has not been charged.

When told Cross' family members were asking him to resign, Vaughn laughed. Asked for a response, he said "that's it."

"An apology for what? I didn't touch nobody," he said later. He said he was "locked up for nothing. I ain't been charged with nothing."

The case has drawn scrutiny because of Vaughn's position and because police officers were concerned Grand Rapids Chief District Judge Benjamin H. Logan opted to use a "fast-track" procedure to release Vaughn from jail, an unusual step for someone charged with assault.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth asked the state attorney general to assign an outside prosecutor because of the potential political conflict. Schafer, the Ionia County prosecutor, said the attorney general's office asked him this week to take the case, though he hasn't received any official notification.

He said he wouldn't expect to receive police reports and other case documents until after the Fourth of July holiday.

Schafer said he wasn't familiar with the case.

"I don't know who this person is or why it's newsworthy," he said.










James Vaughn says he doesn't expect to face charges for alleged assault
Posted by Ken Kolker The Grand Rapids Press
June 26, 2008 17:30PM
Categories: Breaking News
http://blog.mlive.com/grpress/2008/06/press_photoemily_zoladzkent_co.html




Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, right, stands with Kent County Capt. Randy Demory during a tour of the Kent County Jail on Thursday.


GRAND RAPIDS -- A special prosecutor assigned to investigate domestic assault allegations against Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn said he likely won't reach a decision on possible charges until after the Fourth of July.

"Generally, when we get these cases assigned to us, it takes some time," Ionia County Prosecutor Ronald J. Schafer said on Thursday.

Vaughn, 65, said he expects he will not face charges.

His only mistake, he said, was allowing two women, including an ex-girlfriend, to continue what he called a "cat fight" in his Southeast Side home.

"I should have kicked them out of the house and let them kill themselves in the yard," he told reporters Thursday while on an information tour of the Kent County Jail with other county commissioner.



Ida Cross


On Thursday, the family of the alleged victim came to a county board meeting to ask Vaughn to apologize and resign. The group missed the public comment portion of the meeting, arriving just minutes after it closed, so instead they issued a statement after the meeting calling for Vaughn to resign for allegedly assaulting Ida Cross, 46.

"Knowing this guy abused our sister, we want him out of office as soon as possible," said her brother, Jarvis Beene Sr. "He should not be representing our county."

Vaughn was jailed for six hours last week on a probable-cause allegation of aggravated domestic assault, but he has not been charged.

When told several of Cross' family members were asking him to resign, Vaughn laughed. Asked for a response, he said "that's it."

"An apology for what? I didn't touch nobody," he said later. He said he was "locked up for nothing. I ain't been charged with nothing."

Beene was joined at the meeting by his sister, Flora Johnson, and several other family members.

Beene said Cross has stitches on an eye, an ear and her lip from the alleged 1 a.m. assault at Vaughn's home on June 17.

Cross, who has described herself as Vaughn's on-again-off-again girlfriend, has said Vaughn jumped on her on the couch and started choking her and striking her on the face with his fist, while another woman struck her with a broken piece of a vase.

The case has drawn scrutiny because of Vaughn's position and because police officers were concerned Grand Rapids Chief District Judge Benjamin H. Logan opted to use a "fast-track" procedure to release Vaughn from jail, an unusual step for someone charged with assault.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth asked the state attorney general to assign an outside prosecutor because of the potential political conflict. Schafer said the AG's Office asked him early this week to take the case, though he hasn't received any official notification.

He said he wouldn't expect to receive police reports and other case documents until after the Fourth of July holiday.

Schafer said he wasn't familiar with the case. "I don't know who this person is or why it's newsworthy," he said.




Press Photo/Dave Raczkowski.
Flora Beene Johnson, sister of alleged assault victim Ida Beene Cross, calls for Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn to resign. She stands with her brother Jarvis Beene Sr. and other family members after Thursday's commission meeting.










Sheriff: Commissioner's release skirted jail rules
Saturday, June 21, 2008
By Ken Kolker
The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- Grand Rapids Chief District Judge Benjamin H. Logan did not follow the county's "fast-track" inmate release policy when he freed Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn from jail Tuesday after an alleged assault, top sheriff's officials said.

The county's Fast Track Release policy, a copy of which was obtained by The Press, shows Vaughn, 65, was not eligible because he was arrested for an alleged violent crime.

"NOTE: AGGRAVATED AND DOMESTIC ASSAULT CASES WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR FAST TRACK," according to the policy's only criterion listed in all capital letters

Vaughn's alleged victim, Ida Cross, 46, said she was surprised to learn Logan released him and that nobody had told her.

"He should get the same treatment as any other citizen would get in this situation," Cross said. "There should be no special treatment."

In an interview with The Press on Friday, Vaughn denied assaulting the woman in his home and said there was no favoritism. He had been held on a probable-cause allegation of aggravated domestic assault, but he has not been charged.

"Special treatment?" said Vaughn, who is staying at his ex-wife's home in Walker. "I didn't know which judge. Any judge would have done it. I thought the police were letting me out."

Vaughn told The Press he did not know until later that it was Logan who ordered his release.

Logan told The Press this week he "fast-tracked" the case to release Vaughn on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond six hours after he was locked up, saying it was a procedure set up to ease crowding at the jail. He acknowledged it was a step usually taken on weekends.

However, Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma said it appeared Logan wasn't using the established fast-track procedures, which also requires two separate jail officials to sign off on the release.

"It's typically for non-violent offenses, but a judge has sole discretion," Stelma said.

The judge, whose office said he was not available Friday, said earlier he released Vaughn after reviewing a police report, which he said raised questions about the commissioner's involvement. He said it was the only case he fast-tracked that day.

Grand Rapids police said they were planning to release Vaughn late in the day Tuesday, pending further investigation, and were surprised and angered to learn Logan had him released without consulting them.

Other local judges said it is within a judge's discretion to release a suspect on an interim bond -- with or without fast-tracking -- but they questioned releasing him without first asking police if Vaughn was dangerous.

Kent County District Court and the jail established the fast-track policy in 1992 to help ease crowding, Stelma said.

The fast-track policy allows the jail to release inmates arrested on non-assaultive offenses as long as they have positive identification, are not considered threats and meet other qualifications. The release must be approved by a court services worker and a jail shift sergeant, the policy states.

None of that happened in this case, sheriff's officials said.

Meanwhile, Vaughn said that "all I was doing was breaking up a fight" between two women.

Cross, who described herself as Vaughn's on-again-off-again girlfriend for the past four years, said the incident began about 1 a.m. Tuesday at Vaughn's home, 1288 Cambridge Drive SE.

She was there to comfort Vaughn, whose half-brother recently died, she said. A short time later, a second woman arrived, and Vaughn asked the women to engage in a sex act with each other in his living room while he watched, Cross said. He said he would then join them, she said.

“I didn't come over here for this," she said she told him. "He's been asking me to do this kind of stuff ever since I've known him. ... It bothered me, especially at the time of his brother's death. I'm there to support him and he's talking about that."

Vaughn denied her allegation.

"They've been trying to do that for years," he said of the women.

Cross said she was trying to leave when the other woman told her, "You ain't all that," and pushed her. "I picked up a vase and I threw it at both of them.

Everything kind of escalated."

She said Vaughn jumped on her on the couch and started choking her and striking her on the face with his fist. The other woman struck her in the face with a piece of the broken vase, she said.

Cross said she suffered cuts on her face and nearly lost her ear. She was treated at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital.

Police said Cross gave them the same account. They were continuing the investigation.

Vaughn told The Press he did not strike or choke Cross. He refused to provide details of the incident on the advice of his lawyer.

He said the incident won't hinder his duties as a county commissioner. He plans to attend Thursday's Kent County commission meeting, he said.












Judge Logan defends Vaughn's release from jail
Friday, June 20, 2008
By Ken Kolker and Barton Deiters
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-42/1213967729258060.xml&coll=6

GRAND RAPIDS -- Grand Rapids Chief District Judge Benjamin Logan said he intervened in the assault case against Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn -- releasing him from jail -- after hearing rumors about his arrest by Grand Rapids police.

The release on Tuesday, after Vaughn had spent less than six hours in jail, surprised and angered police.

Kent County Circuit Judge Donald Johnston said that, while the weekday intervention by Logan is within his discretion, it is unusual -- especially coming before charges even have been filed.

Johnston, who was chief judge of Grand Rapids District Court 20 years ago, before he was elected to the Circuit bench, said he cannot remember the move ever being made on a weekday.

"I can't see any problem with the decision on its merits, but the procedure itself is rather extraordinary," Johnston said.

Logan said the release had nothing to do with the fact he has known Vaughn for years and that they see each other at social and political events. He and Vaughn also belong to a group of black elected officials and a local social group known as Cruisers, but they are not friends, he said.

"The rumor mill floated it up," Logan said Thursday. "Due to his status in the community, I wanted to review (Vaughn's case) to see if it deserved fast-tracking. I was available, so I did it."

Logan said judges normally "fast-track" cases on weekends, setting interim bonds, to help ease crowding at the Kent County Jail. He acknowledged it was unusual to fast-track a case on a weekday. It was the only case he fast-tracked that day, he said.

"We do it on weekends; we can do it on weekdays, also."

"It was a high-profile case," he said, adding he would do the same if the mayor or a Grand Rapids Press editor were arrested. "Everybody gets different treatment in life."

Johnston chuckled when he heard this quote.

"We live in a democratic society and, although we don't always live up to it, we like the idea that everyone is treated equally before the law," Johnston said.

Johnston said fast-track release usually comes after charges have been brought to court, and the fact that this was done prior to any formal charges also makes it out of the ordinary.

Vaughn, 65, has not been charged with a crime. He was booked at the Kent County Jail at 9:26 a.m. Tuesday on a probable cause charge of aggravated domestic assault, sheriff's officials said. The high misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to a year in jail.

He is accused of attacking a girlfriend, 46-year-old Ida Cross, inside his 1288 Cambridge Drive SE home about 1 a.m. Tuesday, police and the woman's family said.

Logan said he learned about the arrest about noon Tuesday -- three hours or so after Vaughn was locked up in the Kent County Jail. He refused to say how he learned about it, though he said Kent County Commissioner Paul Mayhue was not his source.

Mayhue visited Vaughn at the jail about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and has refused to say whether he contacted Logan or played any role in the release.

Logan said his staff obtained a copy of the police report from the Grand Rapids Police Department about noon Tuesday, but he said they did not discuss Vaughn's release with detectives. He set a $5,000 interim personal recognizance bond, allowing Vaughn to leave jail at 2:50 p.m.

The judge said he reviewed the police report, which left him with questions about the case. It appears the alleged victim struck somebody first with a vase and was reluctant to press charges, he said.

"I didn't see (Vaughn's involvement) was cut and dried," Logan said.

Logan said the bond ordered Vaughn to have no contact with the alleged victim or the other woman involved in the incident. The judge said he also knows the alleged victim's brother, Jarvis Beene, a barber who cuts his hair.

"Sometimes, police like to make people sit (in jail)," Logan said. "That's inappropriate. If it was up to police, he'd still be sitting in jail. That's crazy."

Police learned Vaughn was set free when an officer called the jail Tuesday afternoon to authorize his release pending further investigation. They said they were not aware Logan was going to release him.

Tuesday's visit by Mayhue at the Kent County Jail also raised questions about special treatment at the lock-up. The public is not allowed to visit inmates on Tuesdays.

Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma said Mayhue was allowed to visit Vaughn as a professional.

"We grant professional visits to any public official," he said. "We grant professional visits to accountants, attorneys, public officials and members of the news media."

Until now, however, Press reporters have been denied professional visits and have been required to sign up as personal visitors.

Stelma said he was not aware of Mayhue's visit until a reporter told him the next day.









Commissioner Arrested: Preferential Treatment?
8:59 PM CDT, June 19, 2008
Chicago Tribune
www.chicagotribune.com/news/061908-wxmi-vaughn,0,7760617.story

Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn is accused of physically assaulting his girlfriend. Now questions are surfacing on how he was released from jail.

James Vaughn was arrested Tuesday after an incident inside his Grand Rapids home early that morning.He was released the same day, and now the alleged victim says he was able to get out without having to go to court because of his official ties.

The judge in the case, who knows the commissioner, says that's not the reason.

The alleged victim wants the most serious charges brought against him, but right now Vaughn is facing Aggravated Assault charges. The Prosecutor's Office will determine if the case moves forward.

"I was choked by James Vaughn, and hit in the face numerous times.", says the alleged victim.

She doesn't want her face shown, but says she was hurt by the man she loved most.

Her now ex-boyfriend, Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn. He's been a commissioner since 2000, representing the southeast side of Grand Rapids.

She claims it all started Monday night when Vaughn allegedly asked her to have a threesome with another woman who was with him at his Grand Rapids home. She refused.

"It made me feel like he didn't have respect for women at all.", said the alleged victim.

Even more surprising to her, a judge signed an order to release Vaughn from jail early. That's without arraignment and just a few hours after he'd been booked. All of it was also without the city attorney's office or the Grand Rapids Police Department being notified.

"He didn't receive any preferential treatment.", said District Court Judge Benjamin Logan.

Logan admitted to "fast tracking" the case, which means moving it along without an official arraignment. He says it's not because he personally knows Vaughn, but because Vaughn isn't a threat to the community and doesn't have a criminal record.

The Judge says the "fast tracking" method is used fairly often, especially on weekends when court workers are off or there's problems with the jail being overcrowded.

"It peculated up as a result of the rumors going on throughout the court and of course, any high profile situation it percles up, and you probably look at it a little stranger.", said Logan.

Vaughn couldn't be reached this evening, nor could the other woman involved in the case.

The alleged victim says her physical wounds, like this cast, don't compare to the emotional pain she's going through right now. She hopes Vaughn's early release doesn't mean he won't be charged in the case.

Vaughn was released on a $5,000 bond which he doesn't have to pay unless he doesn't show up for court. But for now, no court date has been set because he hasn't been officially charged with anything. He's been court ordered to stay away from the 2 women involved in the case.










Police irked by commissioner's fast exit from jail
Thursday, June 19, 2008
By Ken Kolker
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-42/1213881342132150.xml&coll=6&thispage=1

GRAND RAPIDS -- When Grand Rapids police called the Kent County Jail late Tuesday afternoon to authorize the release of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, who had been arrested in a assault case, they were surprised and angered to learn he had already been set free, police sources close to the investigation said.

Grand Rapids Chief District Judge Benjamin Logan had ordered him released from jail on a personal recognizance bond shortly after a fellow county commissioner, Paul Mayhue, visited Vaughn, jail records show.

Police said it is unusual for a judge to intercede without the knowledge of detectives and prosecutors.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said he was not involved in the release and had not had a chance to review the alleged assault case before Vaughn was allowed to leave.

Police said they also questioned the actions of Mayhue, who was allowed to visit Vaughn in jail shortly after his arrest even though visiting by the public is not allowed on Tuesdays.

Sheriff's Lt. Kevin Kelley said county commissioners are given special access to the jail because of their position.

Mayhue refused to comment about his jail visit and would neither confirm nor deny that he spoke to Logan about the case before Vaughn's release.

"Jim's a friend of mine," he said.

Logan did not respond to repeated requests for comment on his role in releasing Vaughn without the knowledge of police. Messages were left at his courthouse office and at his home.

Vaughn, 65, has not been charged with a crime. He was booked at the Kent County Jail at 9:26 a.m. Tuesday on a probable cause charge of aggravated domestic assault, Kelley said. The high misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to a year in jail.

He is accused of attacking a girlfriend, 46-year-old Ida Cross, inside his 1288 Cambridge Drive SE home about 1 a.m. Tuesday, police and the woman's family said.

Records show that Mayhue visited Vaughn at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, although they don't indicate how long he stayed, Kelley said.

About two hours later, at 2:50 p.m., Vaughn was released after Logan set a $5,000 personal recognizance bond, a bond that does not require cash to be posted.

Vaughn, who has represented Southeast Grand Rapids in the county's 17th District since 2000, could not be reached for comment.

On his voicemail at Grand Rapids Community College, where he works in the job training program, he said he was off until July 7 to grieve the recent death of his brother and for vacation.

He told investigators he was breaking up an argument between Cross and another person inside the house.

Relatives of the woman said she is recovering from cuts to her arms and facial injuries after being treated at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital.

Kelley said police routinely arrest suspects on probable cause, which then requires a review by prosecutors who decide whether to issue a warrant.

Forsyth, the prosecutor, said his office prosecutes aggravated assault charges, but it had not received any reports on the case from the Grand Rapids Police Department.

"The last I heard is (detectives) were trying to get some additional interviews done," Forsyth said. "I only know what I saw in the media."

If his office gets the case, he would ask the state Attorney General's Office to appoint a special prosecutor from another county, Forsyth said.

If lesser domestic violence charges are filed against Vaughn, the Grand Rapids city attorney would handle the case, Forsyth said.

Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish said she could not comment on the investigation or the commissioner's release from jail because the investigation is pending.










Domestic assault probe of commissioner continues
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
By Nate Reens and Ken Kolker
The Grand Rapids Press
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-42/1213794931296890.xml&coll=6

GRAND RAPIDS -- A Kent County commissioner arrested Tuesday for an alleged domestic assault was later released from jail pending further investigation by police.

James Vaughn, who has represented Southeast Grand Rapids in the county's 17th District since 2000, is accused of attacking 46-year-old Ida Cross, inside his house at 1288 Cambridge Drive SE about 1 a.m., Tuesday, police and Cross family members said.

Vaughn, 65, has not been formally charged with a crime but was brought to the Kent County Jail on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge, jail officials said. He was released after about six hours, authorities said.

Jarvis Beene, a brother of Cross, said his sister is recovering from a "busted eye" as well as cuts on her arms and an injury to one of her ears. She was treated at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital and may have to undergo surgery, Beene said.

Family members said after a fight inside Vaughn's home, he later drove her to her residence. Once there, the woman's son noticed the injuries and called one of Cross' sisters, who took her to the hospital.

Vaughn did not answer the door at his house and did not return calls for comment. He told investigators he was breaking up an argument between Cross and another person inside the house.

The woman's injuries were reported to police by hospital personnel, who told her they had to inform authorities after hearing of the alleged assault, said one of Cross' sisters.

Cross told hospital employees she did not want to press charges, her sister said.
Police interviewed Cross at the hospital, and further investigation is expected. Police searched the home and left with four or five bags of evidence.

Vaughn and Cross have been seeing each other about four years, relatives said.
Neighbors said they have never heard this kind of trouble at the house. One resident said, "As far as neighbors go, he is a really nice man."

Several commissioners declined to comment on the allegations, saying they were not aware of the facts of the investigation.

Harold Voorhees, a Republican who represents the Wyoming area as the 9th District representative, said he feels sorry for Vaughn's family. Vaughn recently had a brother die after a battle with cancer, and the funeral was held Tuesday. It is unclear if Vaughn was able to attend.

"They've got to be grieving, and what happened, I don't know," Voorhees said. "My prayers and concern are with him and the woman."

Brandon Dillon, a Democrat who fills the District 18 slot for Northeast Grand Rapids, said the allegations seem out of character compared to the side of Vaughn he has seen.

"It's obviously a very serious situation," Dillon said. "We have to put our faith in law enforcement that they will conduct a thorough and fair investigation."

It does not appear the allegation would threaten Vaughn's status as a commissioner. He can only be removed from office because of neglect or confinement in a state prison.

The misdemeanor offense is punishable by 93 days in a county jail and a fine, if Vaughn were charged and convicted.

Vaughn, a Democrat, returned to the board after a 12-year absence, having previously served as 17th District representative from 1982 to 1988.

He is unopposed in the August primary and likely would face Republican Brian Kroll in the November election. Vaughn beat Kroll in 2006 with 6,664 votes to 2,313.

Vaughn works in the job training department at Grand Rapids Community College and is a former Grand Rapids city employee.










Trouble At Home For Kent County Commissionerby John McNeill
WKZO 590AM
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
http://wkzonews.blogspot.com/2008/06/trouble-at-home-for-kent-county.html

Domestic assault charges against Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn have been dropped pending further investigation. The alleged victim in the case, Ida Cross, says she was physically assaulted by Vaughn and a another woman. But now Flora Johnson, a relative of Cross, says she does not want to press charges. Cross was treated and released. Vaugn's status with the county commission remains unchanged.










Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn booked on charge of domestic assault, jail officials
Muskegon Chronicle
June 18, 2008 02:05AM




Press Photo/Emily Zoladz Grand Rapids Police Detective Pete Kemme gathers evidence from the home of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn Tuesday afternoon in East Grand Rapids. Vaughn was arrested earlier that morning for domestic abuse charges.




Press Photo. A Grand Rapids Police cruiser sits in front of the home of Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn on Tuesday morning.



GRAND RAPIDS -- A Kent County Commissioner arrested Tuesday for an alleged domestic assault was later released from jail pending further investigation by police.

James Vaughn, who has represented Southeast Grand Rapids in the county's 17th District since 2000, is accused of attacking a girlfriend, 46-year-old Ida Cross, inside his 1288 Cambridge Drive house about 1 a.m., police and the victim's family said.

Vaughn, 65, has not been formally charged with a crime but was booked at the Kent County Jail on a misdemeanor domestic assault offense, jail officials said. He was released about six hours after he was brought into the lockup, authorities said.

Jarvis Beene, a brother of Cross, said his sister is recovering from a "busted eye" as well as cuts on her arms and an injury to one of her ears. She was treated at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital and may have to undergo surgery, Beene said.

Family members said after a fight inside Vaughn's home, he later drove her to her residence. Once there, the woman's son noticed the injuries and called one of the victim's sisters, who took her to the hospital.

Vaughn did not answer the door at his house and did not return calls for comment. He told investigators he was breaking up an argument between Cross and another person inside the house.

The woman's injuries were reported to police by hospital personnel, who told her they had to inform authorities after hearing of the alleged assault, said one of Cross's sisters.

Cross told hospital employees that she did not want to press charges, her sister said.

Police interviewed Cross at the hospital, and further investigation is expected. Police searched the home and left with four or five bags of evidence.

Vaughn and Cross have been seeing each other about four years, relatives said.

Neighbors said they have never heard this kind of trouble at the house. One resident said, "As far as neighbors go, he is a really nice man."

Several commissioners declined to comment on the allegations, saying they were not aware of the facts of the investigation.

Harold Voorhees, a Republican who represents the Wyoming area as the 9th District representative, said he feels sorry for Vaughn's family. Vaughn recently had a brother die after a battle with cancer and the funeral was held Tuesday. It is unclear if Vaughn was able to attend.

"They've got to be grieving, and what happened, I don't know," Voorhees said. "My prayers and concern are with him and the woman."

Brandon Dillon, a Democrat who fills the District 18 slot for Northeast Grand Rapids, said the allegations seem out of character compared to the side of Vaughn he has seen.

"It's obviously a very serious situation," Dillon said. "We have to put our faith in law enforcement that they will conduct a thorough and fair investigation."

It does not appear the allegation would threaten Vaughn's status as a commissioner. He can only be removed from office because of neglect or confinement in a state prison.

The misdemeanor offense is punishable by 93 days in a county jail and a fine, if Vaughn were charged and convicted.

Vaughn, a Democrat, returned to the board after a 12-year absence, having previously served as 17th District representative from 1982 to 1988.

He is unopposed in the August primary and likely would face Republican Brian Kroll in the November election. Vaughn beat Kroll in 2006 with 6,664 votes to 2,313.

Vaughn works in the job training department at Grand Rapids Community College and is a former Grand Rapids city employee.










Kent County Commissioner arrested on domestic assault charge
Posted: June 17, 2008 11:12 AM CDT
Updated: June 17, 2008 06:42 PM CDT
By Joe LaFurgey
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) -- Kent County
http://www.woodtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=8512145

Commissioner James Vaughn was arrested by Grand Rapids police Tuesday morning and booked on a domestic assault charge. He was released in the afternoon.

The victim's sister told 24 Hour News 8 Vaughn and her sister had an on-again, off-again relationship for the past four years.

They had broken up, but the victim was helping Vaughn prepare for the funeral for his brother.

"If he had left her alone, this wouldn't have happened," said Flora Johnson, the victim's sister.

Johnson said Vaughn invited her sister to his home on Cambridge Boulevard SE Monday night.

Another woman arrived at the home, and the victim and second woman got into a fight. The victim allegedly threw a vase after she was allegedly pushed to the ground by the second woman. The vase didn't hit anyone, but broke against a wall.

Johnson said the second woman began cutting her sister with pieces of the vase. That is when Johnson claims Vaughn got involved.

"The second time, she must have fallen on the floor or he pushed her on the floor and he began to choke her," said Johnson.

Despite her wounds from the alleged slashing, Johnson said Vaughn drove her sister home instead of taking her to a hospital. It was Johnson who eventually took her sister to get medical help.

Johnson said while this is the first evidence of any physical violence, she claims there was emotional abuse between Vaughn and her sister.

"I'm so tired of her being hurt, ya know? 'Cause he could have just left her alone. But he kept sucking her in," said Johnson.

Grand Rapids police will only confirm the arrest of Vaughn. They are not commenting on the second woman or if they expect to make other arrests.

24 Hour News 8 checked state and federal records, which show Vaughn has no prior criminal convictions.

Vaughn represents the 17th County Commission District , which includes a large portion of the city of Grand Rapids.









Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn jailed
The Grand Rapids Press
June 17, 2008 10:21AM
http://blog.mlive.com/grpress/2008/06/kent_county_commissioner_james.html

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn is jailed this morning on an undisclosed charge.

Grand Rapids police Det. Pete Kemmy, of the department's family services division, entered the home with a search warrant around 12:20 p.m.

Police brought Vaughn to the jail around 9:30 a.m., jail records showed. Police gathered outside of the commissioner's home on 1288 Cambridge Dr. SE this morning.

An officer at the scene said police were there to serve a search warrant.James Vaughn.

Vaughn is awaiting booking at the Kent County Jail and is expected to post bond and be released. Charges were not available.

A Democrat, Vaughn has represented Southeast Grand Rapids in the county's 17th District since 2000. He won the spot after a 12-year absence from the board. He had previously served as 17th District representative from 1982 to 1988.

He is unopposed in the August primary and would likely face Republican Brian Kroll in the November election. Vaughn beat Kroll in 2006 with 6,664 votes to 2,313.

Vaughn works in the job training department at Grand Rapids Community College and a former Grand Rapids city employee.

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