CENTREVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Most judges will say witness intimidation happens from time to time, and that it usually happens outside the courtroom where it’s hard to prove.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing courts to go virtual, a recent witness intimidation case in St. Joseph County was tougher to hide.
“Your honor, I have reason to believe the defendant is in the apartment of the complaining witness right now, and I am extremely scared for her safety,” Assistant St. Joseph County Prosecutor Deborah Davis told a judge during a hearing to determine if Cody Harris should stand trial.
The hearing was conducted over Zoom and posted to YouTube.
Harris is accused of beating his girlfriend at her Sturgis apartment last month. He’s been charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. The felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Harris’ status as an habitual offender could bump the sentence to 15 years.
Before the hearing, Davis was tipped off to the fact Harris may be at the accuser’s home in a different room than her during the hearing.
News 8 has decided to not name the victim at this time.
The reason the woman let the suspect inside her home is unclear.
Domestic violence victims are often prone to intimidation by their abusers. The demeanor of both the suspect and accuser helped confirm Davis’ suspicions.
“The fact that she’s looking off to the side and he’s moving around, I want some conformation that she is safe before we continue,” Davis told the judge.
Harris told the judge he was at a home on West Lafayette in Sturgis. District Court Judge Jeffrey Middleton then set up a trap.
“I want you to walk out to the front of the house, show me the house number on the house,” Middleton said to Harris.
“Uh… why … I … I don’t even think this phone has the charge for that. Sir, I’m at like 2% right now,” Harris told the judge.
But Sturgis police were already at the front door of the victim’s home. Moments later, the Zoom hearing recorded Harris being put in handcuffs.
“You’re honor, me and (the victim) both don’t want the no contact. I asked that, that be dropped. I’m sorry I lied to you. I knew the cops were outside,” Harris appealed to the judge.
“Mr. Harris, my advice is don’t say anything else. Take the cigarette out of your mouth. The hearing is adjourned,” the judge said.
Harris’ bond was revoked. He faces additional charges and is being held in jail.
“We’re serious as a heart attack. It’s the first time I ever had anybody sitting in the next room, potentially intimidating a witness of assault, great bodily harm,” Middleton said.
Harris’ next court appearance is scheduled for March 16.