Arson suspect ‘objects’ to judge’s orders

Posted at 7:28 PM, Feb 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-21 01:47:22-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Mitchell Hapner, 41, was charged with arson today. He allegedly set fire to Hollywood Nights, an adult novelty shop on Westnedge Avenue.

The Kalamazoo business burned down on Wednesday, February 18th. It's been leveled.

Hapner said he wanted to 'eradicate porn,' according to Kalamazoo police chief Jeff Hadley. Police said someone saw Hapner try to hide an ax in a dumpster.

It came out in court that someone else got a good description of Hapner's vehicle at the scene. A few hours later, a Kalamazoo County sheriff's deputy spotted his vehicle in Comstock Township. He led the deputy on a short chase and crashed into a snow bank. Hapner was arrested after slipping on the ground.

He's also been charged with fleeing and eluding. Additionally, the judge ordered a mental health evaluation and possible counseling.

"I object to that your honor," Hapner replied to the order.

He continued, "I'm sorry, I'm not the lawyer in... But uh, ya know."

Attorney Donald Smith interjected, "Mitch, we'll talk about this. We'll talk about it."

Smith is representing Hapner. He said he's known Hapner for three decades, but hasn't had much contact in recent years.

"The Mitch Hapner I know wouldn't have done something like this," Smith told FOX 17.

Smith said he knows his client has had some issues. However, he said Hapner behaved normally when he consulted with him this morning. Smith couldn't disclose the details of his conversation with his client.

"He was a conscientious business man. He owned a hairstyling salon in town and took his profession seriously," Smith recalled.

The attorney said he (himself) isn't authorized to speak with Hapner's family yet. However, the family posted a statement on their front door saying the 41-year-old has suffered from mental illness, and they've tried to get him the help he needs.

Smith told FOX 17, "If he, in fact, did what he's accused of, then that would be the only explanation that would make sense in my mind based on my personal experience with him."

The attorney told the judge that Hapner has never been in trouble with the law, before the judge set bond.

Meantime, the company started a Gofundme, donation page. On it, the store owner expressed sadness and disappointment and said their store was "built and thrived on love, not raunchiness or sin."

Hapner's preliminary examination is scheduled for early March.