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Preliminary Exams delayed for 8 Grand Rapids riot suspects

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 16:47:48-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Eight suspects charged in the Grand Rapids riots will have to wait a few weeks for their preliminary exams.

Those were supposed to happen today via Zoom, but after several motions from defense attorney’s, the Judge has decided to push those back to August.

All but one defense attorney moved to have preliminary exams pushed back until they could happen in person, saying it’s nearly impossible properly hear from witnesses via Zoom conference.

Another big motion presented is to have the Kent County Prosecutors Office removed from a few of these cases, with lawyers saying there’s a conflict of interest since the Prosecutor’s Office building and the Kent County Courthouse were both damaged in those riots.

Olivia Hull was one of the suspects that appeared in the Zoom conference Wednesday morning. Hull is charged with one count each of rioting, breaking and entering, and malicious destruction of property. Grand Rapids police claim she’s the one seen in surveillance video trashing the inside of Sundance Grill downtown.

Chris Nicholas, Director of Marketing Restaurant Partners Management, LLC was hoping to get to see Hull in court, even if only on a screen.

“We want to make sure that they're brought to justice, but also in a in a fair way that they can then hopefully rehabilitate from this understand that their actions have consequences,” Nicholas said.

Jeff Cramptom, the lawyer for another suspect and Partner at Koernke & Crampton said that even though Zoom has served a purpose, it just doesn’t cut it for a preliminary exam.

He said, “You have the right to be confronted with the witnesses against you and it’s a lot harder to do that if you’re not in the same room with that person. You lose facial expressions all of that. You also don’t know if someone is in the background queuing them.”

Cramptons client, Matthew Hurth is charged with rioting and malicious destruction of a Wyoming police car, though he’s not charged with setting it on fire.

Crampton adds that this case is an emotional one for the city.

“There’s damage to the Prosecutor’s Office, there is damage to the courthouse, there’s damage to restaurants that people like and I think that is a very emotional thing for people,” Crampton said.

The damage to county property is the reason why several attorneys want the prosecutor’s office off the case, citing a conflict of interest.

After hours of back and forth, the Judge said he will consider the motion and make a decision at a later date.

The plan for now is to host preliminary exams in a large multi-purpose room in the courthouse, which is something Crampton feels will go on as planned, but he said the rest of the process is full of unknowns.

“Are you going to be able to find enough people who didn’t hear about it, or didn’t keep up on it, or didn’t read about it every day and don’t have an opinion on it? Are you going to be able to find that here in Kent County? That might be tough, ” Crampton said.

For that reason, he anticipates a few lawyers requesting to have their trials moved outside of kent county.

FOX 17 talked to Prosecutor Chris Becker who said while he can’t talk specifics on the case, he feels his team laid out a clear argument as to why they should remain on the case.

As of right now, preliminary exams are scheduled for August 3rd and 5th in a large multi-purpose room in the courthouse to comply with social distancing.