This is a TNB Public Service Announcement. Don’t deceive Judge Middleton
We at TNB were not aware this message needed to be provided. We were wrong. Events during Zoom chats in Judge Jeffrey Middleton’s Michigan courtroom have demonstrated the need for this friendly reminder.
The Judge live streams video from his Zoom chat “courtroom” in the interest of keeping his presentations open to the public. On March 8, 2021, viewers were able to see a man plead guilty to driving on a suspended license with no insurance. He’d been pulled over while driving at 75 mph on a small country road, and the Ford Taurus he’d been driving contained six passengers: three other adults and three children (one of whom lacked a seat belt.)
While the complaint was fairly routine, the setting the defendant chose for his Zoom chat wasn’t: the driver’s seat of a vehicle.
The judge was understandably upset. After confronting the defendant about the apparent brazen defiance of the charges against him, the defendant explained that he was with his boss at a client’s house, and did not want to have to set up the chat in that house. He’d received permission from his employer to go into the employer’s vehicle and set up the chat call. The judge accepted his rationale, but the oddity of the defendant calling to plea to a driving violation while in the driver’s seat made statewide headlines.
It probably received an outsized measure of attention because of what had happened just the week before. On March 2, during a hearing regarding domestic abuse and potential restraining order violations, Prosecuting attorney Deborah Davis noticed something odd which she brought to the attention of the judge: the defendant and the witness had similar backgrounds in their respective chat windows.
The judge pressed the defendant to explain, but defendant and witness alike insisted they were in different homes. After unsatisfactory explanations, the judge instructed both people to independently step outside of the home and take a picture of the house number.
The defendant refused. As the hearing continued, the judge called the police to the home of the woman who had filed the restraining order. Not only was the defendant there, but those viewing the judge’s live stream could watch him being arrested and brought away by the local police force.
It’s been a month, and following those two incidents the feed hasn’t captured anything as unusual as the March madness… but the year’s still young.
Question of the night: When was the last time you were in court?