Today was a big day in the world of criminal law. A hero to many was convicted of a crime that the media focused on and the story is trending across Facebook and Twitter of Bill Cosby being deemed guilty of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. While many in the #MeToo movement are celebrating a victory, we have to take a step back and analyze just where the future of Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) is heading and we have to ask if those accused are facing conviction before the complaint has even been drawn up? We will discuss 3 different situations and break down the concept with commentary and a study of the situation.
I: Bill Cosby
Cosby was a hometown hero in the Atlantic City, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. In the Spring of 2017, a jury could not determine if Mr. Cosby was guilty or not. A fierce movement on social media pushed forward and now the 80-year-old icon may die in prison. Is he guilty? The facts suggest that Cosby had culpability but the fact that there were two trials will lead many to wonder whether his constitutional rights were violated.
II: Larry Nassar
Nassar is a name that brings shame to Michigan State University. A once famed individual that was the United States Gymnastic National Team was found guilty on the federal level and pled guilty on the state level to child molestation crimes. With Nassar, we found a situation where Judge Rosemarie E. Aquillina gained national fame when she stated, “I just signed your death warrant.” The #MeToo Movement praised the judge and from all aspects of the case, it appeared there may have never been a case where guilt was more of a certainly than Nassar in the state of Michigan. While Cosby left pundits wondering if he should’ve ever been tried a second time, the Nassar decision seemed very black and white. But for every Larry Nassar there is a Brian Alexander.
III: Brian Alexander
Alexander is a case of a Michigan State Trooper that was false accused of a crime. Brian Alexander was only 33 years of age when he was convicted on four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct after a 2015 trial in Ingham County Circuit Court. A judge later vacated that decision and the case then went through the Michigan Appellate Court system. Alexander was awaiting a second trial when the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges on Sept. 25, 2017. Brian Alexander is a case of an innocent man that will forever have his name tarnished because of false allegations. With the #MeToo Movement certainly justified in their anger over allegations that have been overlooked, we do have to remember there are times when a false allegation can destroy the life of an innocent man. The case of Brian Alexander presents this situation.
As we look into the situation deeper, the concept of objectivity is one that can easily be lost. In talking to top litigators in the field, we see that their job is growing more and more difficult. Scott Grabel has developed a reputation as the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. It was Grabel that led the charge in gaining the freedom of Brian Alexander and has been at the forefront of many of the top CSC defenses cases in the state of Michigan. Grabel provided input into CSC Defense when he commented, “The game is getting much more difficult. With Brian Alexander, we had to go to the Michigan Supreme Court to fight for Mr. Alexander and there is no doubt in my mind that the man is 100% innocent and even with that fact in hand, Brian suffered one false conviction that we had to overcome. In all of our CSC defense matters, we see a team effort and I’m lucky to have an amazing team. With litigators like Peter Samouris and brilliant legal writers like Tim Doman, our clients will get the best possible outcome but in the current state of affairs, guilt is the presumption and innocence is the battle. We need to be ready for that battle.”
Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and his firm has evolved into a top criminal defense firm. McManus provided commentary when he stated, “Cases like Nasser and Alexander are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Nasser was certain guilt, Alexander was clear innocence and even with that, it was a brutal yet successful battle. Cosby is a game changer. I don’t know if the man is guilty but being tried twice for the same crime should upset raise some eyebrows. We have allegations from a long time ago, we have a case that was tried without a conviction and now we have a man that is going to die in prison. As litigators, we are going to have to step up our game. We do need to protect the innocent and there are those that are innocent that are going to face convictions if we do not do our jobs. Our firm is lucky enough to have a legal mind like Peter Winter coaching us but without a team effort, the client will suffer.”
Ravi Gurumurthy is the founder of Michigan Legal North and an Associate for Grabel and Associates. Gurumurthy has quickly developed a reputation as a top criminal defense attorney in Cadillac, Michigan and has seen a lot of change since he began practicing. Gurumurthy stated, “The frequency of CSC allegations is on the rise in our state more than any other. Michigan has become a hotbed for these allegations and the Nassar case brought our state into the spotlight. The Cosby verdict is one that will have resounding affects across the criminal defense world.”
Sometimes, the difference between guilt and innocence will lay with the talent and work ethic of the attorney. The Alexander decision provided a blueprint for how a CSC defense is supposed to be prepared. Hopefully, criminal defense lawyers follow the lead of Scott Grabel or else the future looks bleak for those accused of a CSC regardless of guilt or innocence.
William Amadeo is a partner at the law firm Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. In addition to his legal duties, Amadeo is a widely-published writer. He can be reached at Williamamadeo@Grabellaw.com.