Judge hears various motions in Carlson CSC case

Daniel Carlson (center) listens with his attorney, Roger Wotila (left) while his other attorney, Lisa Kirsch Satawa (right), argues a motion Wednesday in Mecosta County’s 49th Circuit Court. Carlson is charged with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. (Pioneer photo/Emily Grove)

BIG RAPIDS — Several motions were argued Wednesday in Mecosta County’s 49th Circuit Court regarding the case of a Farmington Hills attorney charged with sexual assault.

Daniel Carlson, 34, of Farmington Hills, was arrested in March on two felony charges — one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of obstruction of justice. However, the obstruction of justice charge was later dismissed.

The criminal sexual conduct charge stems from an accusation Carlson assaulted an incapacitated woman in October 2016 at a Halloween party at Tullymore Golf Resort.

A trial for Carlson had been scheduled for December, but it’s been moved to begin on Tuesday, Feb. 27. On Wednesday, Carlson’s attorneys and Mecosta County prosecutors argued their respective positions on various motions filed by the defense.

The first motion addressed asked for a modification of Carlson’s bond, specifically to remove the tether he’s been wearing since March.

“The tether is redundant, expensive and inconvenient,” said Lisa Kirsch Satawa, one of Carlson’s attorneys.

Kirsch Satawa stated her client has not violated any of his bond conditions and has had no contact with his accuser.

Because of his financial means combined with evidence in the case, Amy Clapp, chief assistant prosecutor, argued Carlson is a flight risk.

“It is interesting the defense wants to call this a false allegation when the DNA shows it was the defendant’s DNA on the vaginal swab of the victim,” Clapp said. “To modify bond, the court needs to look at the likelihood of conviction and we have a much higher chance of conviction now that we know the defendant was there … That gives him more incentive to flee if the tether is off.”

Kirsch Satawa responded, arguing just because DNA was found does not mean a crime was committed, and that is for the jury to decide after hearing the case.

Ultimately, Judge Kimberly Booher denied the motion to modify bond.

The next motion heard in court dealt with the defense requesting a protective order regarding some of the content of Carlson’s phone, which has been seized by police and data extracted from it.

Kirsch Satawa explained Carlson is an attorney and may have received correspondence from clients, which would be privileged information. At the very least, she asked the court have a third party review the content before it’s turned over to the court to ensure no protected, confidential information would be released. Kirsch Satawa also was requesting to receive the extracted data and reports, which she and Carlson’s other attorneys have yet to receive.

Prosecutor Brian Thiede responded the data had been extracted already, but it not readable and is being analyzed by an expert with the Central Michigan University Police Department. The lieutenant is reviewing and looking for photos, which is what the search warrant authorized. Other files, such as texts and emails, are not within the search warrant and won’t be analyzed, he added.

Booher ruled to have an order drafted instructing the expert at CMU not to hand over any photos that appear to be attorney work product or private, client information. If a question arises, the officer is to notify the court for Booher to review the photos.

“However, I can’t imagine a police officer would not know by looking at something. My understanding is he’s looking for photographs of women, so I can’t imagine that would be that difficult to determine if it applies (to the case) or it doesn’t,” Booher said.

In a related motion, Kirsch Satawa argued the unanalyzed, extracted data should be turned over to the defense, as well as a report the prosecution has which states the data has been extracted.

Clapp said it is a small, half-page report, which she is happy to hand over, but the full report has not been given to the defense because it is not complete. Once it is done, the full report will be turned over.

But Kirsch Satawa believed the defense should be able to have its own experts analyze the data without having to wait for the expert from CMU.

Booher decided to grant the motion in part, ruling the report should be given to the defense, but denying the extracted data needed to be handed over. Once it is analyzed, the defense will receive a copy of the data along with the full report, Booher said.

Another motion brought forward addressed the defense arguing a warrant was improperly issued by a magistrate, when the case was bound over to circuit court. Roger Wotila, one of Carlson’s attorneys, stated the warrant should have come from circuit court.

The defense also alleged a police officer who conducted the search physically grabbed and left bruises on a Tullymore employee.

Booher said she will issue a written opinion on this motion at a later date.

The morning in court wrapped up with Booher deciding to hold an evidentiary hearing at a later date to listen to testimony from about a dozen witnesses. If permitted, the prosecution plans to have these witnesses testify in trial about alleged “other acts” or conduct by Carlson.

After listening to their testimony at the hearing, Booher will decide if their testimony is appropriate and if it will be allowed at trial. A date for the evidentiary hearing has not been set.

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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