STURGIS, Mich. — A Michigan court defendant finds himself in even more trouble after he got caught attending a Zoom hearing from his alleged victim’s home last week.
Coby James Harris, 21, of Sturgis, faces an assault charge stemming from a Feb. 9 argument with his girlfriend, Mary Lindsey. Both Harris and Lindsey were attending a livestream court hearing March 2, along with attorneys and Judge Jeffrey Middleton.
The entire hearing was streamed on the judge’s courtroom YouTube channel.
Harris was out on bond at the time, and one of the bond conditions was that he was to have no contact with Lindsey.
It was a sharp-eyed prosecutor, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Davis, who first noticed that something appeared off. As she questioned Lindsey about what took place during the February argument, Lindsey’s eyes kept darting to her left, away from the camera.
Her answers to the prosecutor’s questions were also evasive.
At the same time, Harris appeared to hit a button on his phone, at which point his screen went black for a few moments.
Davis told Middleton she believed Harris and Lindsey were in the same location.
“Your Honor,” Davis said. “I have reason to believe that the defendant is in the same apartment as the complaining witness right now, and I am extremely scared for her safety. The fact that she’s looking off to the side and he’s moving around, I want some confirmation that she is safe before we continue.”
Watch the entire hearing below.
“Ms. Lindsey, where are you right now?” Middleton asked.
“Um, I’m at a house,” she responded. “It’s my house.”
Middleton demanded to know the address, which she gave him.
A police officer participating in the Zoom hearing could be seen talking on the phone to someone, though his microphone was muted and the conversation could not be heard. He later identified the person on the other end of the line as a police officer who went to Lindsey’s home.
When asked his location, Harris told the judge he was at a home on East Lafayette Street.
He declined, however, to take his cellphone outside and snap a photo of the house number, telling the judge his battery was low and that the phone was plugged into a wall charger.
At that moment, Davis told the court that police officers were knocking on the door of Lindsey’s apartment.
“Ms. Lindsey, would you go answer the door?” Middleton asked.
“Take your phone with you so that we know you’re OK,” Davis told her.
Lindsey could be seen walking to the door and answering it, at which point her connection to the call dropped.
Harris, who kept looking off-screen, also vanished from the call.
“We may need to adjourn this, your honor,” Davis said.
The judge, police and prosecutors sat silent for several moments, waiting to see what was going on at Lindsey’s apartment. When Lindsey’s livestream came back online, Harris was being handcuffed.
A cigarette jutted from his lips as he addressed the court.
A visibly upset Davis facepalmed as she realized her hunch had been correct.
“Your Honor, me and Mary both don’t want the no-contact (order). I ask that that be dropped,” Harris said. “I’m sorry I lied to you. I knew the cops were outside. I don’t know why I...”
Middleton interrupted Harris.
“Mr. Harris, my advice is, don’t say anything else. Take the cigarette out of your mouth,” the judge said. “The hearing is adjourned. Your bond is canceled.
“If you have $10 million, you can’t bond out. In addition, the prosecutor’s probably also going to charge you with obstruction of justice.”
Middleton said that even if both Harris and Lindsey want the bond conditions lifted, prosecutors do not.
“We’re serious as a heart attack,” the judge said.
Middleton indicated that the unique situation, made possible by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a first in his career.
“This is an issue we didn’t have when we were having live court,” the judge said. “That’s the first time I ever had anybody sitting in the next room potentially intimidating a witness to assault.”
Harris, who was arrested for violating his bond, appeared to deny attacking Lindsey during the February incident.
“Don’t say any more about it,” Middleton warned him. “Your bond is canceled. You’re digging your hole … you hit bottom and you’re continuing to dig.”
The hearing was rescheduled for March 16.
Harris faces a charge of assault with the intent to create great bodily harm, a felony that carries up to 10 years in prison. Harris, who was charged as a habitual offender, faces an enhanced sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
It was not immediately clear what additional charges he will face following the court hearing.