A judge refused for a second time Thursday to lower the $1 million cash bond for a former Michigan State Police trooper charged with causing the death of a 15-year-old Detroiter while the boy was riding his ATV in August.
Judge William McConico of 36th District Court, called defense attorney Richard Convertino’s request to reduce the bond for Mark Bessner “offensive.”
Bessner is charged with murder in the Aug. 26 death of Damon Grimes, who crashed into a truck after the trooper fired a Taser at him during a police pursuit in Detroit.
Convertino said a 36th District Court magistrate abused her discretion Dec. 21 when she set the $1 million cash bond for Bessner.
But McConico told Convertino the high bond “seems in line for murder.” The judge said defendants in an assault and battery case involving a fight in Greektown were given $5 million this past summer.
“This is a murder case, this is not assault … this is not embezzlement. This is a murder case,” McConico told Convertino.
Convertino argued that Bessner was not a flight risk or a danger to the community. The defense attorney later asked for a personal bond, saying an officer-in-charge of the Michigan State Police’s investigation into the case said he would not object to a personal bond for Bessner.
McConico shot back: “A personal bond with a person who’s dead is offensive” and later added, “There is inherently a flight risk. There is a danger to the community because he’s charged with murder.”
Convertino said Bessner is an attorney and has ties to the community. The lawyer said the case represents a “very unique” set of circumstances, which included an “on duty action” that allegedly resulted in Grimes’ death.
McConico told Convertino he would order a pretrial services report on Bessner to get more information on the defendant but denied the request to lower the bond Thursday.
“Bond will remain,” said the judge.
Grimes’ family filled the courtroom wearing T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of the teen on it. Two members of Bessner’s family attended. Neither family would comment on the case Thursday.
McConico extended the date for Bessner’s preliminary examination to Jan. 24. If convicted, Bessner faces up to life in prison
He was charged last month with second-degree murder and two counts of involuntary manslaughter in Grimes’ death on Detroit’s east side. A not-guilty plea was entered on Bessner’s behalf at his arraignment.
State police officials said Grimes did not obey an order to stop driving his ATV illegally in the street. Bessner, a passenger in a squad car, used his Taser on Grimes, who then crashed into a parked flatbed and died from blunt-force head trauma.
State police suspended Bessner because he allegedly deployed his stun gun from inside a moving vehicle, a violation of department policy. He later resigned.
Two other state troopers — including Ethan Berger, who drove the police cruiser, according to police sources, and another who allegedly mishandled evidence at the crime scene — also have been suspended as a result of an investigation into Grimes’ death. Neither has been charged with a crime.
Community activist the Rev. W.J. Rideout, who along with the Rev. David Alexander Bullock led several protests calling for the prosecution of Bessner, praised McConico’s decision Thursday not to lower Bessner’s bond.
“Hats off to (the) judge for not lowering bond,” Rideout said.
“(Bessner) thought he was and is above the law. His action showed racism, discrimination and severe, harsh police brutality against an unarmed black … 15-year-old kid, which resulted in Damon Grimes’ death.”