Court considers if Benton Harbor teen should be tried as an adult

A Benton Harbor teen charged with sexually assaulting a postal worker was in court Tuesday as a judge decides whether or not he’ll be tried as an adult.

“I am convinced after having heard his [prosecutor’s] conversation with her [victim] that there would be a basis for the court to make a probable cause determination,” said the defense attorney, referring to a conversation he had with the prosecutor after the prosecutor met with the alleged victim.

So the 16-year-old suspect – whose name we are not revealing unless he’s tried as an adult – agreed to waive his Phase I hearing Tuesday before Berrien County Judge Mabel Johnson Mayfield.

“You understand that if I accept the Phase I waiver, the next step is the Phase II?” asked Judge Mayfield, to the teen, who was cuffed by his ankles and wrists. “And that’s where we’ll determine – the court will decide whether it should go to the adult jurisdiction or not. You understand that?”

“Yes,” said the suspect.

It was around noon on Friday, March 31 when prosecutors say the suspect walked out of his home on McAlister Street in Benton Harbor and approached a passing female mail carrier.

It is alleged the suspect then grabbed the postal worker, brought her to the side of his home, then allegedly sexually assaulted her, before letting her go and going back inside.

The teen nearly whispered in responses to the judge Tuesday.

His attorney spent ample time telling the judge he had explained what this next step meant for his client if he were to be tried as an adult.

“What’s important about understanding today – what you’re waiving – is the right, in the adult arena, to then have a preliminary exam,” said Judge Mayfield. “There will not be a preliminary exam because you waived the probable cause hearing today.”

The Phase II hearing – where the suspect will learn if he’ll be tried as an adult – is scheduled for May 19. 

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