Ex-trooper gets $1M bond in teen’s ATV death

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — A former Michigan State Police trooper charged with causing the death of a 15-year-old Detroit while the boy was riding his ATV in August was given a $1 million cash surety bond during his arraignment Thursday.

Mark Bessner, who stood in court with his attorney, Richard Convertino, appeared in shock as a court officer came to take him into custody before 36th District Court Magistrate Bari Blake Wood.

“I certainly didn’t expect that,” said Convertino of the bond outside the courthouse. “It’s a very high bond for a case like this in any circumstances.”

Convertino later said he looks forward to presenting the facts in the case to a “dispassionate, fair-minded jury of Wayne County residents.”

Michigan State Trooper Mark Bessner is arraigned in 36th District Court on a second-degree murder charge with a bond of $1 million.

Noting that a teenager tragically lost his life, he said the case is one that evokes “enormous passion in the community, and we understand that.”

Bessner was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder and two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Damon Grimes on Detroit’s east side. A not-guilty plea was entered on Bessner’s behalf Thursday at his attorney’s request. Bessner stood mute Thursday during the arraignment.

State police officials said Grimes did not obey an order to stop driving his ATV illegally in the street on Aug. 26. In violation of department policy, Bessner, a passenger in his 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. According to the state police, they were not charged this week, but an internal investigation would be conducted.

Worthy and state police officials said a state police supervisor told another trooper to remove the Taser wire from the scene. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wednesday there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the supervisor with a crime.

Bessner is due back in court Jan. 4 for a probable cause hearing and Jan. 11 for a preliminary examination.

If convicted, Bessner faces up to life in prison.

Convertino said his client is “not going anywhere” and had asked for a personal bond for Bessner. He will have to wear a GPS tether if he is released on the high bond.

The assistant prosecutor did not request a specific bond amount, leaving it to the discretion of the magistrate. He told her he was not asking any “special treatment” for the former trooper.

Detroit Police officer Lonnie Wade is arraigned by video in 36th District Court in Detroit Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Detroit Police Officer Lonnie Wade, who was off-duty at the time of his alleged crime, was arraigned in connection with the assault of a man at Meijer grocery store in Detroit. The video-recorded beating of the 23-year-old man, David Bivins, went viral. Wade, 65, is seen in the video beating Bivins around 8:40 p.m. Oct. 10.

Wade was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and felonious assault. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Wade was given a $50,000, 10 percent bond with a GPS-tether requirement.

He is due back in court for a probable cause conference 8:30 a.m. Jan. 2 and 9 a.m. Jan. 8 for a preliminary examination.

Detroit police officer Richard Billingslea is arraigned by video in front 36th District Court in Detroit Thursday.

Another Detroit police officer, Richard Billingslea, 25, was arraigned on charges in connection with the assaults of Michaele Jackson, 39, and D’Marco Craft, 26, both of Detroit, at a Mobil Gas Station in Detroit. He was charged with great bodily harm, aggravated assault and misconduct case. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Billingslea allegedly became involved in a verbal confrontation at 1:40 a.m. May 31 at the gas sation in the 17000 block of Harper when the argument escalated and Jackson was pepper-sprayed and beaten.

Craft recorded the incident on his cell phone, which was confiscated by another officer who responded to the incident. The cell phone was disposed of in a trash can in the store, authorities say. Jackson was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Billingslea was arraigned on two separate cases before the magistrate.

He received a $50,000, 10 percent bond. He must wear a GPS tether if he is released on bond.

A probable cause conference for him is scheduled for 8: 30 a.m. Jan. 2. His preliminary examination is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 8.


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