New trial date for former MSP trooper in teen’s death

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The trial date has been delayed for a former Michigan State Trooper charged with causing the death of a 15-year-old while the Detroit teen was riding his ATV last August.

Mark Bessner appeared in court Monday for a brief hearing in which a new date for a jury trial was scheduled for him to stand trial in the death of Damon Grimes.

Bessner, who was originally scheduled to stand trial July 9, is now scheduled for Aug. 20, nearly a year after Grimes was killed.

Bessner is accused of Tasering Grimes, causing the teen to crash into a parked flatbed truck Aug. 26. The teen died from blunt-force head trauma.

State police officials allege Grimes did not obey an order to stop driving his ATV illegally in the street on the city’s east side. Bessner, in violation of Michigan State Police department policy, allegedly used his Taser on Grimes.

Two other state troopers — including Ethan Berger, who drove the police cruiser the day of the incident, according to police sources, and another who allegedly mishandled evidence from the crime scene — were suspended as a result of an investigation into Grimes’ death. Neither has been charged with a crime.

Bessner has been charged with second-degree murder and two counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Grimes. If convicted, Bessner faces up to life behind bars.

Bessner faces a final pre-trial conference date June 8. The trial will be held before Third Circuit Court Judge Margaret Van Houten.

The former Michigan State Trooper also has been the subject of abuse complaints in the past.

According to records reviewed by The Detroit News, Bessner was among several state troopers who were sued in cases in federal court and Wayne County Circuit Court for using excessive force.

In a 2013 federal case, the lawsuit claimed Bessner and other state troopers spotted Martin McCurtis standing outside Sinai-Grace Hospital’s emergency room and attacked him for no reason.

“The defendants suddenly and violently seized plaintiff by tackling and throwing him to the ground,” the lawsuit said.

“Bessner repeatedly struck plaintiff’s body and gratuitously kneed him in his face and head multiple times as plaintiff was lying defenseless on the ground. The other defendants joined in the unprovoked physical assault of plaintiff.”

The federal suit further stated police sought a warrant against the man for resisting and obstructing a police officer.

“After reviewing the evidence, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office refused to authorize a warrant against plaintiff,” the lawsuit said.

Separately, the Wayne County suit, involving the September 2014 traffic stop in Detroit, also was dismissed.

That lawsuit alleged Bessner and other troopers chased motorist Michael Crittle after running his license plate.

The lawsuit alleged when Crittle stopped, the troopers broke his passenger window and used a Taser on him before Bessner pulled him out of the window and handcuffed him.

In the suit, Crittle said troopers threw him to the ground, and he suffered a broken arm.

During a preliminary examination in the case, Bessner admitted he used the Taser on the motorist, including once after the man was in handcuffs.

“He was ordered to exit. He didn’t comply. He was Tasered multiple times until we were able to handcuff him,” said Bessner, according to court records.

That case was dismissed in January 2016 for non-service reasons.

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