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Michigan prosecutor spots man accused of assault in victim's home in virtual hearing

The Detroit News

A Michigan assistant prosecutor is being lauded for her sharp observations after she suspected a defendant with a no-contact order against him involving a woman was joining a livestreamed court hearing from the home of the woman.

"I have reason to believe that the defendant is in the same apartment as the complaining witness right now and I'm extremely scared for her safety, and the fact that she is looking off to the side and he's moving around," says Deborah Davis, an assistant prosecutor from St. Joseph County. "I want some confirmation that she is safe before we continue."

Coby Harris is charged with assault of his girlfriend and had a no-contact order issued in the case from Sturgis, according to WDIV (Channel 4). The video of the hearing, which was streamed on March 2, has been viewed 1.4 million times on YouTube.

The judge, Jeffrey Middleton of 3B District Court, intervenes after Davis' concern and asks the complaining witness where she is at. 

"I'm at a house," the witness says, slowly.

"What's the address?" the judge says. 

"My house," she offers.

The judge presses: What's the address?"

She gives it. The judge then asks defendant Harris: Where are you? He replies with a different address. 

The judge asks if he's on a laptop or phone during the meeting. Harris says he's on a phone.

The judge instructs him to walk to the front of the house where he claims he's at and display the house number.

'"Uh, why?" Harris says. "I don't even think this phone has the charge ... I'm at 2%."

That's when the assistant prosecutor tells the court that police are knocking on the witness' door. The judge asks her to answer her door.

She's instructed to take her phone with her "so that we know you're OK," Davis says.

The judge explains that this is "an issue we didn't have when we were in live court. This is the first time to my knowledge if he is in the same venue that this has occurred. Kudos to the Sturgis Police Department for following up on this." 

Coby Harris then offers that he and the witness don't want the no-contact order and apologizes for lying to the judge about where he was.

The judge wasn't buying it.

"Take the cigarette out of your mouth," he orders Harris. "The hearing is adjourned, your bond is canceled. You have $10 million; you can't bond out. In addition, the prosecutor's probably also going to charge you with obstruction of justice.

" ... It's the first time I ever had anybody sitting in the next room potentially intimidating a witness ..."

A comment on the YouTube video suggested someone send Davis flowers. "Thank God she was observant and spoke up about what her instincts were telling her," the post said.