Rifle-Carrying Teen Going to Trial After Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Birmingham Case
Troy 18-year-old Sean Combs faces a jury pre-trial set for July 9 in front of 48th District Court's Marc Barron.
Sean Combs, the Troy 18-year-old arrested in April after he was found carrying a loaded rifle through downtown Birmingham, will be taking his case to trial.
At an evidentiary hearing Wednesday at 48th District Court, Judge Marc Barron denied a motion to dismiss the three charges against Combs, submitted by his attorney James Makowski.
Barron set a jury pre-trial for 1:30 p.m. July 9, with the jury trial set to begin at 8:30 a.m. July 11.
Combs is charged with brandishing a firearm, disturbing the peace and obstructing an officer after an April 13 incident at the corner of Merrill and South Old Woodward. Combs was arrested around 10 p.m. after refusing to show police officers identification after they asked about the M1 Garande rifle strapped to his back, police reports state.
Under Michigan law, as an adult Combs was legally allowed to carry the weapon and not required to show identification. However, police stated they requested it because Combs looked "very young."
After the hearing Wednesday, Makowski said Barron's ruling wasn't completely unexpected because the defense has to shoulder the burden of proof during the evidentiary hearing. When they go to trial, that burden of proof will be shifted onto the city.
"I don't think they can meet that burden of proof," Makowski said. "This battle is lost but we haven't lost the war."
Leading up to the hearing, attorneys debated the definition of the key charge facing Combs: brandishing a firearm. In his brief, Makowski said Combs was not "waving or displaying the weapon in a threatening manner," and thus was not brandishing.
However, in a brief filed on behalf on the city by Mary Kucharek of Beier Howlett, P.C., Kucharek said Combs met the definition of "brandishing" outlined by Birmingham's ordinance and state law. According to city ordinance, brandishing a firearm is illegal except for police officers, or when gun owners are purchasing and transporting a weapon, hunting or engaged in target practice.
"(The) Legislature could have included walking down a public street with a firearm strapped to one's back (as one of the legal exceptions), but it did not because such activity has no legitimate purpose," Kucharek wrote.
Barron said Wednesday that Birmingham's ordinance regarding brandishing firearms is clear and mirrors Michigan law, and Combs' conflict with the brandishment charge is "without merit."
"City ordinances must follow constitutional law," Barron said. "(However) Home Rule cities have specific authority to enact ordinances in the interest of the city."
It was much the same for the remaining two charges, with Barron dismissing Combs' claims that Birmingham's ordinances regarding disturbing the peace and obstructing an officer were over-broad and vague.
In his brief, Makowski said public disturbances were caused by the arresting officers. "Mr. Combs was simply walking down the street minding his own business," Makowski said. "Any public disturbance that resulted from this encounter came about due to the actions of the Birmingham Police themselves."
However, Kucharek said Combs' interaction with police — which included a loud argument, briefs say — attracted a crowd of teenagers that had to be dispersed by police.
"Courts have the authority to assume ordinances are constitutional unless it's clear (that they are not)," Barron said.
Still, Barron noted that though there was no reason to drop the charges, that doesn't mean Birmingham's evidence will stand up at trial.
"This does not mean that (Combs') conduct was illegal," Barrron said, "or that Birmingham's evidence will stand up in a jury trial."