2018-05-24 / Front Page

County gets $38,000 bill from Minore

by Alan Campbell
of the Enterprise staff

Prosecution of the man Leelanau County law enforcement officials believe robbed an Empire bank at gunpoint may not occur here, but taxpayers have been picking up the cost of his defense right along.

The public defender representing William F. Minore has submitted a bill to Leelanau County seeking reimbursement of $38,804, perhaps the largest sum ever sought for the defense of an indigent defendant. Some $37,612 of the total is due for the services of defense attorney William Burdette, whose job it is to defend people accused of a crime who lack the monetary means. Burdette charges $85 per hour.

“I do not recall there ever being a bill that high,” said county Clerk Michelle Crocker, who plans to attach the statement along with other bills needing authorization from the County Board of Commissioners to pay.

The statement starts with an invoice dated Dec. 1, 2016, to attend Minore’s arraignment and to conference with his client. It ends with an invoice dated April 24, 2018, to conference with a process server.

For most of the time between those dates, Minore remained in Leelanau County Jail await- ing trial for three felony charges: armed robbery, a life offense; unlawful driving away of a motor vehicle, a five-year charge; and firearm possession in commission of a crime, a 2-year charge.

However, last month at the request of federal law enforcement authorities Leelanau County dropped its charges against Minore, yielding to an FBI investigation that was suppose to reduce costs to try Minore in Leelanau and Benzie counties. County Prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell believes Minore had committed two similar bank robberies in Benzie before turning his attention to Empire.

That prosecution plan was cut short by a decision by a U.S. Magistrate in Grand Rapids not to charge Minore for bank robbery, citing a lack of evidence.

Minore is currently out of jail on a personal recognizance bond while awaiting trial in Grand Traverse County for two felony counts for possession of Taser guns. Minore’s warrant in Grand Traverse County is for possession of Tasers that were seized during his arrest.

His legal troubles have continued since being arraigned in 86th District Court on Oct. 4, 2016, for unlawfully driving away a motor vehicle that was parked about one month earlier in front of Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor. The Leelanau County Proseuctor’s Office theorized that Minore stole that car as a diversion for a bank robbery he committed on Sept. 7, 2016, in Empire in which about $40,000 was stolen.

The money has never been found.

Burdette acknowledges that the legal bill is high, but notes that Minore was charged with three serious crimes. His client appealed a decision made in Circuit Court to allow evidence of the Benzie robberies into the Leelanau trial all the way to the Supreme Court. County prosecutors eventually prevailed.

“There is so much to this case,” Burdette told the Enterprise. “The whole case was based on circumstantial evidence. They never had any direct evidence, they didn’t find any fingerprints, they didn’t find the gun, they didn’t find the clothes. There has been no identification of him.”

Hubbell is hopeful that a federal Grand Jury based in Grand Rapids will eventually charge Minore under federal law for the bank robberies.

“I do know that they are pursuing continuing the charges, and the process they would proceed with is the grand jury system,” Hubbell said. “But it’s going to take a while; everything moves slowly in the federal system.”

If Minore is not indicted in federal court, Hubbell plans to reissue charges in Leelanau County.

Hubbell understands why the legal bill was so high.

“They were serious charges. It’s unfortunate that the feds didn’t take up the matter early on, but they didn’t. But whatever the bill is, it would have been substantially more if we had gone to trial,” Hubbell said.

Burdette believes his client, who has no criminal record, is innocent. He said the FBI interviewed two suspects from Lake Ann who failed polygraphs, and computer-generated diagnostics of surveillance photos of the suspect don’t match Minore’s height and build.

Burdette said he had subpoened FBI experts to testify for the defense.

“I don’t know why the feds wanted to take the case. I imagine they are sorry now because they lost it. I don’t think they had enough evidence.

“I don’t think he did it,” he said.

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