Teenager to face trial for Saline armed robbery
Despite all of the prosecution’s witnesses testifying they were not able to identify him before Tuesday, a Saline teenager will stand trial for armed robbery and assault after a judge’s ruling.
James Brewer, 16, will face trial for one count of armed robbery, one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, after a ruling by 14-A District Court Chief Judge Kirk Tabbey. He is due in court for a pretrial hearing at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 15 in front of Washtenaw Trial Court Judge David Swartz.
Brewer had his case bound over to Washtenaw County Trial Court despite three witnesses saying that they did not know Brewer and two witnesses saying they did not know what his face looked like. Police say Brewer punched and robbed a man of marijuana.
Brewer is currently out of jail on a 10 percent of $75,000 bond. He is being charged as an adult. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Katie Stiver, the girlfriend of the victim, testified she never saw Brewer’s face during the July 26 incident but was able to identify Brewer in court by his “stance and demeanor.”
“I'd know that frame anywhere. I have never seen his face before but I know that stance, that demeanor,” she said, adding that once she saw Brewer in the parking lot of the courthouse, she was sure he was the man who had robbed her boyfriend.
The victim, Justin Galea, testified he had set up a drug deal with Emily “Rosie” Beach, 16, earlier in the day and was expecting her to come and buy marijuana. He was sitting on a stoop outside of the Six Trails Apartments in Saline just after 11 p.m. when he was approached by four men, one of whom punched him in the head and began searching through his pockets. Another man, who stood near him, held a gun and threatened Stiver and her mother with it when they approached the stoop.
Beach also is being charged as an adult and has already had her case bound over for trial.
Galea said he believed it was Brewer who had hit him and was searching though his pocket, saying, “Where is it, where is it,” before taking the bag of marijuana and running off with the other men.
He said he had never met Brewer before but was aware of him. Galea contradicted a statement attributed to him in the police report from the incident, which said that he knew Brewer and had been punched by him before.
“You never said, ‘I thought it was James Brewer,’” Washtenaw County Assistant Public Defender Christopher Renna asked Galea.
“I had heard through the grapevine that it could be this man, but I said that I wasn’t sure,” Galea said.
Galea testified that he was selling marijuana that night without any promises of immunity from police or Washtenaw County prosecutors. He said he was aware that he could be charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in the future.
Stiver said she had gone outside the apartment complex to throw away a trash bag full of cat litter when she saw three men approaching the front of the apartment building. She said the three men joined with another man and began assaulting Galea.
She said she attempted to go intervene but a short, skinny man held a gun to her forehead and told her to be quiet. Stiver testified that she had never seen the man holding the gun or the man who punched and searched her boyfriend’s pockets before. However, in court on Tuesday she said the man who was searching her boyfriend was Brewer.
Renna took issue with Stiver saying she was able to identify Brewer by his demeanor.
“Your entire basis is seeing someone in the parking lot of the courthouse,” he said.
Police have not identified the other three men who were involved in the incident. Each of the witnesses testified Brewer was not the man with the gun. None of the victims in the case were ever shown a photo lineup to identify Brewer because Brewer was not a suspect when they were interviewed, according to police.
Tabbey said it was not out of the ordinary that people could identify suspects without ever seeing their faces, as Stiver testified.
“The fact that she didn’t think she could identify him until she sees other things isn’t unusual,” he said.