Emmet Circuit Court. LC No. 13-003839-FH.
Before: SAAD, P.J., and OWENS and K. F. KELLY, JJ.
[309 Mich.App. 379] Henry William Saad, P.J.
Defendant appeals his jury conviction of failing to register as a sex offender, pursuant to MCL 28.729(2). For the reasons stated in this opinion, we affirm.
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Defendant is a convicted sex offender, and was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his most recent crimes. In January 2013, in anticipation of defendant's release from prison, a notary public met with defendant to witness his receipt of a notice explaining his obligations under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA), MCL 28.721 et seq. The document stated that MCL 28.725a(3)(c) required defendant, as a " tier III offender," to verify his address four times a year within four separate intervals: the first 15 days of January, April, July, and October. Defendant read the form, signed it, and initialed its different provisions, save for a section instructing him to pay a $50 fee for [309 Mich.App. 380] registration, which he specifically rejected. According to the notary who witnessed defendant's reading and signing of the form and subsequently notarized it, defendant stated that he understood the form, and refused to pay the $50 registration fee. Defendant received a copy of the form after he signed it.
After his release from prison on February 18, 2013, defendant registered as a sex offender at the Emmet County Sheriff's Office, as required by MCL 28.725a(3)(c). However, defendant did not visit the sheriff's office to verify his address between April 1 and April 15. On April 16, the Michigan State Police alerted local law enforcement that defendant did not comply with his obligations under SORA. The prosecution charged him with violating MCL 28.729(2) in the Emmet Circuit Court, which empanelled a jury to hear the case.
Because defendant is indigent, the state appointed an attorney to represent him, who, by chance, had prosecuted defendant for his earlier sex offenses. Nonetheless, defendant--who was aware that the attorney had prosecuted him--did not object to the appointment, and even stated that the attorney is a " good lawyer."
Soon after the completion of jury selection, defendant's counsel, outside the presence of the jury, informed the trial court that defendant wanted substitute counsel. The attorney explained that, the night before and the morning of trial, defendant told him [309 Mich.App. 381] that he should not have waived the preliminary examination, and complained of a supposed lack of communication between counsel and defendant. Defendant then spoke with the trial court, and claimed that his attorney had discussed his defense strategy with the prosecution and the court--namely, whether defendant could claim that he did not " willfully" violate MCL 28.729(2). The court explained to defendant that both his attorney and the prosecution had submitted their proposed jury instructions, and that the court would not include an instruction
on willfulness as an element of the SORA violation. It also told defendant that his lawyer had not discussed any other trial strategy with the trial court or the prosecution.
After defendant stated that he had told his attorney the night before trial that he no longer wanted the attorney to represent him, the trial court denied his request for substitute counsel. The trial court stated that defendant's effort was " an improper tactical maneuver . . . on the morning of trial to impede progress of this matter," and further stressed that (1) defendant was aware of his attorney's prior prosecution of him from the beginning of the representation, and yet did not object to the appointment, and (2) defense counsel was a skilled attorney who ...