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Adult charges against I-75 rock throwing suspects can be dismissed, appeals court rules

Prosecutors want to charge four younger suspects as juveniles. Fifth suspect served a prison sentence and was released
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 2:08 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that adult charges against four suspects in the deadly I-75 rock throwing case can be dismissed.

The Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office asked to dismiss the adult charges against Mark Sekelsky, Mikadyn Payne, Trevor Gray, Alexzander Miller last year. Instead, prosecutors want to charge the four suspects as juveniles so they can receive treatment in the juvenile justice system.

”All we ever wanted to do was seek rehabilitative services in the juvenile system. None of that’s available in the adult system,” said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton. “And we were vindicated by the court of appeals that said there was no hint in the record of improper motive on the part of the prosecuting attorney.”

Genesee County judge Joseph Farah denied a request to drop the adult charges. However, a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that judges cannot exercise the level of authority over which charges a prosecutor files that Farah imposed.

The appeals court ordered the adult charges against the four suspects to be dropped at Leyton’s request.

The suspects are accused of throwing rocks off the Dodge Road overpass onto the southbound lanes of I-75 in Vienna Township in October 2017. One of the rocks crashed through a work van and killed 32-year-old Kenneth White, who was riding as a passenger.

The four younger suspects were 15 or 16 years old at the time, but prosecutors initially charged them as adults with second-degree murder.

During the years-long legal process, defense attorneys representing the four suspects developed a plan for the teens to plead guilty to manslaughter and be sentenced as juveniles. The teens withdrew their guilty pleas after Farah rejected that deal.

Leyton then announced a plan to withdraw the adult charges and file new juvenile charges against them. However, Farah ruled that the adult charges could not be dropped and the appeals court overturned his ruling Thursday.

If sentenced as juveniles, the court would have oversight of the four suspects’ treatment and education until they turn 21. Defense attorney Mike Manley said Gray, Payne and Sekelsky have been receiving an education in jail through Genesee County’s IGNITE program.

“They’re going to be our neighbors. They’re going to be the parents that our kids go to school with, and what we want to do is build them back up,” Manley said.

A fifth suspect, Kyle Anger, was 17 when the incident occurred and went through the adult court system. He was sentenced to 39 months behind bars and released from custody in January.

Miller was released from custody on $25,000 bond last summer while awaiting further court proceedings. Gray, Payne and Sekelsky have remained in jail since the incident nearly three and a half years ago.

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