Man wins appeal over being sentenced by video

Posted at 3:08 PM, August 20, 2021 and last updated 8:01 PM, June 14, 2023

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has granted a new hearing to a man who claimed his rights were violated when he was sentenced for a crime by video, a common practice during the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Christian participated and spoke during a hearing last fall in Oakland County court and had a lawyer present. But the appeals court still found problems.

“At no point during the hearing did the trial court obtain a waiver of defendant’s right to be physically present in the courtroom for sentencing,” judges Jane Markey and Brock Swartzle said in a 2-1 opinion Thursday.

Christian, 38, was convicted of uttering and publishing, a crime typically related to forging documents, and sentenced to a minimum of a year in prison.

Judge Michael Riordan disagreed with the majority, saying Christian failed to show that the error “affected substantial rights.”

“He has not shown or even argued, for example, that he would have received a lighter sentence if he was physically present,” Riordan said.

Christian remains in prison for other unrelated crimes in Macomb County.