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Gokey waives prelim; Westrom case remains in district court

December 2, 2009
By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - Testimony resumed in a preliminary examination for one of two remaining Hawks Ridge fraud case defendants Tuesday, ending without a ruling from Marquette County District Court Judge Roger Kangas on whether Joel Westrom will be bound over to circuit court for trial.

Westrom, 40, formerly of Marquette and most recently of Texas, is facing four fraud-related felony counts involving development of the latter phases of the Hawks Ridge Condominium complex in Marquette.

Co-defendant Michael Gokey, 43, of Marquette waived his preliminary examination on the same four charges Tuesday. He is scheduled to be arraigned in circuit court at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 8.

Article Photos

The Hawks Ridge fraud case continued Tuesday with a preliminary examination in district court. From left, defendant Joel Westrom and his attorney Sarah Henderson, prosecuting attorney David Payant and Detective Steve Snowaert of the Marquette Police Department. (Journal photo by Christopher Diem)

Gokey attorney Andrew Griffin and prosecutor David Payant declined to comment Tuesday on Gokey's circumstances.

Last month, the same four felony charges were dropped against Ryan Bruns, 36, of Marquette, Brian Swift, 48, originally from Escanaba, and Chad LaVallie, 36, originally from Kingsford. Swift and LaVallie have been living in the Chicago area.

Those three former co-defendants are cooperating with the state in its prosecution of Gokey and Westrom.

The trio returned $75,000 to an allegedly defrauded victim in the case prior to the dismissal of the charges.

Testimony began in the preliminary examination last month during a one-day session.

At that portion of the hearing, one prosecution witness testified. Payant called five witnesses Tuesday.

Westrom attorney Sarah Henderson did not call any witnesses to testify Tuesday. But after reviewing some interview tapes, Henderson will make a final determination whether witnesses will be summoned on Westrom's behalf.

Payant has until Dec. 11 to file a written brief to Kangas on the definition and roles of building contractors. Henderson will have until Dec. 18 to file a response brief.

"The court will decide bind over on the briefs," Kangas said.

In his ruling, Kangas will determine whether a crime was committed and whether there is probable cause that Westrom committed that crime. If so, Westrom will be tried in circuit court.

Westrom and Gokey remain free on bond.



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