MUNISING - An Alger County man convicted Thursday of the racially-motivated threatening of a black man and his family at their Trenary home last July will be sentenced next month in Munising.
Casey Clarence Trobridge, 41, of Trenary was found guilty by an Alger County Circuit Court jury of seven women and five men, who deliberated for almost four hours Thursday before returning their verdict.
Trobridge, who remains free from custody pending his next court appearance, was convicted of ethnic intimidation, a two-year felony. He will be sentenced at 10 a.m. Feb. 23.
After the jury’s guilty verdict was announced Thursday, Clarence Casey Trobridge sits with defense attorney Derek Swajanen. An obviously disappointed Trobridge bowed his head at the counsel table as the jury foreman read the decision. (Journal photo by John Pepin)
Prosecutor Karen Bahrman - who during her closing argument characterized the testimony of Trobridge and former codefendant Max Charles Fisher as "badly-choreographed perjury," which "fails the fall down laughing test"- said she was pleased with the verdict.
"That is kind of a difficult statute to work with and I think the jury worked very hard through all of those issues," Bahrman said.
Defense attorney Derek Swajanen deferred commenting on the verdict until after sentencing. He told jurors he found his client's testimony to be "very credible," saying "very rarely does someone take the stand and tell their side of the story in a criminal case."
Trobridge testified that on July 17 he approached the back deck of the trailer where Sean Lewis lived with his Caucasian wife and their 2-year-old son, just as a conversation between Lewis and Fisher, 32, of Eben Junction was ending. Trobridge said he'd had six or seven beers over the course of the evening,
"The only thing I heard was Max saying something about 'You're not welcome here,'" Trobridge said. "I didn't even know what that pertained to."
Fisher testified Wednesday he had told Lewis "not to get comfortable," because as a black man he wasn't welcome there.
Trobridge said he and Fisher were walking to the curb where his ex-wife and a fellow Blackhawks motorcycle club member were waiting in a car. As they were getting in the vehicle, Lewis' wife Tara approached to within about three feet.
"She was coming across the yard aggressive at us," Trobridge testified. "She said, 'What's your problem white trash n- , trailer trash?"
Trobridge said he was surprised by what she said, unaware what was happening. He said no explicit or implicit threats were made, including any warning issued to leave town or else.
"There was no kind of threats made on my part whatsoever," Trobridge said.
Trobridge conceded he and Fisher ended the conversation at the car by telling Tara Lewis to "go back to your n- ."
"It was a reaction to what she had said to me earlier," Trobridge said.
Trobridge said he didn't know why Fisher testified Trobridge had gone to the Lewis' door with him "as backup."
"A lot of the statements he made on the stand I didn't understand," Trobridge said.
Bahrman suggested Trobridge had access to all the police reports and heard witness testimony at an August court session and Fisher's testimony this week, which he used to develop what he would tell jurors.
"You've had six months to conform your story to the testimony," Bahrman said.
Trobridge retorted, "I've had waited six months to tell my side of the story."
Bahrman told jurors the Lewises clearly had no motive to fabricate their story, which she said was corroborated by Fisher's testimony, with the exception of any threats being made.
"The only verdict that's faithful to the facts and the law and fair to everyone is guilty," she said.
Swajanen suggested Bahrman's cross-examination of Trobridge wasn't extensive because "it's hard to poke holes when Mr. Trobridge was talking about the truth."
Swajanen said Trobridge got caught up in the situation with Fisher and didn't threaten anyone.
"He wasn't trying to commit an ethnic intimidation," Swajanen said.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is jpepin@miningjournal. net.