MARQUETTE - Five Northern Michigan University hockey team players are currently scheduled for jury trials next month in Marquette County District Court on misdemeanor charges involving stolen bicycles.
The five freshmen charged and free pending trial - after each paying 10 percent of a $2,500 bond - are Dylan Stanley Walchuk, 19, Mitchell Kurtis Jones, 19, Jake Scott Baker, 20, and Eric Brian Walker, 18, all of British Columbia, and Daniel Henry Vandercook Jr., 21, of downstate Farmington Hills.
The incidents involved were alleged to have occurred on or about Sept. 23.
"They all involved thefts of bikes on campus and people who were in possession of those bikes," Marquette County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Glenn Sarka said.
All five defendants are being represented by Marquette attorney George Hyde III. They waived their arraignments and a pretrial conference was held Oct. 27.
"We're set for trial, there was no (plea) agreement at pretrial," Sarka said.
Hyde said each of the cases is being handled separately, though all five defendants are scheduled for jury trial at 8 a.m Dec. 6. At that time, if one case is ready for jury trial, the others would be rescheduled for other days.
Hyde declined to comment further on the case.
Walchuk is charged with receiving and concealing stolen property valued at less than $200, a 93-day misdemeanor. Court records said he was in possession of a white GT mountain bike.
Vandercook, Jones and Baker were each charged with one count of receiving and concealing stolen property valued greater than $200, but less than $1,000. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, or three times the property value, whichever is greater.
Court records said Vandercook possessed a stolen Huffy Ironman bike and Jones and Baker, a tan Columbia mountain bike.
Walker is charged with stealing a maroon Trek bicycle, valued at more than $200, but less than $1,000, a one-year misdemeanor. The crime is also punishable by a fine of $2,000 or three times the property value, whichever is greater.
The case is being investigated by NMU Public Safety officers. Sarka said there potentially could be others charged in the case.
"We've had warrant requests on others, we haven't made a decision on those yet," Sarka said, without revealing whether those persons are also players on the NMU hockey team.
NMU head hockey coach Walt Kyle, who traditionally has not commented on past discipinary issues, and interim athletic director Steve Reed both declined comment today and referred all inquiries to Northern's Director of Communications and Marketing, Cindy Paavlola.
According to Paavola, all five freshmen are going through the NMU student discipinary process for university code violations as well as an athletic review committee for disciplinary infractions.
Appeals are pending for some players, though Paavola was unable to say for whom, just that all five are in different stages.
She also declined comment on the charges.
"The process is moving along and doesn't happen overnight," Paavola said. "It's just like any other judicial process."
Walchuk, Baker and Jones have been mainstays in the Wildcats' lineup this season as the team is off to a 4-3-3 overall start and ranked No. 14 in the nation by USCHO.com among NCAA Division I hockey programs.
Jones, a defensemen, scored a pair of goals this season against the University of Michigan at the Berry Events Center and had two assists against St. Cloud State University. Fellow defenseman Baker has an assist.
Walchuk, a forward, leads all NMU freshmen in scoring with a goal and four assists.
Walker and Vandercook have not appeared in any games this season.
The Wildcat hockey team is on the road this weekend, playing at Ohio State University at noon on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday. Northern returns to host Michigan State University Nov. 18-19 at the Berry Events Center.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.