Judge denies motions for convict’s attempt to withdraw pleas for criminal charges
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Chief 46th Trial Court Judge George J. Mertz denied a pair of motions filed on behalf of a former Grayling resident serving a lengthy prison sentence, arguing that defense attorneys provided ineffective counsel.
Terry Mathew Streib, 54, was sentenced to serve 25 years to 40 years in prison for three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct causing injury on April 17 of this year. Streib was also ordered to serve seven years and four months to 15 years for a charge of unlawful imprisonment. He was given credit for 456 days served in the Crawford County Jail for the sentences he is serving concurrently to one another.
Streib, who lived in Standish but is a former Grayling resident, was arrested by Troopers from the Houghton Lake Post of the Michigan State Police following an incident that took place in the City of Grayling on Jan. 10, 2016.
First Lt. Joshua Lator, the commander of the Houghton Lake Post of the Michigan State Police, said Streib broke into the home of a person he knows, then committed several crimes, including attempting to murder that person.
Kathryn Simmons, an appellate attorney representing Streib, sought to have his plea withdrawn.
First, Simmons argued that Kyle Legel, a Gaylord defense attorney retained by Streib, failed to file a request for a change of venue for a jury trial. She argued that his history and ties to the community could have impacted Streib’s right to a fair trial. Streib was a well-known paddler in the AuSable River Canoe Marathon for several years before his arrest.
Mertz ruled that Legel did not provide ineffective counsel to Streib because he was no longer representing him when plea discussions began.
“Mr. Legel had been discharged well before the plea was entered in this case,” Mertz said.
Further, Mertz said that Thomas J. Seger, a defense attorney from Traverse City who was court-appointed to represent Streib, did raise the possibility of filing a motion to change the venue for the trial, if legal proceedings continued in the case.
“It’s something that he was aware of, and was thinking about, and the court assumes at the proper time that he would have filed that motion,” Mertz said. “Certainly, that would be a matter of trial strategy.”
Although Mertz noted he accepted Streib’s arguments, he ruled that he was provided competent counsel and a request for a change of venue did not impact the plea discussions or the plea agreement itself.
Manda Breuker, an assistant prosecutor from Otsego County who handled the appeal hearing through a special assignment from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, argued that Streib’s plea was given freely and voluntarily.
Mertz, who has served as a circuit court judge since 2013, said he has never granted a change of venue for a trial. He added the general rule is that crimes should be tried where they were committed.
Finally, Mertz said the court would only consider a change of venue if a full jury cannot be seated.
“No one really knows whether or not an impartial jury can be chosen until it’s attempted,” he said.
Mertz further ruled that Seger’s explanation of the nature of the charges and potential consequences of the plea to Streib was reasonable proof that he was advised the judge could depart from the recommended sentencing guidelines.
At the sentencing, Mertz said the “sentencing guidelines were woefully inadequate” and that Streib should never see the light of day outside of prison.
Streib entered into a plea agreement on March 9 to avoid a jury trial.
A charge of assault with intent to commit murder, kidnapping, three additional counts of criminal sexual conduct first-degree causing injury, assault by strangulation, and domestic violence were dropped.