In first trial in 15 months, Cass County jury finds man guilty on firearms charges

CASSOPOLIS — For the first time in 15 months, a jury trial has been hosted in Cass County.

Defendant Paris Bradford was convicted of six felony counts by a jury of 12 men and women in the Circuit Court Wednesday. Guilty verdicts were returned after an hour and a half of deliberations on charges of carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a felon, and three counts of felony firearm.  He was also found not guilty on a singular count of receiving and concealing a stolen firearm.

Due to pandemic restrictions, Cass County had not conducted a jury trial since March 10, 2020.  During the ensuing time, the courts, prosecutors, defense bar, County Clerk, Sheriff’s Office, other law enforcement, county commissioners, administration and many others had remained active via social distancing, masking and ZOOM sessions to ensure that all allowable justice functions were achieved.  However, the Michigan Supreme Court, in an effort to protect the public, had placed restrictions on most courts in the state when it came to the “people-intensive” process of calling in a large jury pool, selecting a jury and then trying a case.

But all of that changed within the last two weeks.

Due to the increased number of vaccinated individuals and other factors, jury trials have now been declared allowable in Cass County by the state’s highest court.

Cass County wasted no time re-engaging the process.  With social distancing, see-through shields for witnesses and mask utilization by jurors, parties, attorneys, judges and court personnel, a jury was selected on Tuesday morning. Testimony began and was completed that afternoon.

Jurors learned from four plastic mask-wearing witnesses that on July 19, 2020, Bradford was discovered by Cassopolis village officers and sheriff’s deputies sitting on a .38 special while behind the wheel of a 2001 Ford parked on Hospital Street in Jefferson Township. Bodycam video also confirmed the finding. Officers had received a call of a firearms-laced altercation occurring at that location prior to their arrival.

Bradford at first admitted possessing the handgun, but later made the claim that the armed persons he was sparring with threw the loaded instrument into his pickup and left the scene, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Bradford’s 2009 assault with intent to commit sexual penetration conviction was used to establish his current ineligibility to possess a firearm. The jury sided with the prosecution on all but one count.

“The courts and other players collaborated to make this happen,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz following the verdict. “The restart has begun. Jury trials are essential to the long-term healthy flow of criminal cases. The defendant received his day in court, and the people theirs. A message was sent that the pandemic may delay certain forms of justice, but it cannot stop it.”

Bradford is scheduled for sentencing on Friday, July 16.

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