Man accused of threatening officers, assaulting reporters placed on house arrest | News
Michael Thomas Harrison
TRAVERSE CITY – A man from the Traverse City area was placed under house arrest after pleading not guilty of multiple misdemeanors after authorities declared he threatened several people with threatening phone calls and allegedly engaged in a May 6 incident involved in which he is accused of attacking reporters from a local media outlet.
In addition to a $ 5,000 personal recognition guarantee, Michael Thomas Harrison will wear a GPS leash and the sheriff’s deputies will check his home in Solon Township to make sure he has no firearms there.
Harrison, 39, is banned from having contact with the Grand Traverse County Health Department and Traverse City Area public schools under the bond terms required by Grand Traverse County Attorney Noelle Moeggenberg.
Harrison faces two charges of malicious use of a telecommunications service or device in Grand Traverse County and two charges of two attacks and batteries, malicious destruction of property and disturbance of the peace in Leelanau. Since his arrest on May 6, he had been released from prison on two $ 100 bonds.
He was charged on all counts from Grand Traverse County Jail Tuesday after being arrested again Monday while visiting the prosecutor’s office and causing a disturbance. Separate charges were held for the Leelanau and Grand Traverse counts.
An earlier request from Leelanau Public Prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell to contact journalists in the attack cases was also granted.
Moeggenberg said she was concerned about public safety given the pending local cases as well as another under scrutiny by the Michigan attorney general regarding calls Harrison made to state officials in Lansing. The AG office declined to comment on the case.
Harrison has had an escalation in the amount of anger he displays, the number of things he’s angry about and the number of calls he makes, Moeggenberg told a Record-Eagle reporter on Monday.
“He has shown to a certain extent that he is ready to be violent,” said Moeggenberg. “I want us to be able to know where he is. If he is heading towards one of his victims, we can advocate for it.”
Harrison made multiple phone calls to the county health department starting July when he was angry about mask mandates set during the pandemic, according to records from the 86th District Court. Calls resumed in March and on April 6, he threatened to eat Wendy Hirschenberger’s dog if he couldn’t go to the grocery store, the document says.
On April 28, he called TCAPS superintendent John VanWagoner and threatened to go to his house and beat him up, the document says.
Harrison also made “angry, vulgar, if not specifically threatening” calls to the prosecutor, a county commissioner and Judge Bob Cooney, according to court records.
Moeggenberg said it was unclear whether Harrison would respond to these outbursts, but he showed he was capable when video shows showed he physically responded to a reporter and photographer in May.
Harrison wore a suicide prevention vest when he appeared in court. Matthew Connolly, the attorney who represented Harrison during his trial in the Grand Traverse cases, said Harrison refused food and water and did not receive his medication.
“He’s extremely dehydrated and unwell, honestly,” Connolly said. “The combination of all of this is detrimental to his mental and physical health.”
Harrison said he was in the process of hiring a lawyer; Magistrate Tammi Rodgers put him on a court-appointed attorney until he could hire one.
The assault charge comes from an incident at Discovery Pier during an event where Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a parkland purchase invoice. After harassing the governor, a video footage shows Harrison grabbing and throwing a reporter’s microphone and spitting on her colleague. His actions were witnessed by two Leelanau County MPs who arrested him.
“I just wanted the court to know that I didn’t mean to hurt these people,” Harrison said during his indictment against Leelanau. “They kept pushing that tube in my face and I thought it was a gun. I was scared.”
Harrison said he was 100 percent disabled with post-traumatic stress disorder. Hubbell said Harrison was a US Army veteran.
“He has served his country with honor in Afghanistan,” said Hubbell.
Leelanau magistrate Norene Kastys cautioned Harrison not to admit during his indictment that he would have an opportunity to speak later.
Harrison’s $ 100 interim loan continued in the Leelanau case, with Hubbell adding standard terms requiring him not to leave the state, behave violently or threateningly, and own guns.
“The only thing I worry about is that you will leave me disarmed in my house,” Harrison told Kastys. “How do I defend myself if someone breaks in to kill me?”
When asked by a Record Eagle reporter whether Harrison was dangerous, Hubbell declined to comment, saying that Harrison’s conduct during his indictment was appropriate and that he would be given weekly advice.
“He understood the terms of the bond and said he agreed not to contact anyone,” said Hubbell. “These are offenses. People are entitled to bonds, especially under new laws passed last year.”
This state piece of legislation, which Whitmer signed in January, is designed to discourage people from being jailed for nonviolent crimes because they do not have the money to bail.
A preliminary conference will take place on May 28 in the Leelanau case. For the Grand Traverse case, a preliminary test is scheduled for June 1st.