BIG RAPIDS, MICH. - A Mecosta County man has to spend eight weekends in jail and perform 120 hours of community service for distributing fliers outside the Big Rapids courthouse entitled “Your Jury Rights: True or False?’’
Keith Eric Wood was convicted last month of trying to influence jurors with the pamphlets he distributed on a sidewalk in Nov. 2015 as potential jurors entered the building.
During sentencing on Friday, July 21, Mecosta County Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Booher also placed Wood on probation for six months and ordered that he pay $545. The father of eight had been facing up to a year in jail.
Prosecutors say he was trying to influence potential jurors in a case involving Andy Yoder, an Amish man charged with illegally filling in wetlands near Stanwood in 2013. About 80 Amish citizens were in the courthouse at the time. Yoder entered a plea; the case never went to trial.
Wood contends he wanted to inform potential jurors that they have the right to vote their conscience when deliberating.
Wood was standing on the sidewalk in front of the Mecosta County courthouse on the morning of Nov. 24, 2015, handing out the tri-folded pamphlet to people entering the court building.
When District Court Judge Peter Jaklevic saw several potential jurors with the pamphlets, he ordered court staff to tell Wood to stop. Wood refused, but went into the courthouse to speak with Jaklevic at the judge’s request. Jaklevic ordered Wood arrested for jury tampering.
Wood also faced a more serious charge of obstruction of justice, but that charge was dismissed in March, 2016.
Distributed by the Montana-based Fully Informed Jury Association, the pamphlet informs potential jurors they have the right to vote their conscience when deliberating.
The case garnered national attention when a magistrate set bond at $150,000, deeming the insurance salesman a potential flight risk. Wood was eventually released after posting 10 percent of the bond, or $15,000.
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