The courtroom was filled by 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, for the preliminary examination of former Ferris hockey player Darren Smith.
The examination found that there was probable cause to move forward with a trial, where Smith will face five felonies for criminal sexual conduct. Two counts are for criminal sexual conduct in the first degree for sexual penetration of an incapacitated victim; two counts are for criminal sexual conduct in the first degree for sexual penetration by force or coercion; and the last count is for criminal sexual conduct in the second degree for sexual touching by force or coercion.
The courtroom was incredibly tense, but once Hon. Peter Jaklevic declared that the court was in session, the room fell dead quiet for the next three hours. Among the packed room were several of Smith’s former teammates, who would have been in his graduating class.
While Smith himself did not take the stand during the examination, the prosecution called four witnesses to the stand who the defense was also allowed to question. The victim and her roommate — whose names will be kept anonymous in the interest of protecting their privacy — both testified their firsthand accounts of the night in question.
Smith’s attorney, Gary Springstead, cross-examined the victim the longest out of all four witnesses. When he asked the victim if it was possible she consented to what happened with Smith and just didn’t remember, she answered with a single syllable:
The questioning and cross-examinations included graphic details of the alleged assault.
When Ferris Department of Public Safety Captain Gary Green took the stand, he said Smith told him in his interview that he engaged in sexual acts with the victim but said the encounter was consensual, and the victim performed oral sex on him. The victim said she did not remember having oral sex with Smith in her questioning. She also reported in her hospital exam that she did not perform oral sex because she did not remember doing so, and assumed she was not in a state to perform such actions.
Spectrum Health Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Jessica DeRuiter, who performed the victim’s hospital exam, was also called as a witness. DeRuiter found multiple bruises all over the victim’s body as well as a lower lip injury during the visual part of her examination when the victim went to Spectrum Health a few days after the alleged assault. In her examination, DeReuiter said she found internal and external vaginal injuries to the victim. She said the internal injury was caused by intercourse and it could have been caused by consensual sex.
At the time of her hospital examination, the victim declined to release her alleged assailant’s name and did not release her results to law enforcement. The victim said she was unsure at the time if she wanted to take that path.
Mecosta County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Amy Clapp said in her final argument that this hearing was to determine if there was probable cause, which is a very low standard, and was not beyond reasonable doubt. Jaklevic decided that the evidence was sufficient to go to trial, which will be held in Circuit Court. A pre-trial hearing has not been set as of the time of publication.
Clapp said a plea deal is unlikely at this point and she fully intends for the case to go to trial.