Nichols’ bond reducedPublished 12:02pm Friday, June 24, 2011
Eighteen-year-old Trey Nichols, one of five Niles teens involved in a sex video case, will face a jury trial this fall. He was also granted reduced bond and tether.
Nichols appeared in Berrien County Court in Niles Friday morning. Judge Scott Schofield ruled in favor of the prosecution to bind over 11 of Nichols’ 13 counts. Four of those counts — criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree — carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The judge ruled that two counts — extortion and aiding and abetting — did not show probable cause.
Prosecuting attorney Steve Pierangeli argued that Nichols told one 17-year-old victim that he would take her home March 18 if she “did stuff” (sexual favors) with Parnell Martin, one of his co-defendants.
Pierangeli also said that Nichols admitted to Det. Richard Krueger of the Niles Police Department that he knew of threats that a sex video of one victim and defendant Martise Washington would be posted on Facebook if she did not perform sexual acts.
Nichols’ attorney, Tat Parish, claimed that his client was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and did not know of any threats.
“All he did was push the button that got the cell (phone) camera working,” Parish said. “He had no way of knowing later it would be used in this alleged extortion.”
Schofield ruled there is no probable cause for extortion or aiding and abetting Martin because it could not be proven whether he knew of the threats; the comment about taking the victim home could have been made out of sympathy for her.
Nichols was also granted reduced bail. Parish argued that his client has no prior criminal history; was an honor student and athlete; and that he was awarded a scholarship to Western Michigan University, although the college has denied this claim.
Schofield reduced his bail to $15,000 with tether. He must abide by a 24-hour curfew; not leave his mother and stepfather’s home; and must not have contact with any of the co-defendants in the case or with any females under age 18. The judge denied a request to dismiss the 24-hour curfew so Nichols can gain employment.
Washington, Martin, Martell Miller and Nichols were arrested in May along with Leon Murphy, 18, on charges stemming from incidents occurring on March 14 and March 18 in which Washington allegedly had consensual sex with a female victim under age 18 in Nichols’ bedroom. The act was allegedly intentionally recorded, and four days later, that video was used to force the victim into multiple sex acts with each of the defendants. Murphy accepted a plea deal and will not stand trial.
Martin was also granted a reduced bail Wednesday — 10 percent of the $150,000 — under the condition he be restricted to home incarceration in the care of his mother.
Cases for Nichols, Martin and Washington will tentatively go to trial Oct. 18-21, either at the Niles or St. Joseph courthouses. Miller is scheduled to appear in court Monday, also to learn the judge’s decision on his bind-over.
Pierangeli has until July 8 to decide whether or not he will seek to consolidate any or all of the defendants into one trial.
If each of the defendants receive their own trial, it’s possible each case will be heard by one jury.