Judge refuses to allow Podewell to leave state

By: 
Daniel Pepper

An Allegan County judge dismissed several motions made by the attorney for Stephen E. Podewell, the former Otsego school board member charged with stalking his former wife.
Judge Margaret Zuzich Bakker made the rulings Wednesday, Sept. 13, after a hearing in Allegan County Circuit Court.
Podewell is charged with one count of aggravated stalking, to which he has pleaded not guilty and vociferously denied.
Podewell’s lawyer, Matt Antkoviak, said his client wished to leave the state to live with his current wife in Masontown, West Virginia.
“He’d seek an opportunity to go there and return here when the case goes to trial,” Antkoviak said.
The couple have a business that Podewell wishes to help his wife operate and upcoming medical appointments in West Virginia.
Antkoviak said his client had no criminal record and had returned to Michigan after being allowed to go to his wedding out of state earlier while on bond. Podewell, he said, still maintained the Personal Protection Order he was accused of violating was not proper.  
“He is willing to abide by the bond and the PPO,” Antkoviak said. “I’d argue that going to West Virginia would be beneficial for everyone because he is charged with aggravated stalking.”
He said his client would surely return for any and all court hearings.
Bakker refused the request.
“He’s been on bond since March and he’s made these arrangements with regard to West Virginia,” she said. “...I understand he has no record of failure to appear, but I don’t believe the court should be placed in the position of possibly having to seek extradition.”
Antkoviak next argued his motion to quash his client’s bind over to circuit court.
“There was a question as to whether my client was ever served with the PPO,” he said.
The court file in the case, Antkoviak said, didn’t contain a copy of the service.
He argued also that the victim had testified she’d communicated with his client about some matters but not others.
“That raises questions as to whether he in fact violated the PPO,” Antkoviak said.
Bakker said that didn’t matter.
“The order is against the defendant...,” she said. “That’s not the issue as to whether there’s a violation of the PPO.”
She said the record showed enough evidence for purposes of a preliminary hearing.
“In regards to service, the prelim is a probable cause hearing and probable cause is a very low standard for bind over on criminal charges,” Bakker said.
Assistant Allegan County prosecutor Rachel Keeley said that while at prelim there had been only the alleged victim’s testimony the PPO was served; that had changed.
“We were unable to locate it at the time of the hearing,” Keeley said. “We have since located it and the officer will testify that he served it.”
Antkoviak argued the motion could only consider what was testified to at the hearing.
“With a PPO that’s a very crucial piece of information; you can’t violate the PPO if you don’t know you are violating it,” he said.
Antkoviak said his client maintained he hadn’t been served.
Bakker said the alleged victim’s testimony was enough for a probable cause hearing.
“That’s something I could see the defendant seeking to argue in front of a jury, but in the case of a probable cause hearing, I can see that as sufficient evidence,” Bakker said.
Antkoviak said his client was still convinced the PPO had been granted on insufficient grounds because he didn’t do what was alleged and it still troubled him.
Bakker said that Podewell was able to challenge the PPO’s basis and that he should seek a hearing if he wished to.  
She said the testimony at the preliminary hearing showed well over 100 contacts from the time the PPO was granted in December until Podewell was arrested in March.
The case was set for a further motion hearing and scheduled for a three day jury trial.
Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

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