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Domestic violence defendant busted during virtual hearing when it's discovered he's inside home of girlfriend who accused him of beating her


'Your honor, I have reason to believe that the defendant is in the same apartment as the complaining witness right now, and I'm extremely scared for her safety,' the assistant prosecutor said during Zoom hearing

Image source: WOOD-TV video screenshot

A Michigan domestic violence defendant found himself in potentially hotter water when it was discovered during a virtual hearing that he was inside the home of his girlfriend who accused him of beating her — a violation of a no-contact order, WOOD-TV reported.

What happened?

Coby Harris, 21, allegedly assaulted his girlfriend in her Sturgis residence Feb. 9, Fox News reported. Harris was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder — a felony carrying as much as a 10-year prison term and $5,000 fine, WOOD said. But because he's a habitual offender, the sentence could be 15 years, the station added.

A virtual hearing took place March 2, which can be viewed on Judge Jeffrey Middleton's YouTube channel. WOOD said the hearing was to determine if Harris should stand trial.

Image source: WOOD-TV video screenshot

But before the hearing, Assistant St. Joseph County Prosecutor Deborah Davis was tipped off that Harris might have been at his accuser's home in a different room during the virtual session, WOOD said.

Image source: WOOD-TV video screenshot

About seven minutes into the hearing, Harris disappeared from the Zoom call, and his girlfriend turned her head to her right — and apparently Davis grew suspicious.

"Your honor, I have reason to believe that the defendant is in the same apartment as the complaining witness right now, and I'm extremely scared for her safety," Davis said. "The fact that she's looking off to the side, and he's moving around — I want some conformation that she is safe before we continue."

With that, the judge asked Harris' girlfriend for her location — to which she initially replied, "I'm at a house." When the judge asked for the specific address, she said "it's my house." He again asked for the address, and she finally gave it.

The judge then asked Harris for his location, and he gave a different address.

Then the judge came up with a clever way of determining whether Harris was telling the truth: Ordering him to go outside with his phone to display the street number affixed to the dwelling so others on the Zoom call could see it.

Harris stuttered a tad before saying he didn't think his phone had the charge for such a task, after which Davis shook her head from side to side in apparent disbelief.

The jig is up

At that point Davis told those on the Zoom call that police were at that moment outside the girlfriend's apartment knocking at her door; the judge asked the girlfriend to answer the door, after which Davis requested the girlfriend take her phone with her so everyone could see that she was OK.

The girlfriend was seen walking to her front door and apparently speaking to police, and then her thumbnail disappeared from the Zoom screen. Harris soon began looking around the room he was in, and then he got up and began walking, when his image disappeared from the screen.

Davis suggested to the judge that the hearing be adjourned and that Harris' bond be revoked, as it appeared he was at his girlfriend's residence.

Several minutes later, Harris showed up on the call again — this time via his girlfriend's phone. With a cigarette flapping between his lips while he was being handcuffed, Harris told the judge that he and his girlfriend "don't want the no contact. I asked that that be dropped. I'm sorry I lied to you. I knew the cops were outside. I don't know why I lied to you."

Image source: WOOD-TV video screenshot

The judge replied, "Mr. Harris, my advice is don't say anything else. Take the cigarette out of your mouth. The hearing is adjourned. Your bond is canceled."

"We're serious as a heart attack," the judge added. "It's the first time I ever had anybody sitting in the next room, potentially intimidating a witness of assault, great bodily harm." When Harris protested, the judge cut him off and said, "You hit bottom, and you're continuing to dig."

WOOD said Harris faces additional charges and is being held in jail; his next court date is scheduled for March 16.

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