Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 28, 2010

Deputy to stand trial on assault charges

Needham waives preliminary exam and is arraigned

TRAVERSE CITY — A veteran Grand Traverse sheriff's deputy will stand trial on charges that he choked a state trooper and assaulted two female relatives.

Kipp Needham, a 12-year member of the sheriff's department and its 2007 employee of the year, waived a preliminary examination Tuesday in 86th District Court. Judge Michael J. Haley bound Needham over to 13th Circuit Court and arraigned him afterward.

Grand Traverse County authorities last month charged Needham, 35, with assaulting, resisting or obstructing a police officer causing injury, possessing a firearm while intoxicated and two counts of domestic violence. The domestic violence charges involved his wife and daughter. The assault/causing injury to a police officer charge is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and/or $5,000. The remaining charges are misdemeanors.

Court officials initially barred Needham from his Acme Township home, but Haley on Tuesday lifted the no-contact provision with his wife and daughter. Needham's wife told Haley that she felt safe if he returned home.

"I would like him to come home," she said.

The no-contact provision with his neighbors remains intact.

Michigan State Police on June 1 responded to a domestic assault complaint, and found Needham face down in his driveway. He ran toward their patrol vehicle, slid his county-issued, loaded semi-automatic pistol toward police and said, "You're going to have to kill me," court records show.

Needham then ran to the backyard, where police said he punched and choked a trooper. Another trooper helped restrain Needham, and they repeatedly struck and handcuffed him.

He was taken to Munson Medical Center and received staples and stitches for facial lacerations.

Grand Traverse Sheriff Tom Bensley suspended Needham without pay pending the outcome of his criminal proceedings.

George Mertz, Needham's attorney, declined comment on the charges.

"At this time, we're still kind of in a holding pattern," said Mertz, who wouldn't disclose whether a plea deal for Needham is in the works.

Needham's pre-trial conference has yet to be scheduled.

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