TRAVERSE CITY — One of two men accused of assaulting a Record-Eagle reporter has pleaded not guilty and been released on a personal recognizance bond.

Joseph Michael Welsh, 51, of Traverse City appeared on Tuesday in a remote hearing before Magistrate Tammi Rodgers in 86th District Court along with his attorney, Jeffrey Slocomb.

“It’s important to differentiate between my client and the other person involved in the incident,” Slocomb said, following the court hearing. “My client has always maintained that the only thing he did was try and separate the two after the other defendant started assaulting the reporter.”

Slocomb said Welsh was not acquainted with Michael Francis Adams, 55, of Kingsley, the other man charged in relation to the reported attack on Traverse City Record-Eagle Education Reporter, Brendan Quealy.

Traverse City attorney Matthew Benedict, who represents Michael Adams, declined comment Tuesday except to say his client had turned himself in and received a bond from the court.

Reporter Quealy was covering a meeting of Citizens Liberating Michigan, a group that opposes mask and vaccination mandates, being held at the Silver Lake Recreation Area in Garfield Township Aug. 26 when he called 9-1-1 to report he’d been assaulted.

The organizer of the meeting was Heather Cerone, a member of Citizens Liberating Michigan. She can be heard on an audio recording of the incident challenging the news reporter’s presence and asking attendees to stand in front of him.

Quealy said he was present because he expected the group to discuss potential in-person protests against a student and staff mask mandate at Traverse City Area Public Schools buildings on Sept. 7, the first day of school. School officials later said they’d heard similar rumors.

Information posted on social media shows the meeting, scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., was organized and promoted by Citizens Liberating Michigan and a private Facebook group, TCAPS our kids our choice!.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg on Friday authorized misdemeanor assault charges against the two men, after reviewing security footage from the park, cellphone audio recorded by Quealy and a report from the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office.

Adams is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 24 and a pre-trial conference between Welsh’s attorney and the prosecutor’s office is scheduled for Sept. 30, court records show.

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