TRAVERSE CITY — No testimony was heard in the state's case against a former Kingsley Area Schools teacher and principal Thursday.
Three of the four accusers against the former Kingsley Area Schools teacher and principal sat surrounded by family and friends as well as many Hartman supporters. However, no testimony was given. The other accuser, who was out of state, was supposed to testify via video. That also did not happen.
Instead, Grand Traverse County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Attwood and Shawn Worden, Hartman's lawyer, agreed to forego the preliminary examination and testimony at Hartman's request.
Attwood said the decision was made just minutes before the hearing began. Judge Bob Cooney then bound the case over to the 13th Circuit Court for a possible trial.
"We're prepared to head to trial on this," Worden said. "That is the reason for this decision. The charges that we're facing right now are the charges we expect to go to trial."
Attwood said both sides agreed there was probable cause to move this to trial and to not go through the formality of spending the afternoon calling witnesses. Hartman did not give a specific reason why he waived the hearing, but Attwood said it saves the accusers from having to testify twice — once at the prelim and again at the trial.
"It's extremely difficult for victims in any case, but these cases in particular, to get up and testify," Attwood said. "Waiving the prelim saves them the agony of having to get up there and relive what happened to them."
The three original accusers, aged 18, 18 and 19 years old, were also expected to testify Feb. 13, but that was delayed because of an ongoing Grand Traverse County sheriff's investigation into other possible charges against Hartman. That investigation led to a sixth charge, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which was filed Tuesday.
The new charge alleges an incident that is said to have occurred 30 years ago when Hartman was a first-grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary. In January, Judge Michael Stepka entered a not guilty plea for Hartman on five counts, including two felony second-degree CSC, one felony count of accosting a child for immoral purposes and two misdemeanor counts of furnishing alcohol to minors. Prosecutors said those occurred in 2009 and 2014.
Hartman has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including the latest.
In light of the first-degree charge, Cooney voiced concerns about the bond amount. The new allegation, which Cooney pointed out involved a first-grader, carries with it a possible life sentence. Cooney also mentioned the bond violation charge against Hartman. GPS tethering showed Hartman came within 500 feet of one of the accuser's residence in February.
"My other concern in this case is that we've got four victims," Cooney said. "That would tend to indicate that this is a strong case."
Worden argued the state's case is "very weak."
"Despite the fact that there are four victims, all of these activities go back to 2009 and prior," Worden said. "The new offense alleged the criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is actually 31 years old, so it's not like it's fresh."
Worden also said the new alleged incident is a "one-off" and that it is "incredibly uncommon" for that to be the case.
"Typically, these would have happened over and over and over again," Worden said. "The facts in that particular account, in my mind, are not very persuasive."
Attwood said the age of the new complaint is even more striking now that the sum of the charges spans 30 years.
"That presents more of a continued course of conduct rather than a one-off or one allegation from one person," Attwood said. "It's hard to believe that it just happened a couple of times along the way."
Cooney set Hartman's bond at $100,000 and gave him 24 hours leave to pay the full amount. Hartman will be jailed if he cannot come up with the money. Hartman's original bond in January was set at $75,000, of which he had to pay 10 percent.
"The new charge certainly increases the risk of flight and concerns about non-appearance," Cooney said. "This is also for protection of the public."
Worden entered a not guilty plea for Hartman and waived the arraignment of the first-degree charge at the District Court.
That arraignment will occur at the 13th Circuit, on a date named later.
A pre-trial conference is set for March 21. Attwood said a jury trial is more likely than a bench trial and that he expects a trial to take place in a couple of months, save a plea.