Central Michigan University professor John Meixner was in court Wednesday for a pretrial meeting on a charge of disturbing the peace at the Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair in July.
Meixner was arrested Aug. 7 and arraigned at Mecosta County’s 77th District Court nearly a month later after allegedly taking photographs of young girls from the waist down.
Defense Attorney Daniel O’Neal said both sides discussed the evidence at Wednesday’s hearing, and that the defense will be seeking pretrial motions to dismiss the case and suppress evidence.
“This professor has never been charged before,” O’Neal said. “I don’t think he did anything wrong. We’ll ask if there is any wrongdoing in taking pictures in public.”
A final pretrial meeting will be held in a couple of weeks, O’Neal said. Although the court has set a trial date in November, O’Neal was doubtful if that date will be honored.
O’Neil said a trial would normally begin by the end of the year.
“Sometimes they schedule things ahead of time to keep cases moving along,” he said. “It’s far too soon to know if that will happen.”
The motion to dismiss will question whether or not a crime was committed as Meixner took photographs on public property.
The other motion to suppress evidence stems from the manner in which Mecosta Sheriff’s Department obtained the photographs as evidence. O’Neal said officers may have acted improperly when seizing Meixner’s camera.
“They just grabbed his camera,” O’Neal said. “Officers took his camera and started going through the photos.”
Several factors including Meixner’s reputation, the cost of a trial and its publicity were discussed at the pretrial conference, O’Neal said.
“(Disturbing the peace) is a very minor offense,” he said. “It’ll be a tough decision to go to trial. I see a slim likelihood of a conviction.”
If convicted on the misdemeanor of disturbing the peace, Meixner could face up to 93 days in jail, serve probation or community service.
Mecosta County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brian Thiede was unable to be reached in time for publication.
According to court documents shared with Central Michigan Life, the pictures Meixner took appeared to be “centered mostly on the buttocks and thigh area” of young girls and adult women. Photos recovered by police did not include any faces, and the subjects were fully clothed.
“They saw a gentleman taking photos of young children, particularly girls, while they were on rides and while they were walking away from him,” Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell said in a past interview.
Meixner has been teaching classes at CMU for the past two weeks, since the start of the new school year.