Standing before the judge, Rachel Harrison choked back sobs as she heard her verdict.
Harrison, a Central Michigan sophomore from Saint Peters, Mo. was sentenced by Isabella Trial Court Judge Paul Chamberlain to six months in jail and three years of probation. She received three concurrent sentences of assaulting an officer, carrying a weapon with unlawful intent and assault with a weapon.
“I am truly sorry for what happened that night,” Harrison said. “I had no intention of harming anybody, I had the intention of trying to help a friend out that night, and it just went bad very quickly.”
Harrison is also subject to $1,945 in fines as well as a psychological assessment to be administered during her incarceration. According to court documents, Harrison threatened and pulled a knife on Mount Pleasant Police Officer Angela Brown last November.
Brown addressed the courtroom during the trial, supported by several police officers in attendance. On the night of the incident, Brown said she was on duty observing the Phi Mu house, the sorority of which Harrison was a member. The house is located at 802 S. Main St. Harrison approached Brown’s vehicle and asked for assistance. Brown said Harrison entered the vehicle and took out a hunting knife with a gut hook on the end and said, “I have a problem with you.”
“She was given several commands to drop the knife,” Brown said. “I remember thinking in my mind that I was justified in shooting Ms. Harrison based on her actions. I wanted to give her every opportunity to drop the knife, even at the risk of my own safety.”
In the months following the incident, Brown said she suffered anxiety attacks.
“This court is the last bastion against civil disobedience,” Chamberlain said. “It is disobedience when law enforcement go and do their job are subject to rocks, bottles and knives. There’s no place for that in this community or any civilized society.”
Defense attorney Todd Levitt represented Harrison and attempted to appeal to Chamberlain to reduce the sentence. Levitt cited the Holmes Youthful Training Act- MCL 762.11, that aims to give youthful offenders a second chance.
If a Michigan criminal defendant between the ages of 17 and 20 years old is granted HYTA status, the judge could place that defendant on probation and the charges would be dismissed after completing the probation period. The case would also be removed from the public record.
Chamberlain denied Levitt’s request. Chamberlain stated that he believed Harrison’s actions were not the result of immaturity but were instead calculated decisions to engage the officer. This decision was based on a statement made by Harrison in the police report filed after her initial arrest on Nov. 26.
According to the report, Harrison said, “I had no intention of hurting Detective Brown. I just wanted to scare her.”
Prosecuting attorney Pete Holmes argued that this meant her actions were deliberate. Holmes made comparisons between Harrison’s case with other unlawful behavior in the Mount Pleasant community, citing the recent city ordinance against couch burning and bottles thrown at police and fire officials last weekend.
“I think what puts this particular HYTA petition aside from the others is the nature of the event,” Holmes said. “Allowing Ms. Harrison to get off of these charges will send a message loud and clear in particular to the campus community that it is open season on police officers.”
Levitt worried of the precedent set by the ruling.
“This is just tragic all around,” he said. “Officer Brown has to live with the mental scars of what took place for the rest of her life and my client’s life is destroyed as well.”
Brown said she hopes to move on from the assault.
“I’m ready to put it behind me and move forward,” she said after the sentencing.