2012-12-20 / Front Page

Man’s prison term upheld

Michigan Court of Appeals denies Markham’s claims

MANISTIQUE – A Manistique man currently serving a minimum 10-year prison sentence recently had his conviction and sentence upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals. Peter Charles Markham, 66, was sentenced in March 2011, after being found guilty of seven counts of extortion, one count of making a terrorist threat, and one count of use of a computer to commit a crime.

The charges stem from Markham’s lengthy battle with Manistique city officials over a “ready-to-serve” fee imposed on his water bill. According to the findings of the MCA, Markham refused to pay bills with the fee, therefore allowing the city to turn the unpaid bills over to the county to collect as part of his property taxes.

“The prospect of losing his property, which Markham considered to be his only asset, led him to express his frustration and anger in menacing language on his website,” the report states. “Markham posted references to ‘murder, arson, and suicide,’ ‘crushing the skulls of or setting afire my tormentors,’ and the spilling of ‘innocent blood’.”

After a 7-day trial in February, Markham was sentenced to serve a concurrent 6-year, 3-month to 20-year sentence for the seven counts of felony extortion and one count of felony threat of terrorism. Upon the end of this sentence term, he was also sentenced to serve 45 months to 20 years for the ninth charge. Markham was given credit for 400 days served in the Schoolcraft County Jail.

“I am convicted of nine serious crimes that never existed, beyond the corrupted imaginations of those that know better,” Markham said during his sentencing. “If nothing else, my presence here, today, is an indictment of the local law enforcement and judicial process, and the general public that supports broken people to administer justice in various venues.”

On Dec. 11 of this year, Markham again argued several aspects of his trial and sentencing, this time to the MCA. In his appeal, Markham and his attorney, George B. Mullison, alleged during his trial, there was: a lack of sufficient evidence, misuse of privileged communications, vagueness in the extortion statute, evidentiary errors, and the improper scoring under sentencing guidelines.

As for the lack of sufficient evidence, the MCA found their was enough to support the charges against Markham, in particular, the seven counts of extortion.

“Markham’s words were not mere hyperbole or heat-of-the-moment exaggerations but planned statements intended to provoke a particular response. They were threats,” the report states. “Markham’s own words provide sufficient evidence to support the verdict for each count.”

For the counts of making a terrorist threat and using a computer to commit a crime, the MCA states there was also sufficient evidence to support his conviction.

In his appeal, Markham also alleges that certain communications between himself and his then-attorney, as well as between himself and a doctor and nurse at the VA hospital, should not have been allowed during the trial. He states those recorded communications, seized from his home’s computer equipment during his investigation, were privileged.

“We agree that Markham’s conversations with his trial attorney and with the VA hospital personnel were protected by statutory privileges, and the recording should not have been admitted,” the report reads. “The trial court’s error, however, was harmless.”

According to the MCA, the recordings were used only in a cumulative manner to an already “substantial” amount of evidence proving Markham’s guilt.

The MCA also stated Markham’s argument about the vagueness of the extortion statute did not hold merit.

In his argument that multiple evidentiary errors occurred, depriving him of a fair trial, Markham points out a photograph of his shotgun, a 2007 discussion with City Manager Sheila Aldrich, the video and PDF files found on his computer regarding weapons construction and tactics, and parts of Manistique Public Safety Director Ken Golat’s testimony were improperly allowed.

The MCA, however, notes that Markham’s arguments have no merit, and that “the evidentiary errors, if any, did not affect the outcome of the trial.”

While the MCA agreed that Markham’s argument over the improper scoring of certain offense variables was valid and the new values would be recorded, they noted there would be no need for resentencing as the new figures do not change the sentencing guideline range.

“Markham does not overcome the heavy burden of proving that counsel’s performance was deficient and that the deficiency resulted in prejudice to him,” the report states. “We affirm Markham’s convictions and sentences.”

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