Zoom hearing abruptly ends when court realizes suspect is in same home as victim of alleged assault
TORONTO -- A U.S. court hearing via Zoom for a man accused of assault was abruptly adjourned after he was discovered to have been attending the hearing from the complainant's home.
Nearly 900,000 people have watched the video of the hearing, which was livestreamed on YouTube.
Coby James Harris, 21, appeared in court via Zoom after being charged with assault with intent to commit bodily harm, according to news verification agency Storyful.
At the start of the hearing on March 2, Mary Lindsey, who was the complainant in this case, took the virtual witness stand to answer questions.
But soon after, prosecutor Deborah Davis noticed something was off after she saw Lindsey looking away from the camera while answering her questions.
"Your honour, I have reason to believe that the defendant is in the same apartment as the complaining witness right now and I'm extremely scared for her safety. And the fact that she's looking off to the side and he’s moving around, I want some confirmation that she is safe."
Judge Jeffrey Middleton asked Lindsey and Harris where they were. Both stated that they were at their respective homes in Sturgis, Mich.
But when Middleton asked Harris to bring his phone outside and show his house number on camera, Harris began to make excuses.
"I don't even think this phone has the charge for that. I'm at like two per cent right now. I’m hooked up to the wall charger right here," said Harris.
Police arrived at Lindsey's apartment and found Harris there, contrary to his bail conditions.
"Your honour, me and Mary both don’t want the no-contact. I ask that that be dropped. I'm sorry I lied to you. I knew the cops were outside," Harris told the judge, while being handcuffed by police.
"(Mr) Harris, my advice is don’t say anything else," Middleton replied. "The hearing is adjourned. Your bond is cancelled. If you have $10 million, you can’t bond out. In addition, the prosecutor’s probably also going to charge you with obstruction of justice."
The hearing was adjourned and rescheduled for March 16.
"This is an issue we didn’t have when we had live court. This is the first time to my knowledge, if he is in the same venue, that this has occurred," Middleton told the courtroom.
"That's the first time I ever had anybody sitting in the next room, potentially intimidating a witness."