13 On Your Side wanted to know how an elected official, accused of such a serious crime, could appear in court without giving the public or reporters the chance to witness.
Grand Rapids, Mich. (WZZM) Judges and court administrators say former Kent County Commissioner Gary Rolls did not get any special treatment this week, when he admitted he is guilty of a sex crime as well as crimes involving, computer and evidence tampering.
Rolls entered a plea deal admitting he had sexual contact with a woman who claimed it began when she was 9 years old. He also admitted to tampering with evidence as well as a computer. However when he made the guilty plea, the courtroom was practically empty. The reason? No one knew he was coming in to enter a guilty plea. During earlier hearings in the case, the courtroom was full and cameras were rolling.
Andy Thalhammer is the court administrator for 17th Circuit Court. 13 On Your Side asked why the public was not informed the deal was happening. "I don't think you should be surprised. It's not unusual for pleas to take place in this way when two attorneys are in agreement that a plea deal is done," said Thalhammer. He says the judge wants the two sides to come before him as quickly as possible to settle the case.
But 13 On Your Side wanted to know how an elected official, accused of such a serious crime, could appear in court without giving the public or reporters the chance to witness. "My understanding is the attorneys called the judges staff the night before the plea was taken and they had time the next morning. So administrators scheduled the appearance and the plea was taken."
The hearing was not published on a docket, but Thalhammer says in plea deals, that is not unusual. "I think all of our judges work to treat everyone fairly and equally... whether it's a commissioner or any citizen that's really how this case was processed.
Because of alleged inconsistencies in testimony from the now 29 year-old woman who accuses Rolls, several of the more serious criminal sexual conduct charges he was facing were dismissed. However, Rolls could still spend years in prison for the crimes he admits he committed.
The judge revoked his bond and ordered the former commissioner to jail until he is sentenced next month.