Saturday, March 1, 2008

97 days in jail for the victim, no time in jail for the accuser

Charges dropped after 97 days in jail.


TRAVERSE CITY -- Vindication came for Timothy Wagner, but it took more than three hard months to arrive. That's how long Wagner sat in the Grand Traverse County Jail awaiting trial on fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and home invasion charges. Last week, his attorney told him the charges were dropped and he was free. "I was happy as heck. It's not a fun place to be," Wagner, 43, said of jail. "Ninety-seven days for something I didn't even do."

But Wagner is in debt and without a job after his jail stint, he said, and he's concerned about his reputation following the charges. Sheriff's deputies arrested Wagner Nov. 16, court records show. A woman told investigators he entered her Garfield Township home without permission and grabbed her genitals. Wagner said the woman was a friend and her claims were false.
"I was ... surprised she would say something like that," he said. Records show Wagner's bond eventually was set at 10 percent of $100,000, and he said he couldn't afford it. So he sat in jail until shortly after prosecutors dismissed the charges Feb. 20. The dismissal of charges doesn't necessarily mean the woman lied, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider said, but her credibility was too questionable to pursue charges.

"You have to have a certain level of reliable and credible evidence to go forward, and when (it's) neither reliable nor credible, then you can't proceed," he said. The woman told investigators she didn't call Wagner on the day of the alleged incident, Schneider said, but phone records later showed she called him multiple times. Those records weren't examined until relatively recently, Schneider said. Wagner's attorney, Philip Settles, did not return a call for comment. Wagner said he was supposed to start working at a restaurant around the time of his arrest, and he's now in debt and looking for work. He plans to "steer clear" of the woman and won't seek any civil damages from her. "I can't get nothing out of her. I'll just take a loss," he said. "I'll just find me a part-time job and get back on my feet."