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Man opts out of trial by jury in snowmobile assault

Garden resident pleads no contest

December 5, 2012
By Jenny Lancour - staff writer ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - A Garden man entered pleas in court Tuesday in connection with striking and seriously injuring an ice fisherman with his snowmobile on Lake Michigan last winter.

Douglas Duane Barbeau, 27, opted to not be tried by a jury when he entered pleas in Delta County Circuit Court on Tuesday. He was scheduled to go to trial in two weeks for purposely running his snowmobile into Parker Bambenek, 21, of Marquette, while ice fishing on Garden Bay last January.

Barbeau pleaded no contest to the following three counts: failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing serious impairment or death, a five-year felony; felonious operation of a snowmobile, a two-year felony; and attempted false report of a felony, a two-year felony.

In exchange for these pleas, the prosecution dismissed one count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, a 10-year felony, and dismissed one count of false report of a felony, a four-year felony.

Bambenek testified in district court in July that he was ice fishing with his girlfriend when a snowmobiler drove over one of his tip-ups about 40 feet from his ice shack; when Bambenek yelled, the snowmobiler turned around and accelerated, struck him and fled the scene.

Bambenek suffered two broken legs. He cannot run and it is painful for him to walk every day, he testified this summer.

Further witness testimony lead the court to believe Barbeau was driving the snowmobile with a passenger. The case was bound over to circuit court.

Referring to the police report on Tuesday, Judge Stephen Davis said the defendant drove very close and very fast over the tip-up, circled around at a high speed, struck the victim causing serious injuries, and left the area during broad daylight.

In a separate case recently bound over to circuit court, Barbeau reported to state police a few days after the incident that his snowmobile was stolen on Jan. 28 even though he knew he was the operator of the snowmobile which struck Bambenek, stated the police report.

Barbeau is scheduled to be sentenced in circuit court on Jan. 14.

During a hearing Monday in circuit court, Barbeau was informed if he pleaded to the three counts, he would be sentenced to 16 months to up to five years in prison. If the judgment exceeds this range, Barbeau may withdraw his pleas, explained Davis.



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