Man sentenced to jail for jury tampering out on bond after emergency hearing

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ISABELLA COUNTY, Mich. — A man convicted of jury tampering after passing out pamphlets on a public sidewalk in front of the Mecosta County courthouse is out of jail on bond after an emergency hearing Friday evening.

Friday morning Keith Wood was sentenced to eight weekends in jail and six months of probation plus fines after being convicted of a one-year misdemeanor as a first-time offender.

Mecosta County Circuit Judge Kimberly Booher heard the district court case after Mecosta County District Judge Peter Jaklevic recused himself due to his involvement and alleged ordering of Wood's arrest in November 2015. Friday after sentencing Wood to jail time, Judge Booher then denied the defense's motion to stay Wood's sentence as they appeal his case.

Wood's defense attorney David Kallman tells FOX 17 immediately following Friday's sentencing, all remaining Mecosta County judges recused themselves from their appeal to Mecosta County Circuit Court. However, in an emergency hearing held by Isabella County District Judge Eric Janes, who was appointed to hear the appeal, Wood was granted a stay on his sentence and given a $20,000 bond.

Wood made bail and was released from jail Friday evening.

During the emergency hearing, Kallman says Mecosta County Assistant Prosecutor Amy Clapp asked Judge Janes to issue a gag order for Wood's appeal process; Judge Janes denied it.

At this point, Judge Janes will hear Wood's appeal at the circuit court level. Kallman believes the next court dates will likely be scheduled for this fall.

The sentencing

Last month, a jury of six found Keith Wood guilty convicting him of attempting to influence a jury in Mecosta County. Wood is a former pastor and father of eight who was initially charged with a five-year felony for obstructing justice and the one-year misdemeanor jury tampering.

Friday the prosecution advocated 45 days in jail plus fines, but the defense said jail time is inappropriate for Wood: he has no prior criminal record, is self-employed and the sole financial supporter for his wife and eight young children. District Judge Kimberly Booher said while she didn't believe 45 consecutive days in jail is appropriate, she said no jail was also inappropriate.

"He's going straight to jail today," said Judge Booher, before Wood was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.

Judge Booher sentenced Wood to eight consecutive weekends in jail, with 120 hours of community service suspended if Wood completes six months probation. She also denied the defense's motion to stay Wood's sentence pending appeal, as the defense is appealing to the Mecosta County Circuit Court and then the Michigan Court of Appeals if necessary.

Before he was sentenced, Mecosta County Assistant Prosecutor Nathan Hull argued despite Wood's clean criminal record, Wood knew what he was doing was wrong by showing up to pass out fliers the day another trial was scheduled.

"This is not a person who made a one-time mistake, he hasn’t demonstrated that he has kind of shown that he realizes now the significance of what he’s done, in fact the testimony shows the contrary," said Hull.

Following Hull's push for 45 days in jail, Wood's defense attorney David Kallman argued Wood was only trying to educate the public, and believed a trial likely would not happen that day in November 2015. Kallman said any jail time, let alone the conviction, violates Wood's right to free speech.

“He exercised what he believes are his free speech rights, did it out on the sidewalk before this court, and that because of that, that deserves 45 days in jail, let alone one day in jail?" said Kallman. "I totally disagree with that.”

During his trial, Wood testified that Mecosta County District Judge Peter Jaklevic ordered his arrest Nov. 24, 2015 moments after Wood handed out about 50 juror rights pamphlets on the public sidewalk outside the courthouse.

Initial charges and $150,000 bond

It's a case FOX 17's Dana Chicklas broke in December 2015 that made national headlines. Wood’s bond was set at $150,000. Then, his felony charge was dropped last March and he was on trial for attempting to influence a jury.

Wood says he ordered the pamphlets from the Fully Informed Jury Association, which wrote about juror rights “judges don’t tell you.” Specifically, the fliers discussed the debated juror’s right to vote their conscience or jury nullification.

When Wood was first charged he spoke exclusively on camera to FOX 17 and said, "I truly believe in my heart of hearts I didn't do anything wrong, I didn't break the law."

After he was convicted in June, when FOX 17 asked how he feels his First Amendment rights were impacted, Wood answered, “Oh, I don’t feel like I have them.”

Wood also testified he learned of the case against Andy Yoder, scheduled for trial the day of his arrest on Nov. 24, 2015, through an email blast. He said he does not know Yoder, but was interested in the idea that the government had a say in someone's private property rights. In that case, Yoder was accused of violating the Department of Environmental Quality for draining a wetland that was on Yoder's property.

When Wood learned of that case he says he went to Yoder's pre-trial conference, then ordered the pamphlets and went to the courthouse the day Yoder's trial was scheduled. Yoder is an Amish man and when asked by the jury, Wood testified he has no ties to the Amish community other than buying produce from them locally.

Also, the day of Yoder’s trial when Wood passed out pamphlets, no jury was seated and Yoder took a plea deal.

Stay with FOX 17 for continuing coverage and updates on this case.

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  • Joanie Caldwell-Kenoshmeg

    seems like Freedom of Speech to me. He was outside on a public sidewalk and noone has ever told anyone you can’t hand things out of this nature on public sidewalks. How would he know? Most did not know this would be constituted as a crime.

    • Victor Hansens

      It isn’t a crime. matter of fact, by anyone else’s interpretation it is protected by our First Amendment. The language they used and instructed the jury on would make everyone that opens their mouth “outside of a court room” to “influence a juror ( interpreted to be anyone that receives a summons for possible jury duty) is guilty of trying to influence a jury. If this were anywhere near to the way law is I would be in jail so many times I would die there.

      Keith Wood was there to try and inform the public, that might at some point be on a jury, they have a right to judge the defendant AND THE LAWS THAT MADE HER A DEFENDANT.

      A few people have asked how this happens, where people we think were acting within the law get convicted. Well….. it isn’t what law says that is important it is what the jury “hears”. Judges can and do limit what the jury “hears”.

      So Keith Wood was standing on the sidewalk in front of a court building handing out flyers that are “legal” because anything is legal, even recommending the violent overthrow of our government. Does anyone think that a father of 7 children at that time would willfully disobey a law that would put him in jail, please keep in mind, he and his wife Gretchen, home school their now 8 children. I am not sure if I have seen all of them yet, I saw the baby this time, it is just that there are so many “family people” at his hearings,and their kids are there as well.

      Keith Wood saw what he thought was an injustice being done to a man who happens to be Amish, at least one of the jururs thought Keiths ties to the Amish Community might be the reason he was doing this, the Prosecuting Attorney seemed to think it was important that not one of the hundreds of Amish Dressed people seemed to have the brochure. Why?? Because there is a Prejudice about the Amish, Keith Wood was not trying to help an Amish man because he does not share that prejudice. The mans possible fine for draining a ditch that had not been maintained by the county as I understand it after talking to a few who have also had run-ins with the DNR was a Million Dollars.

      the Judge and the Prosecutor were not allowed to be questioned. Opps, the Judge was on the stand, he kept trying to say it was not the content it was that Keith knew a trial was scheduled for that day. I helped him out, when he said he was going to try and explain it without instructing I calmly told him he couldn’t do it……during his testimony….. it was quite all of the sudden like. It should have “told the jurors” everything they needed to know. There was nothing that Keith Wood did that was against any law anywhere in front of any court house inside of the United States of America or else “They” would have arrested him where he stood…. on that “public sidewalk”. They could not do that…. so a DNR agent who does have the same “arrest powers” as the State Cops, went out and “helped Keith present himself to the Judge that wanted to talk to him so he would not get arrested and they arrested him., the Judge lied. HE is good at it, he does not see anything wrong with that and the jurors didn’t see that.

      Couple of interesting thing here, One as soon as the DNR Agent, who knew that Keith Knew she was armed, had cuffs and Xtra Ammo clips (she makes sure everyone knows, its like her dicpic) put Keith between herself and the court building he was “arrested”, any one that wants to dispute that, have at it. No reasonable person, having been told that if he did not come inside he would be arrested, would believe they are free to go about their business when a LOADED DNR agent stood behind them and put her arm across his back to help him towards the building would they.

      I think he may have been told his “rights” at some point, it was not at the point of arrest, PERIOD. She testified that she has the same arrest powers as the State Cops does and that means she has the same obligations the State Cops do. Now get this picture, here is a small build woman in a job dominated primarily by men, storming in to get Yoder at trial. She encounters Mr. Wood, who comments, according to her, because he can see her gun her cuffs her two extra clips of ammo that “You probably don’t want one of my brochures”. She testified that she “had to go onto the grass” to get around 150 # 5’6″ Keith Wood, can anyone believe anything this women says??? VV

    • Michael

      Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Can you pretend to be a police officer on a public sidewalk? What if nobody ever told you that you can’t? Of course impersonating a police officer is against the law- and it’s not covered by freedom of speech- even on public sidewalks.

      Those pamphlets were designed to influence the jury. Something that’s against the law to do outside of the courtroom.

      • Matthius

        Those pamphlets were designed to inform ANYBODY of the rights a person serving as juror has as prescribed BY THE LAW. That is not tampering. If informing people of their rights as citizens is now unlawful, then every single police officer is guilty for informing of Miranda rights. Every single civics/govt teacher is guilty of teaching the Constitution. He handed out NOTHING that pertained to any single specific case which would then define his acts as tampering, but he didnt, so its not.

          • Chris

            This doesn’t follow logically. You’ve artificially limited the possibilities. There is another option – the jury was simply ignorant of the truth.

            Both judges and juries make the wrong decision regularly, often due to a lack of information. This is a basis for many appeals, most notably in finance. Local judges and juries don’t know enough of finance law so make decisions that are in flat out defiance of the law. Once the cases reaches a state or federal appellate court, the error is corrected.

            Jury nullification is well enough documented that a simple Google search will turn up a plethora of information. Too many judges have become full of themselves and think that their will is law. They wish to make up law as they go along. Or, in other cases, the judge doesn’t tell the jury all of the applicable law. They withhold relevant information. These are immoral, unethical, and in violation of the Constitution. Jury nullification is a method of returning that power to the people where it belongs.

            For what it’s worth free speech is free speech. It’s never conditional upon the content. If anything, it’s in inverse proportion. No one needs to worry about protecting normal, lame, everyday speech. It’s the offensive, the vulgar, the profane that needs protecting. If someone doesn’t like the speech it is their responsibility to remove themselves from the situation. Not try and shut down the speech. The pastor’s speech requires protecting, regardless of the content.

          • Duke-Jinx

            In every jury tried case, …the judge requests a stipulation from both parties as to jury instruction, If no agreement can be reached, the judge will defer to a ‘ stock ‘ instruction. Should either party disagree with that… They may make interlocutory appeal. And generally receive an appellate court finding and remand, on the instructions given to the jury at charge..
            All Before Trial.

          • Janice Fulkerson

            What he did was not a crime. There was no jury voir dire occurring at the time that he passed out these pamphlets, and even if there were, his actions were akin to passing out 2nd Amendment fliers anywhere. If there was no jury sitting, how is it in any way under the sun “jury tampering?” It isn’t. It wasn’t. Potential jurors are informed with very little, are given strict rules by the judge to only listen to him, and they have no idea that “jury nullification” exists. I work for the court system in Michigan, at least for now. I’ve printed 100 of the pamphlets that this guy was trying to pass out. I live on the border of Mecosta and Isabella. I’ll be handing these out all around the courthouse, surrounding businesses, on parked cars, to pedestrians. When they’re gone, I’ll print 100 more. In fact, I’m seriously considering talking to the local printer and seeing what kind of deal I can get on 20,000 of these. Jury nullification is a right that our citizens have, it’s my right to inform, and I will. A slew of protesters on this guy’s appeal date would certainly get this information out, and a message that we’re not going to put up with judges infringing upon the constitution and the boundaries that it imposes upon them.

  • Don

    Until corrupt judges like this are thrown out the sole purpose of my participation in jury duty will be throwing sand in the gears. I will waste as much of the courts time as possible and then ensure a hung jury as a vote of no confidence in this corrupt “just us” system.

    • fabricater

      ‘ Have you read any materials, discussed, or formed any opinions regarding the defendant or these charges ? ‘ And you are out of the jury pool for that case. And if a nexus to You of this post is ever ‘dug up’… you may never even be even on the roster :/
      And in these times… It’s people with your attitude, that are needed in our courts as fact Finders.