Corydon neighbors attend court to show support for assault victim

About 30 local residents packed the courtroom of Judge Patrick F. Corrigan on July 6 to show support and concern for their neighbor Michael Madison, who was attacked as he was walking home from dinner at a Lee Road restaurant on June 18.

The neighbors got what they wanted; the 17-year-old accused of attacking Madison is no longer a free man. He must remain in juvenile detention until Aug. 1, when the court will decide if there is probable cause to believe he committed the offense. Still undertermined is whether the alleged attacker will be tried as an adult for the crime.

On June 18, Madison, his wife Julie, and two friends were walking to their home on Corydon Road around 10:55 p.m. when they noticed they were being followed by someone who had been hanging out with a group of about six others near the Lee Road Library. The youth attacked Madison, punching him in the face with a blow that knocked Madison to the ground. The victim was bleeding profusely and required stitches according to reports of the assault.

Madison’s alleged attacker is facing two counts: felonious assault and aggravated robbery. Ryan Miday, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, said the seriousness of the crime and the fact that the suspect has three pending cases against him were the reasons they asked that he be remanded to the juvenile detention center.

“This is a major victory,” said Madison, upon hearing the ruling. “Now we can feel safer in Cleveland Heights. He went from playing video games at home, to spending time in jail.” Madison believes his neighbors’ presence in court made a difference in the judge’s decision. “We’re thankful for the community support,” he said.

In the wake of this assault and other recent incidents, such as the disturbance after the Coventry Street Fair on June 26, Cleveland Heights residents seem to be coming together to express how they feel and send a message – both to the courts and offenders – that the community will not tolerate violent or criminal behavior.

One resident, Anne Finnegan, sent an e-mail to her neighbors encouraging them to attend the July 6 hearing. “We have a chance to show the juvenile justice system how we feel about violent youth in our community,” she said in the e-mail. “The goal is to have 50 community members pack the courtroom to show community concern to the elected judge - to support the prosecutor's request to try him as an adult, to have him put in [Juvenile Detention] now and not at home - and to let the judge know we are serious and paying attention.” 

Mayor Ed Kelley, a friend of the Madisons, was among those who attended the hearing. “I will be with them throughout this whole process,” he said. “It made me sick to my stomach when I heard about it. This behavior is not acceptable in any community, and certainly not Cleveland Heights.”

“It makes me angry,” said Marilyn Meadows, a longtime resident of Corydon Road, “But I also feel a real strength in my neighbors.  I’ve never wanted to leave Cleveland Heights. We’ve always been a close-knit community and [our coming together to support our neighbor] really gave me a sense of pride. We can’t let things like this destroy a community that we love and support.”

“I was sad and a bit frightened [when I heard about the incident]”, said her husband, Dick Meadows, “But I feel a real sense of community with my neighbors. Many of them took time off from work to be at the courthouse to support Michael, and our presence made a difference.”

Tom Rask and his wife Jen have lived on the street for more than 30 years. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “It’s a very walkable neighborhood, and that’s one of the things we value about living in Cleveland Heights. This and the flash mobs—we don’t want them to continue. I support the city’s new curfew law. It gives the police another tool to deal with the problem, and I hope they use it—sparingly.”

 Madison, a psychologist, grew up in Cleveland, and moved to Cleveland Heights in 1980. “I liked its diversity and its beautiful streets,” he said. “I run and bike everywhere.” He says he feels comforted by the outpouring of support.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the caring and support from my neighbors,” Madison said. “Neighbors have been stopping by, offering support, inviting us to dinner. One woman, who I had never met before, brought me a pie.”

Madison said he was impressed with the responsiveness of city personnel. “Cleveland Heights police responded rapidly and professionally. Officer McHugh stayed with us and supported us after the trauma, providing a safe presence. And the next night, the mayor and police chief came to our house, sat with us and answered our questions.”

“It’s given me great hope for our street and for the community that we can get through this. People are not going to run away; we’re in this together. The strange gift of this is that my love for Cleveland Heights has deepened.”

The suspect will appear in court again on Aug. 1 to determine probable cause. If cause is found, he will be given a thorough mental evaluation, and a date for an amenability hearing will be set to determine if he will be tried as an adult.

In the meantime, Cleveland Heights neighbors continue to respond to this and other recent incidents. Two local groups will host community discussions on the topic. On Wednesday, July 13, Heights Community Congress will host a talk at the Lee Road Library from 7-9 p.m. On Thursday, July 14, Open Doors Academy will host another talk, led by youth, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Fairmount Boulevard, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

And Mayor Ed Kelley said city officials are working on the problem as well. “I don’t want anyone else hurt on my watch,” he said. “In the past couple of weeks, Cleveland Heights Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson has been meeting with the police chiefs of surrounding communities and county officers to discuss these issues. I will do my best to ensure that Cleveland Heights remains the safest city, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 4, Issue 8, Posted 10:05 PM, 07.10.2011