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Sterling Heights

December 4, 2012

Woman convicted in assault on police officers

Dec. 8 show will raise funds for local nonprofit

By Cortney Casey
C & G Staff Writer

A jury has found a Sterling Heights woman guilty on multiple counts in a 2011 incident that the prosecution described as “every (police) officer’s worst fear.”Caroline Hocking-Sullivan, 49, was convicted on one count of assault with intent to murder and three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon Nov. 26, following a three-week trial in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors alleged that the armed defendant advanced upon Sterling Heights police officers when they entered her home in the 8300 block of Independence on May 25, 2011, summoned by a sister who feared Hocking-Sullivan was suicidal and had possibly overdosed.

According to the prosecution’s account, Hocking-Sullivan sprung from the couch and rushed at the four officers, clutching a butcher knife. One officer deployed a Taser to impede her progress; another fired a wounding gunshot.

Timothy Barkovic, Hocking-Sullivan’s attorney, did not return a call for comment on the case’s outcome by press time.

But earlier this year, he maintained that Hocking-Sullivan was in a deep slumber on the couch in the dim room, and she was startled by the officers’ sudden and unexpected entry.

He said his client has slept with a knife beneath her pillow for protection ever since she was sexually assaulted and psychologically tormented two decades ago.

“They couldn’t act fast enough to defame my client at every opportunity they could, make her out to be some insane, mentally ill person — a knife-wielding, mentally ill person, and a person who’s had numerous contacts with law enforcement,” Barkovic said in May. “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

Barkovic also alleged during the trial that the officers had engaged in a conspiracy to cover up misconduct in their handling of the incident.

Among questions arising during the trial was whether officers attempted to use the Taser, as claimed, before firing a shot.

The device, which registers the time and date of each employment, recorded a date in 2000, but Assistant Prosecutor Steven Fox said a Taser International expert testified that the weapon improperly registered the year because an extended period without power caused it to reset itself.

“The expert came in to establish that the issue was with how time recorded within the machine,” said Fox. “When it was forensically examined, it confirmed the facts and the testimonies of the officers.”

Fox said a valid self-defense claim “requires both an honest and reasonable belief that she was in fear,” but he insists that Hocking-Sullivan had no reason to believe the officers were intruders, especially considering her sister had phoned ahead to tell her they were on the way.

The uniformed officers knocked and rang the doorbell before entering, then called her name and announced their presence as they proceeded through the house, he said.

“Clearly, (jurors) believed the testimony of the officers, and they stood by the police because it was the most logical, and, quite frankly, it’s what happened,” said Fox. “(The defense case) was like a house of cards. You pull away one card, and the whole thing collapses.”

Just because Hocking-Sullivan wasn’t successful in wounding an officer doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be held accountable, and had she injured or killed someone, no one would be feeling sorry for her, argued Fox.

“This is exactly every officer’s worst fear,” he said. “I feel sympathetic, and I feel sorry that the defendant was in the personal circumstances that she was — she was depressed, she was suicidal — but that’s absolutely no excuse for taking that out on police officers, and the actions she took.”

Hocking-Sullivan’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 10, 2013. Numerous variables will play a role in determining her fate, but Fox gave a rough estimate of 126-135 months, based on sentencing guidelines.

“Several years in prison is a fair assumption,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cortney Casey at ccasey@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.