Trial begins for teen accused of rape at Lincoln High School

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published February 11, 2019

 Khymani Tolbert was ordered to stand trial after a preliminary examination in the 37th District Court last February.

Khymani Tolbert was ordered to stand trial after a preliminary examination in the 37th District Court last February.

File photo by Brian Louwers

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MOUNT CLEMENS — Jury selection continued through a morning session Feb. 7 as the trial of a Warren teen accused of raping another student at Lincoln High School got underway in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Khymani Tolbert, 15, was charged as an adult with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment in December 2017. It was alleged that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in a stairwell after class hours at Lincoln, 22900 Federal Ave., near Nine Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue, on Nov. 28, 2017.

Tolbert was ordered to stand trial after a preliminary examination in the 37th District Court last February. Investigators said the charge was the result of a Warren Police Department investigation and evidence including the victim’s account of the events and surveillance video footage from the school that reportedly depicted a “heinous, egregious assault” that took place over 25 minutes.

During the preliminary examination, the victim told police that she knew Tolbert, but that they didn’t have classes together. She told the court that she found herself alone with Tolbert in a stairwell while on her way to meet friends and her brother after school. It was revealed during testimony that they kissed during the encounter, but the victim said she did not consent to a sexual act. She told the court that Tolbert started touching her, “verywhere he wasn’t supposed to,” and that she tried unsuccessfully to keep him from pulling her pants down. She said she eventually stopped struggling.

Warren Police Detective Cpl. Todd Murray testified during the preliminary examination that he viewed school surveillance video of the incident over the course of the investigation. He said it appeared to him that the encounter turned into a criminal act when Tolbert took the victim to the ground in a “football-style” takedown.

Prosecutors have argued that the victim clearly didn’t consent, but defense attorney Ken Vernier questioned that during cross-examination at the preliminary hearing.

He asked the victim about “playful banter” between her and Tolbert earlier in the day of the alleged assault and asked why she never screamed or shouted for help.

The trial date was adjourned several times at the circuit court level last year for various motions and requests for expert witnesses, including a video specialist.  

Tolbert, who was 14 when the alleged sexual assault took place, has remained held in the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center. He appeared alongside Vernier during a morning session of jury selection Feb. 7. The pool of jurors was exhausted before the full panel was seated, but the effort was expected to continue before lunch after another group of jurors was brought to the courtroom.

Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Edward Servitto told the seated jurors that he expected the trial to last several days, possibly through Feb. 15.

Look for an update on the proceedings online at www.can dgnews.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/warrenweekly.

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