By Bob Gross
A man who admitted killing an off-duty Port Huron police officer apparently is having second thoughts about pleading guilty to first-degree murder.
Joshua Michael Bauman, 31, on Aug. 16 pleaded guilty to premeditated first-degree murder and other charges in the shooting death of Port Huron Police Lt. Joel Wood. He also had been charged with shooting his estranged wife, Ashly Bauman, and one of Ashly Bauman’s neighbors during the early morning hours of Aug. 8, 2018 at an apartment building in Clyde Township.
Both Ashly Bauman and the neighbor survived their injuries.
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Joshua Bauman was scheduled to be sentenced Friday in St. Clair County Circuit Court. His lawyer, Bill Colovos, told visiting Judge William Giovan that his client had not understood that first-degree murder carried a life sentence. Colovos requested the hearing be adjourned so his client could consider whether he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea.
The sentencing had been delayed twice before Friday’s hearing.
Colovos said Bauman was under the impression he would be eligible for parole after serving 20 years.
St. Clair County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Melissa Keyes argued that Bauman “knowingly and voluntarily entered into a plea of first-degree murder,” and acknowledged the nature of his plea on the record.
Giovan is handling some of Judge Daniel Kelly’s cases while Kelly recovers from a stroke. He said while he understood the public’s interest in having the case come to a resolution, it was imperative the sentencing be done in a proper manner that safeguarded the defendant’s rights.
Giovan said he received letters from Bauman and Bauman’s mother that caused him to believe Bauman did not understand that pleading guilty to first-degree murder meant a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole.
“He’s asking me to give some consideration in the sentence,” Giovan said. “… “It came as a surprise to me, having understood he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.”
He said he reviewed the transcript of the trial and found one reference to a life sentence.
“Nobody asked him, ‘Do you understand … the mandatory sentence is life without parole?’” Giovan said.
“… It raises at least a question of whether there was a knowing and understanding plea.”
Giovan reiterated that Bauman’s letter left him with the impression that the accused did not understand the import of pleading guilty.
The judge read from the letter: “Please give me a chance of being a part of my kids’ life. … They mean the world to me.”
He said he thought the adjournment should be granted but asked that Keyes contact Kelly or Acting Chief Judge John Monaghan about who should make that decision.“This is a question of legitimate concern for the people of this community and the St. Clair County court system,” Giovan said.
Members of Wood’s family were in the courtroom Friday morning. Port Huron Police officers, including Chief Joseph Platzer and Capt. Marcy Kuehn, lined the back wall of the courtroom.
Bob Gross has been a journalist for 40 years in Michigan and Wyoming. He has covered subjects ranging from agriculture to zoology. He most recently covered courts and police for the Port Huron Times Herald.