The case of the State of Michigan versus Rex Carpenter went to court this week in Berrien County.
Carpenter is a disabled Niles resident who was charged with felony assault for allegedly using his cane as a deadly weapon.
Carpenter’s trial ended Friday morning as jurors rejected the felony count, but did return a guilty verdict on misdemeanor assault.
The felony would have carried a maximum prison sentence of four years in prison. The misdemeanor carries a maximum of 93-days in jail.
Carpenter admits that he used his cane to strike another man last summer following an incident of road rage, but he claims the other guy was wielding a knife.
The prosecution presented evidence to the contrary. “It (the knife) was away in his car,” said Berrien County Deputy Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli. “Physical evidence, I think, backed up his statements and his side of the story with the damage to the car and how the window was; there was no knife at the time.”
According to Carpenter, “he said that he never had the knife out, but yet, he felt guilty enough to throw it out the window.”
Before the other man called police to a parking lot where the clash took place, testimony indicates the man did toss a knife with a two and a half inch blade out of his car window.
It was the same knife that the man had displayed to Carpenter earlier—as the two were traveling down M-140.
“Then as Mr. Carpenter did try to pass that’s when the victim pulled out a knife and said, hey, get away from me, I don’t want anything to do with you,” said Deputy Prosecutor Pierangeli.
But the man apparently did want something more to do with Carpenter. It was the man who followed Carpenter as Carpenter pulled off the road and into the parking lot of an auto parts business.
“You know Mr. Smith was the victim, he probably should have acted in a little better way than he did, but his actions are no excuse for what Mr. Carpenter did,” said Pierangeli.
Carpenter responded by saying, “I didn’t wave the knife at him, he waived the knife at me, he’s the one that followed me into the parking lot.”
Carpenter says he only swung his cane at the man twice—just enough to end the confrontation. Carpenter said that anything beyond that would have been considered assault.
“They’re saying I’m the attacker now, because I’m trying to protect myself and it seems like what they’re telling me is I should have let him stab me and then hope for the best, and then called the police,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter was also convicted on a misdemeanor count of destruction of property. That, too, carries a maximum sentence of 93-days in jail.
Carpenter is scheduled to be sentenced next week.