October, 17 2017

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Letters seek leniency in teen stabbing case

Macomb County's top law enforcement official says he is standing firm in the decision to pursue adult criminal prosecution on a felony with a possible life sentence for a TROUBLED TEEN accused of stabbing a former love interest at Romeo High School, despite a mounting letter campaign in recent weeks on the boy's behalf.
Relatives, friends, schoolmates and others who barely know Eric Schorling have been writing to Prosecutor Eric Smith asking for leniency in the case, which was in court on a pretrial hearing recently before Macomb County Circuit Judge Peter J. Maceroni.

Smith estimated that "in excess of 50 letters" have reached him at the prosecutor's office as of this week, and more seem to be arriving each day. So far, he said, he is undeterred by them and the case will remain in the adult court system.

"I appreciate that the parents and others are writing letters, and I've been reading them," he said. "But the fact is, this girl was stabbed after she was stalked. There was more than one threatening incident, and he came to the school to attack her. This kind of action shouldn't be treated as anything less than assault with intent to murder."

Smith and others in the prosecutor's office said there are no plans for any plea bargain in the Sept. 27 stabbing of Nicole Lambert at Romeo High School; so Schorling, 16, must plead guilty as charged or face a trial. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

But apparently dozens of people want Smith to consider letting Schorling plead to a lesser charge, which under state law might allow him to be convicted and sentenced as a juvenile. Some participants in the letter-writing campaign said their concern is getting the youth some possible mental health care, and a chance to straighten out his life.

"I know there are some kids who have had a record their whole life, and they just continue to commit crimes, and in those cases I can see going ahead and charging them as an adult. But he's never been in trouble like this before," said Paula Laramie of St. Clair Shores, who wrote to Smith and is also a great aunt to Schorling.

"I'm also concerned that he wouldn't get the kind of treatment and help he needs if he went to an adult prison."

An Eastpointe man and letter-writer, who asked only to be identified as a friend of one of Schorling's grandparents, said he has only seen the young man a couple of times and isn't trying to argue that Schorling is innocent. But, he adds, there ought to be a better way to handle his case in the courts system.

"He's just a mixed-up, crazy kid, and I'm not trying to argue about whether he's guilty," the man said. "I just think he should be treated as a juvenile. That other case (in Richmond Township) with the two young people and the baseball bat abortion, is being treated as a juvenile case. And those two are the same age as he (Schorling) is."

Police and prosecutors have said Schorling, who had just previously transferred out of Romeo High into an alternative education PROGRAM, had a brief dating history with Lambert at the school followed by some apparent bad blood, threats and apparently obsessive behavior.

The stabbing occurred the morning of Sept. 27 in the halls of the high school as students were arriving to begin classes. Lambert, also 16, was hospitalized for three weeks at St. Joseph's Mercy of Macomb Hospital, Clinton Township, after an 8-inch knife blade was lodged in her back.

Officials and classmates who have testified thus far for the prosecution claim Schorling came to the school and showed at least one friend a knife that he had concealed in his sleeve, then told another friend he had stabbed her as he fled from the school. Police found him hiding in a nearby drainage ditch shortly afterward and arrested him.

Arthur Garton, a defense attorney representing Schorling in the case, said he was aware of the letter-writing campaign and hopes it will help sway prosecutors to be more flexible in their approach to the case.

"Under the current state law, because it's a capital (life felony) at his age he would have to be tried and sentenced as an adult," Garton explained. "If there were a reduction in the charge, however, then it would become a matter of discretion whether the prosecutor wants to have the court sentence him sentenced as a juvenile."

Garton added that the letter campaign reflects that there are "a lot of people who think, while the incident was tragic, it shouldn't be made worse." If Schorling were convicted or sentenced as a juvenile, he would face a maximum punishment of incarceration at the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center until he is 21.

Not everyone has been receptive to the letter campaign, however. Romeo High School Principal Gavin Johnson said Thursday that he was seen and received a letter circulating among the students asking for letters to Smith, but the school itself is not part of that effort.

The school faculty isn't encouraging students to participate, he said, and in fact Johnson said he is submitting a letter to the prosecutor's office with his own opinions.

"This is not at all school-sponsored. In fact, some school personnel will probably be writing to the prosecutor with the opposite view. I am, and I'm asking for the case to be fully prosecuted under the law."

Judge Maceroni has rescheduled the case for a trial date May 17, giving attorneys time to prepare any written motions or request to the court. In the meantime, Schorling remains lodged at the Juvenile Justice Center facility, formerly known as the county Youth Home.

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