By Tom Gilchrist
For The Advertiser
CASS CITY — A Tuscola County judge hasn’t ruled on whether a Cass City snowmobiler should stand trial on a felony charge after a state conservation officer said he chased the man about five miles on snowmobiles Jan. 5.
District Judge Kim David Glaspie is considering arguments from prosecutors and defense attorney George A. Holmes, who represents Michael W. Langenburg, 44, charged with fourth-degree fleeing and eluding of Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Joshua Wright.
Langenburg also is charged with assaulting/resisting/obstructing Wright, with reckless operation of a snowmobile and with operating an unregistered snowmobile.
Holmes, a Caro lawyer, argues that Langenburg can’t be convicted of fourth-degree fleeing and eluding because a snowmobile isn’t a “motor vehicle” under state law.
Holmes wrote in a legal brief that a snowmobile operates upon “tracks,” adding that it “uses a track device for impelling, and is not on wheels.” Holmes stated a snowmobile is “not unlike a bulldozer” and maintains “it is clear the (state) Legislature did not intend to regard a snowmobile as a motor vehicle.”
“Under the prosecution’s theory … a person could be charged with fleeing and eluding while operating a motorized wheelchair,” Holmes wrote.
Holmes said Wednesday he expects Glaspie to rule on Langenburg’s case within a few days. Langenburg said he owns Langenburg Construction Co. Inc., but he declined comment about the court case.
Tuscola County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Eric F. Wanink argues in a legal brief that “The law has designated a snowmobile as a motor vehicle in the past.” Wanink contends the snowmobile driven by Langenburg “is a motor vehicle, because it was used by (Langenburg) to flee and elude the conservation officer while operating on a highway as the testimony at exam reflected that the pursuit travelled down the middle of highways such as Koepfgen Road and across M-81.”
Because Langenburg “chose to operate his snowmobile on a highway, like any other motor vehicle, it can be treated like any other motor vehicle,” Wanink wrote.
Wright testified at a Feb. 10 hearing that he began chasing Langenburg’s snowmobile after noticing the machine — one of a group of five snowmobiles traveling on Elmwood Road near Crane Road — had an expired registration and no trail sticker required to operate a snowmobile in Michigan.
Wright said he turned on his snowmobile’s blue emergency lights to pursue the other snowmobile. Wright said he tried to pull the driver — later identified as Langenburg — off the machine, only to have the driver accelerate and take off after Wright touched him on the back. Upon questioning by Holmes, Wright said he didn’t show a “badge” to Langenburg during the chase.
Wright stated he eventually caught the other snowmobile after it pulled into a residence along Koepfgen Road. After the driver dismounted from the machine, Wright said he told him to get down on his knees.
“Are you sure you didn’t tell him to get down on the ground and put his face down in the snow?” Holmes asked.
“I did not say that,” Wright replied.