Corktown business community fears light penalty if break-in perp is caught

As Detroit police look for the perpetrator of break-ins at a pair of Corktown-area restaurants within a 24-hour stretch earlier this month, there's concern over what kind of penalty a suspect may face should one be identified and caught.

Police were looking into whether the April 11 or April 12 break-ins at Johnny Noodle King and Huron Room, which are under the same ownership, were linked to a wave of recent break-ins in the Corktown and Mexicantown areas. A Detroit police spokeswoman says there has been an uptick in such incidents this month, though she could not say how many places were affected. A used car dealership on Michigan Avenue was broken into on April 11. The spokeswoman said Slows Bar BQ was not among the businesses broken into that day, despite media reports that said otherwise.

The break-ins at the popular restaurants follow a series of break-ins at businesses along Michigan Avenue in January and February that culminated with a break-in and suspected arson at Katoi on Feb. 17. Nemo's, Artifactry, and Metropolis Cycles were also broken into during that stretch. Police believe they have caught the suspect in connection with the incidents, a 27-year-old named Michael Allen Horton. Horton is due for trial on May 17.

Metro Times has learned from sources affected by those break-ins that Horton was arrested amid the winter incidents and bonded out for $250 — only to perpetrate another break-in upon his release. We could not verify this through Wayne County court records, and a Detroit police spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny whether this was the case.

McShane's Irish Bar, also located along Michigan Avenue, had a plate glass window shattered during the stretch of time in which Horton was out on the streets, though he was never named the suspect in that incident. Owner Bob Roberts says the damage cost him $1,400.

"There's a little bit of frustration with a lot of the residents and business owners here in Corktown with the fact that there is such low penalty [for these crimes] coming out of the prosecutor's office," says Roberts. "And a lot of times, there's no holdover during actual prosecution at all."

One longtime criminal defense attorney says it's not unusual that somebody out on bond repeats the same offense that got them arrested, but doing so subjects them to much harsher penalties.

"Any crime committed while on bond could subject [a suspect] to a consecutive sentence rather than a concurrent one," says Detroit-based attorney David I. Lee. "[The suspect] would also face the possibility of being 'habitualized,' which would significantly enhance the sentence."

Breaking and entering is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Michigan. Sentences and bonds are set based on a suspect's criminal history and the nature of the crime they're believed to have committed. Horton does not appear to have a prior criminal record.

Debra Walker, of the Corktown Community Organization, says Horton should have remained behind bars to keep from re-offending.

"There should be some penalty to discourage people from continually committing crimes," she said. "If you bond him out at $250 and the door they broke at Metropolis is worth more than that, then the victims aren't getting any justice. You're also not helping the criminal at all because they're going to continue to do it."

Police have not yet identified a suspect in connection with the latest wave of incidents that include Johnny Noodle King and Huron Room.

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