MICHIGAN CITY — A junior on the Michigan City High School football team is in lock-up after allegedly attempting to rob Rios Mexican Grill at gunpoint earlier this month.
Michael C. Bradford, who turned 17 on Monday, entered a preliminary plea of not guilty during his initial hearing in La Porte Superior Court 1 on Tuesday. He is charged as an adult with attempted armed robbery as a Level 3 felony, which is punishable by 3-16 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Bradford’s defense attorney, Lonnie Randolph II, filed a motion to have the case transferred to juvenile court on the basis that Bradford was 16 on the day the incident occurred.
Randolph also says in his motion that in order for a minor’s case to be under the jurisdiction of the high felony court, a hearing must first be held during which the juvenile court waives jurisdiction – and no such hearing has occurred to the defense’s knowledge.
Judge Michael Bergerson took the defense motion for transfer under advisement Tuesday, as well as its motion for a bond reduction. However, he did not entertain the defense’s request that Bradford be released on pretrial supervision.
“This is a major felony,” Bergerson said. “He’s charged with carrying a ... deadly weapon. I have no intentions whatsoever of releasing him on pretrial release until I get a bond investigation.”
Currently, Bradford’s bond is set at $25,000 cash, an amount Randolph calls “unreasonable” in his motion.
Bradford’s aunt submitted a letter to the court asking for her nephew to be released to the custody of his mother on his own recognizance, or on GPS monitoring, or on $1,000 bail.
“He’s a 16-year-old male who is a A/B student,” she writes in a letter dated Jan. 15.
“He has never been in any legal trouble in the past. He has excelled in football and was highlighted in the newspaper most of 2019 for his phenomenal sportsmanship. At Michigan City High School, he’s considered a peer model as he exhibits a model behavior. He attends Greater First Baptist Church and is very family-oriented.
“I understand there is a dark cloud over him right now as these allegations hang over his life. The purpose of this letter is to request some movement be made on his behalf considering his excellent history. … Michael is not a threat to society and has never inflicted any harm on anyone, nor is he a flight risk. Please find it in your heart to give this young man a chance to fight for his life from the outside.”
Bergerson ordered a bond investigation and scheduled Bradford to return for a bail reduction hearing on Jan. 28. He will rule on the motion to transfer at that time.
The omnibus hearing, or the date by which the state must turn over its discovery to the defense, is scheduled for March 12.
Michigan City Police responded to Rios, at 2715 Franklin St., around 8:15 p.m. on Jan. 9 after an employee reported that Bradford had attempted to rob her at gunpoint.
According to the police report, the girl said Bradford approached the restaurant window wearing black clothing and a black hat, but stayed to the left of the window out of sight. He allegedly put a gun in her face and demanded she give him “the pouch” – a black, zip-up bag containing the money from customer orders.
“[The employee] stated she told the male ‘no’ and then called the male by his name, Michael Bradford, at which point Michael ran south,” the report states.
She said she knew Bradford from school, and reportedly told police that only restaurant employees would know where the money is stored and that its container is called “the pouch.” She noted that Bradford is friends with another employee who works at the restaurant, who might have given him that information.
“[The employee] stated that Michael ran off without taking any money or any other property from Rios,” the report says. “[The employee] was able to find a photo of Michael on her Facebook and stated that she was positive it was him who came to the window.”
She also identified him in a BMV photo.
The restaurant manager was not present at the time of the incident, but told police he arrived moments afterward, and that he’d seen a black male wearing black clothing, a black hat and black mask running south along Franklin Street just before he arrived.
The restaurant owner told police he would provide them with video surveillance footage that might assist in the investigation.
Officers attempted to reach Bradford at his mother’s home on Sparrow Lane on Jan. 9, but she said he’d been out with a friend.
When they spoke to the friend at his Springland Avenue residence, the boy reportedly told them he’d last seen Bradford around 7 p.m. The boy’s father then ordered him to stop answering questions and shut the door, the police report states.
Bradford was officially charged five days later on Jan. 14.
Known locally for his role on the MCHS football team, Bradford started the 2019 season as quarterback and finished as a running back and occasional linebacker. His work on the field reportedly attracted some interest from college football programs.
In his personal statement on his recruiting profile on the Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) website, Bradford states, “I’m very dedicated to the game, I don’t think anybody wants it as bad I do. I strive for perfection so all I do is. I’m a leader, I want what’s best for the people around me just as well as I would myself.”
Michigan City Area Schools declined to comment on the pending criminal case against Bradford; and deputy prosecutor Mark Roule said he is prohibited by law from making out-of-court remarks regarding pending cases.
Bradford’s defense attorney did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.