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Bail denied: Murder suspect will not be granted pretrial release after court denies motion

A man accused in the suspected murder of Vietnam veteran Stan Norman will not be allowed to post bail before his trial begins next month, per a court ruling Monday afternoon.

Michael McCauley, 43, had submitted a motion last Tuesday asking a Nevada County Superior Court judge to review his bail status and allow him to post bond.

McCauley, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in connection with the 2018 slaying of 70-year-old Norman, is set to stand trial on Sept. 7 alongside co-defendant Sean Bryant, 53. Bryant has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and an additional charge of torture in the case.



At Monday’s hearing, Judge Robert Tice-Raskin was unconvinced by briefs that McCauley’s defense attorney, Kelly Babineau, had submitted on her client’s behalf as to why McCauley should be allowed to post bond.

Instead, Tice-Raskin concurred with arguments made by District Attorney Jesse Wilson, who had submitted briefs last week in opposition to Babineau’s motion.



“The court concludes that there is no sufficient combination of conditions that will both protect public safety and assure Mr. McCauley’s compliance with court orders if he is allowed to post bond…thus it is ordered that Mr. McCauley continues to be detained without bail,” Tice-Raskin said.

Babineau had argued that McCauley was eligible for bail review in accordance with California’s Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that reformed state bond guidelines and shifted the burden onto prosecutors to prove that a defendant should remain in custody.

McCauley was significantly less culpable in the events surrounding Norman’s death than Bryant, and does not represent a threat to public safety, Babineau contended. The defense attorney’s motion also made the case that being out of custody before his trial would allow McCauley to work more closely with his attorney and better defend himself before the jury.

But Tice-Raskin ultimately concurred with prosecutors that McCauley’s release could pose a significant risk to public safety, based on the seriousness of the murder charge he faces as well as his criminal history prior to the current matter.

McCauley has two convictions on assault/battery charges prior to the Norman case, and these convictions were part of the court’s determination that the defendant continues to represent a credible risk to public safety, Tice-Raskin said.

The judge also agreed with prosecutors that McCauley represents a credible flight risk if released. Because McCauley faces up to life in prison if convicted in the murder case, Tice-Raskin said the defendant has a substantial motive to not appear at subsequent court proceedings, including his own trial.

“Based on the nature of the offense, and the penalties faced by Mr. McCauley if convicted…he potentially faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison….the court is convinced that there is a significant risk of flight,” the judge said.

DISMISSAL

More broadly, Tice-Raskin expressed disagreement with the defense brief’s portrayal of McCauley as having a diminutive role in Norman’s death as compared to Bryant, who the briefs characterized as the far more culpable defendant in the case.

Babineau had asserted that her client was shocked when he found out that Bryant had first attacked Norman, and that McCauley had made efforts to both prevent Norman’s death and contact law enforcement to explain the situation. McCauley had only aided Bryant in the slaying and covering up what had happened after Bryant threatened to kill McCauley as well, the defense brief states.

In his decision to deny Babineau’s motion, Tice-Raskin dismissed the defense’s narrative of events, pointing out that McCauley had Bryant helped dispose of Norman’s body and vehicle after the victim’s death. The judge also said that McCauley had clearly not made any serious attempt to seek aid on Norman’s behalf while he was still alive, indicative of the defendant’s culpability in the matter.

At Monday’s hearing, Babineau argued that any threat that McCauley posed either as a flight risk or as a risk to public safety could be easily mitigated by his admission into a sober living facility operated by Nevada County Behavioral Health. This health center had indicated a willingness to admit McCauley if the defense motion was granted, Babineau said, and her client’s admission into the facility would allow McCauley’s probation officers to monitor his movements and ensure his compliance with all court orders, she argued.

Babineau also reiterated her prior claim that McCauley posed a comparatively minor risk to public safety if released, as compared to Bryant. Any complicity that McCauley had in the events surrounding Norman’s slaying was motivated by fear for his own life based on Bryant’s threats, Babineau maintained.

“Mr. McCauley was not the mastermind of what happened. He came into this entire situation very late, and he was terrified of Mr. Bryant,” she said.

With the defense’s motion denied, both McCauley and Bryant are expected to remain in custody throughout the duration of their trial, which begins on Sept. 7.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com

Michael McCauley

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