Man who caused disruption at GH church enters plea

(Tribune photo/Becky Vargo) Chief Assistant Public Defender Phil Sielski watches as his client, Anthony Wabindato, is sworn in during a hearing Tuesday morning in Ottawa County Circuit Court.

A White Cloud man charged with assault and vandalism at a Grand Haven church late last year pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the charges during a hearing Tuesday morning in Ottawa County Circuit Court.

Anthony Lee Wabindato, 33, was also allowed to have the plea recorded as “no contest,” due to him being intoxicated at the time of the incident and because of potential liability, said his attorney, Phil Sielski.

Wabindato is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 28. He faces up to five years in prison on two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of resisting police, and one count of malicious destruction of property over $1,000 but less than $20,000.

Sielski noted that a plea agreement allowed his client to plead guilty to all of the charges in exchange for not being charged as a habitual offender, which could cause the sentence to be doubled.

Wabindato entered St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 920 Fulton Ave., shortly after 7 a.m. Dec. 30, 2018, as a handful of people were getting ready for the Sunday morning services. According to witnesses and police, the defendant smashed a chair, some pictures and two televisions; and then took his shirt off, put it in the microwave and turned on the appliance.

When approached by a church employee, Wabindato went after him with a stick, which turned out to be a piece of the broken chair, Judge Karen Miedema read from the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety report. The employee was able to push the man away as police arrived. Wabindato then waived the stick at police and was Tasered when he ignored orders to drop the stick.

Police also found that Wabindato had tossed firecrackers around the building, so that morning's Mass services were canceled and the church evacuated until an explosives-sniffing K-9 from the Michigan State Police could clear the building.

Wabindato was arrested at the scene and jailed pending his court hearings.

He was declared competent to stand trial during a hearing in late April. The trial is adjourned now that Wabindato has entered his plea.

Restitution, as of Tuesday’s hearing, was set at $1,900 for damages to the church. A court official said that a church employee and one of the police officers were injured in the incident, and their medical bills would be submitted as part of the request for restitution.

Wabindato will be lodged in the Ottawa County Jail until his sentence hearing.

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