Jury finds Brauker guilty in homeless assault

Jan 30, 2017

Maayingan Brauker is taken into custody following a guilty verdict for aggravated assault.
Credit Aaron Selbig

A Traverse City man was convicted Monday of assaulting a homeless man.

After a day-long trial, jurors found 19-year-old Maayingan Brauker guilty of assaulting David Whitney, who was kicked and punched last July while sleeping near Central United Methodist Church.

Aggravated assault is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.

Whitney testified that he and a few others were sleeping in a patch of woods known as “the pipeline,” when they were woken up by three attackers.

“We were all sleeping in a small area, and I heard a ruckus,” said Whitney. “I started to wake up, and I was kicked in the face. I wandered over to the railing, and then I was attacked again.”

After the attack, Whitney was hospitalized for injuries. He was treated for a subdural hematoma on his brain, and he received several stitches on his face.

The jury found Brauker “not guilty” of attacking four other men during the same incident. Four of the victims testified at trial, but only one them – James Conley – positively identified Brauker.

Conley admitted he had been drinking the day of the attack, but said he saw Brauker punching Whitney. Conley said two other men held Whitney against a railing while Brauker hit him repeatedly.

Conley used his cell phone to call 9-1-1.

The day after the attacks, Conley picked Brauker out of a photo line-up presented by Traverse City police.

All of the witnesses described multiple attackers, but Brauker was the only one prosecutors charged with a crime.

Grand Traverse County Assistant Prosecutor Charles Hamlin told jurors the victims were targeted because they were homeless.

“That’s why he chose that sub-group of people, because they are the ones who can’t defend themselves,” said Hamlin. “That’s why they were targeted.”

Brauker’s attorney, Jacob Graff, agreed the crimes were brutal and “unacceptable,” but he told jurors they must ask themselves if Brauker was the one responsible.

“Not hold him responsible because he’s the one who’s put before you, and you feel you have to vindicate justice,” said Graff in his closing arguments. “You need to evaluate the testimony and the evidence, and say, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the prosecutor proved [Brauker] committed these acts.”

Brauker was taken into custody following the verdict. His sentencing is scheduled for March 1st.