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Councilman gets day in court

Councilman gets day in court

By Judy Reed

There is no dispute over whether Raymond Huckleberry, former owner of Stein Brothers pizza, sold items on Ebay that he found in the second story of the building—items left there by Doug Stein, the previous owner of the restaurant.

Huckleberry, who was charged with larceny over $200 but less than $1,000, readily admits he sold some items.

The question is, whose items were they legally?

Huckleberry testified about it in court, on Friday, June 4. But he maintains that the items were abandoned, since Stein did not remove them within 180 days, per the provision of their buy/sell agreement.

Stein, who had been a long-time friend of Ray and his family, testified they had an oral agreement at the closing. “I told him I’d move it and he said, ‘Why? No need to,’ recalled Stein.

Huckleberry bought the business at 77 S. Main in 2006 and agreed to lease the building. According to testimony by Huckleberry, his wife Laura, and their broker Richard VandeKerkhoff, the original buy/sell agreement first proposed Stein remove his belongings (beer collectibles from the old tavern and other collectible and household items) within 60 days. Stein requested more time, and they settled for 180 days.

Vanderkerkhoff said he didn’t recall any oral agreement that the items could be stored there. “If the conversation had taken place, I would have told Ray that’s not what we agreed to,” he noted.

The Huckleberrys testified that the Steins removed items for the first six months, and that they then never saw them go upstairs again.

But Stein said he often went up there, such as to get things during boating season, or tax receipts. “I told him we’d be going in and out and he said no problem,” noted Stein.

In January 2009, Stein said there started to be problems with late payments on the business. “He was trying, and we waited,” said Stein. “We didn’t lock the doors.”

In the spring of 2009, Stein said he and his wife went to the room above the restaurant to gather some tax receipts and noticed some things were missing. So he went to Huckleberry’s house and asked him if he knew anything about it. “Ray said, ‘You’re kidding, Doug, I can’t believe that!’” recalled Stein.

He then notified the Cedar Springs Police. Later in the summer, a large wooden carving was returned to the Steins, after a witness recognized it as one of the Stein’s missing items. He in turn took it to the police. Once their investigation turned up the possibility that Huckleberry, and not one of his employees took the items, they turned it over to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department to avoid any ethical conflicts, since Huckleberry serves on the City Council.

When Huckleberry went in to see Detective E.J. Johnson, he initially denied that he had anything to do with the missing items. He also said that he didn’t know if there was anything of value up there. Huckleberry told him that they had an agreement that the items would be out in six months. The detective then showed him the lease agreement, which did not mention it. On the tape, Huckleberry panicked when he couldn’t find the part about the 6-month agreement. (It’s because it wasn’t in there, it was in the buy/sell agreement.) The detective reminded Huckleberry that he and Stein supposedly had a conversation about the terms. “I thought it was more formal,” said Huckleberry, who was clearly rattled.

When the detective showed him the letter from Ebay that documented what he had sold, he started to say people at work could’ve logged on to his account because the computer was in his office. The detective stopped him, and told him that people make mistakes and that he was looking at a misdemeanor. He asked if there was anything left he could give back to Stein. “Yes,” said Huckleberry. “I’m not a good liar.”

“My thinking, as flawed as it was, is that he had 6 months to get out…I should’ve told Doug that day in my driveway, ‘Oops, I made a mistake, I thought the stuff wasn’t of any value.’” He told police he sold the items to help make payments on the business. In the statement he wrote after the interview with the detective, he said he recalled the conversation with Stein about him using the space, and that with the pressure he was under, “he may have chosen to forget it.” He was later arraigned on charges of larceny over $200, but less than $1,000.

During testimony, Huckleberry said that because he couldn’t find the formal agreement in the lease, he thought he must have been wrong. He said he now knows that the conversation he “remembered” must’ve taken place during negotiations. He also said he that he lied to Stein because he didn’t want to get in an argument while they were undergoing negotiations to sell the business.

Faced with the fact that he lied to police and then admitted remembering the conversation with Stein in his statement, Huckleberry said, “I was scared to death in that room. I made some bad decisions. I’ve never had any problems with the law and now I was in a room with shackles on the floor. I thought I was wrong. I’m mad as hell that I capitulated and should’ve trusted my gut and told Detective Johnson that I’d find the records and come back,” he explained. “(And) I regret not settling with Doug and ‘fessing up in my driveway.”

Although Huckleberry lied to Stein and initially to police, he did not take things in a secretive way. A employee said he told them the items were abandoned, and several of them went upstairs with him through a ladder leading from the kitchen up through a hole in the floor to look at stuff and to help carry some of it down in the fall of 2008. He then packaged it up for Ebay. The amount of money he got off the items he sold came to $212.46.

At the end of the non-jury trial, Judge Servaas told the court that the questions were whether the property was abandoned, and if not, was there a reasonable doubt that Huckleberry thought it was? Also, how credible is he? He then blasted Huckleberry.

“It’s hard, Mr. Huckleberry, when you start out lying your butt off about everything, for me to believe you…If you believed it was yours, you should’ve told him. I don’t have a lot of faith in you. I believe Mr. Stein—that because you were friends, there was an oral agreement at the time of close, and that if you needed the space, he’d come and get the stuff. You lied to him because you knew you had the agreement. My feeling is that without that, the property would be abandoned.”

Servaas noted that an oral agreement is not admissible in a civil case, but he hadn’t come across this before in a criminal case. He ordered the defense attorneys to research whether a contract can be varied by an oral agreement. It will be at least a month or more before a verdict is in on the case.

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34 Responses to “Councilman gets day in court”

  1. Paix says:

    Smart move to have a bench trial, no Kent County jury lets Councilperson Huckleberry off on that story. Judge Servaas will do a better job than the jury and that may save Mr. Huckleberry.

    I doubt it saves him from the voters at the next election.

  2. Paix says:

    What always stuns me about Ray is the level of unaware arrogance he possesses. He is someone who believes himself infallible and yet is entirely unaware of it. It is like a King who has always been catered and bowed to and simply does not contemplate his choices and the impact they can have on the people around him.

    We will see what the legal consequences are, but look for a moment at the man. Last year he said, ““My reputation in this community speaks for itself. I cannot discuss details of the case right now, but when I can, I will gladly share,” he told the Post”

    What we heard on the stand under oath shows us the character of this man whose reputation stands for itself. A friend, a man he was supposed to pay rent to each month, was callously chucked under the bus.

    We should doubt the word of this man who holds a public trust. Even if the judge accepts his word that there was a verbal agreement, why would you sell your friend’s belongings without saying anything?…

  3. Paix says:

    Continued…

    And what really shows the man’s character is that he stopped paying his obligations to Mr. Stein. If this was right, why didn’t he give Mr. Stein the money he owed?

    The truth is he knew what he was doing was wrong, but since Ray is exempt from the standards of society he lied to his friend, and he lied to the police.

    And can we forget as we read this longer version of the story that, for a period of time, he knew there was a criminal investigation and he sat around as the police looked at his employees as the possible criminal going so far as to suggest one of his people who has his ebay information did committed this crime.

    When did this man whose reputation stands for itself plan to tell the truth?

    And look at his choice to take this to Court. After all the lies, after selling his friends stuff and lying to him, Ray still wants to be found Not Guilty.

    Why?

  4. Abe Meir says:

    I don’t know what the story is, it is time for this man to leave office. We deserve better in office than this person.

  5. Jim B says:

    What kind of guy does this to his friend? He did not think he could do this or he would have told the man the truth.

    It’s time to resign buddy, we do not need people like you in office.

  6. Jim B says:

    Check this out
    http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/bcs_corp/dt_llc.asp?id_nbr=D0056T&name_entity=STEIN%20BROTHERS%20PIZZA%20COMPANY

    Okay so he takes over Stein in 2006. He sells his buddies stuff 3 years later? His business was going out and he needed money, that is what went on here otherwise he could have sold the stuff in 2006.

    Loophole Ray Huckleberry resign!

    Does anyone know if his dad hired him on his staff since he is a legislator? How is this guy paying his bills these days?

  7. Paix says:

    LOL, I doubt Mr. Huckleberry has the ability to understand his Court appearance has doomed him politically. He has shown what kind of man he is, but I doubt he gets how offensive what he did is, whether or not he is finally convicted.

    He will stay and run again.

  8. miblue1 says:

    I see nothing has changed in Cedar Springs as far as the goverment is concerned.We left that armpit of America 3 years ago and after reading the dirty laundry they have been airing for better part of a year…I know I made the right move.

  9. Paix says:

    It is odd, Huckleberry seemed to be part of some new leadership. The old guard are really well past their prime and need to leave, too.

    The good news is they have a great new city manager and police chief who do not come from the arm pit days.

    Huckleberry is really a piece of work, though. Being elected means you have a public trust. People who lie to the police and lie to their friends and expect to get off on the subsequent criminal charges do not fit that bill.

  10. Charlie Towns says:

    If you feel Cedar Springs is the “Armpit of America” then I am glad you left. I have lived around the world for the past 13 years and I don’t think it is that bad. One day I hope to go back, but to each his own. Paix 90% of the post on the Huckleberry Stories are from you bad mouthing him. Yet you never say how you know him, or what he did to turn you against him. Get a life! If you want to put something out you feel is relevant on this issue, then you should not be so cowardly as to hide behind a false name. Your own personal statements against the man are not quantified in any other way than your personal opinions!

  11. Paix says:

    LOL, well Charlie it is really none of your business how I know the guy. I think if you were reading the articles you would see for yourself what kind of Council Person we have in town.

    Do you support a guy who lies to his friends? Putting aside whether he had the right to sell the stuff, wouldn’t you want him to do the right thing and give his friend, to whom he was months behind in his lease payments, the chance to move the stuff before he sold it?

    Do you support a guy who does not mind if he employees are questioned by police for what he knew he sold?

    And how about lying to the Detective? You support that?

    Well of course you do! I see you do not have the daring do it takes to stand up for some honesty on Council; gosh we can’t have that, we have to defend Ray.

    How about you tell us your back story? Why is it you support this guy who cannot even be honest with his friends?

    He is the quote, “My reputation in this community speaks for itself. I cannot discuss…

  12. Charlie Towns says:

    “It is none of your business” Translation= I am to scared to have my opinions associated with my name. It is hard to take responsibility for what I say, but is easy to claim to have inside knowledge with no accountability for what I say.

    As for what I think of a situation To easy,
    I do not support what he did. I probably will not vote for him in the next election. I think if he is found guilty he should pay for what he did. I really do not know the guy that well, but then again I never claimed too (unlike you). I think it is wrong to lie to a friend.

    What does bother me about Cedar and the State of Michigan/US Goverments is that people only want to become informed on the political process when it comes time to criticize or Monday morning quarterback a scandal(such as yourself). What have you done to better the Cedar Government, have you even tried or do you just sling mud at them.

    In Nov 05 I came home and I was speaking to Ronny Merlington he told me only 17% of the…

  13. Charlie Towns says:

    of the registered voters register in Cedar took part in a recent city election. I bet more people have read and have opinions about Ray did or did not do than voted for or against him.

    In the 2008 Michigan Democratic presidential primary people were upset because manufacturing jobs were leaving the State at a record number. Yet Hillery won over Dennis Kussinch. Hillery promised to continue the legacy of Bill. The problem is that Bill signed all the trade agreements that sent the jobs away. Kussinch was an anti free trader, yet he lost. Why because no one wanted to be informed or involved they were only angry and lashing out (kinda like you). I am not a democrat, but plenty voted, and most were concerned about the loss of jobs.

    I see the same level of apathy at the local level. No one gives a Sh**t about City Hall unit it comes time to B**ch and say “I would have done so much better”. So when I see someone who is such a coward that will not post their real name and tell the…

  14. Charlie Towns says:

    Continued (again) Wow i had alot to say”

    whole story, but wants to claim the benefit of having “inside knowledge” it bothers me. I bet you have not offered anything to the city to better it, which unfortunately is the status quo.

  15. Paix says:

    LOL, what are you a little kid? Smart people do not put their names on the web. More to the point we are talking about values.

    When your friend, who you owe several months rent, shows up and asks what happened to his stuff and you lie to him, does it matter what my name is?

    Nope.

    When you lie to the police and try to put it on one of your people, do you think it would make more sense if you knew my name?

    Nope.

    I love how only Judge Servaas put it, “It’s hard, Mr. Huckleberry, when you start out lying your butt off about everything, for me to believe you..”

    I guess if my name were brought into it, Ray would no longer be a liar.

  16. Paix says:

    You can see in Ray’s choices that Ray comes first. Does he take responsibility for what he did?

    “My thinking, as flawed as it was, is that he had 6 months to get out…I should’ve told Doug that day in my driveway, ‘Oops, I made a mistake, I thought the stuff wasn’t of any value.’

    Dude got $200 plus bucks for Mr. Stein’s stuff AND this was at a time when Huckleberry owed money to Stein. Why not give Mr. Stein the cash?

    He is an underhanded snake in the grass.

  17. Rick Bushnell says:

    Whatever the relationship of this Palix fellow, it’s obviously personal. Quite the fixation from what I’ve read so far.

  18. Charlie Towns says:

    What he did is not excusable, you are right. I never said it was. I am not afraid of people knowing who I am and the opinions I have. If I knew him better I would say how, or I would just keep quite. Even before all the facts were out you were bashing this guy. It is obvious that you have a side agenda. You probably were someone who delivered pizza for him but could not handle showing up to work on time. So you got canned. It is obvious you are bitter at him.

  19. Paix says:

    Wow are you paranoid. I have never worked for Ray Huckleberry, LOL, not something I would suggest to anyone.

    There is no side agenda, it is about truth. When you read back over the posts you can see the people who talk about what a good guy he is. I am not saying he is evil, or anything, but he is not what he presents himself as to other people. People who know Ray really well know the shady side of Ray…and believe me I have not told all I know, I doubt the Post would want that much personal posted about him.

    This is most sad for Ray, but he keeps lying, he does not believe he should be held accountable for what he did. I think people like Ray are not what we want in public office.

    If he were not still clinging to his council seat I would not bother, but he is so I will continue to open it up.

  20. Jim B says:

    Ray Huckleberry is not fit to hold any office. There are some odd balls serving in Cedar Springs and it would be nice if they went away, but this guy is dishonest.

    It is time for this guy to go away today. RESIGN HUCKLEBERRY

  21. Paix says:

    My bet is even if found guilty, Mr. Huckleberry does not resign.

  22. Abe says:

    This guy really put on a show for Cedar Springs, didn’t he. Mr Rotary, Mr Council Dude, Mr. Pizza Guy….Mr. Criminal who lies to his friend he owes money to.

    I saw that stupid “Closed because of Bush Hoover economy.” He was closed because he did a bad job and may want to think about looking at his character before he blames others for his failures.

  23. Jim B says:

    Yeah where are all the people who were defending him?

    RESIGN RAY HUCKLEBERRY

  24. Charlie Towns says:

    I see now that all the facts are in this was a dishonest act, even if he is not found guilty. I will admit that before all the facts were in I wanted to believe that he would not do such a thing. At the minimum I think he owes the Community an apology, or a resignation as mentioned above. As a registered voter, taxpayer, and citizen of Cedar Springs I am disappointed in his conduct. He was in the wrong no matter how you slice it and there is no denying it. But lets put this in perspective however the guy is not on the same level as Kwame Kilpatrick. He only got 200 some dollars, lost a life long friend, and has lost face in front of the whole norther portion of the county. All of this was brought on by his own actions which he is being held accountable for in the legal court and the court of publica opinion. I certainly hope that everyone who has read these stories on Ray or has formed an opinion about what he did will take just as serious their own obligation to VOTE next time in the…

  25. Charlie Towns says:

    CONTINUED
    …..city elections. It is all too often that folks all across this nation complain about elected officials, but do not even vote for or against them in the polls. Just as there is no legal, but instead a moral, obligation not to lie to a friend. There also is a moral obligation to vote for or against public officials you complain about. I certainly hope that people realize this and voter turn-out in city elections increase. If you do not vote but complain about elected officials you are just as much a part of the problem as they are.

  26. Paix says:

    I am not sure how you quantify and compare to Kwame Kilpatrick. However, what I will say is there is far more that Huckleberry has in common with Kwame than you may think. That stuff gets personal so no details from me. There are some other financial stuff, too, and it is far more than $200.

    Let’s also keep in mind Mr. Stein and his brother got stuck with the building and restaurant Ray ran into the ground. Lots of people got whacked in Ray’s crash and burn.

    As I see Huckleberry was ambitious and as things came apart the real Ray came out.

  27. Jim B says:

    You can fool some of the people some of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time.

    This guys days of fooling people have come to an end. I would love to know if this guy has a state job now that he has no restaurant to go to? Daddy is a State Representative, I wonder if he helped sonny out on our dime?

  28. Mitch says:

    Takes a lot of nerve to stay in office after what this guy did. When will the Court make its decision? Seems like a long time to decide.

  29. somelocalyocal says:

    Now if only the people in Washington would start stealing peoples stuff, then we could start in on them too!

    It’s too bad people don’t have the kind of zeal in some of the comments above when they get into office! I mean seriously, what happens once you get into politics? Do they give you a labotomy or slip you drugs or something?

    They smile, shake hands, make public appearances, show support where it warms the heart, feed us a line, blah blah blah, all the while being some strange numbers game behind a curtain; shifting around numbers (i.e. money that probably doesn’t actually exist).

    Get everything to all add up long enough to let someone else deal with it.

    Sorry for the rant, but growing up and understanding more of how things seem to work is frustrating when you’re trying to keep a level head to keep moving forward while not only national, BUT ALSO LOCAL govt. representatives make their way up some ladder only to throw a bug bucket of dumb decisions on everything.

  30. Paix says:

    Huckleberry did this because of his lack of character, politics had nothing to do with it. His personality is to put on a big show for everyone while he sneaks around.

    He fooled the people of Cedar Springs and he was running against people who were really about as odd as you can get both in the primary and the general election.

    Maybe it is that dishonest people are drawn to politics in the first place?

  31. Mitch says:

    Any word on when the judge makes his call on this case?

  32. busdriver says:

    Charlie & Rick–you are correct on your assumptions of how Paix knows Ray. He has a tendency to involve himself in business that he has nothing to do with. And as he is bad mouthing Ray, he knows nothing, only his own opinions that he has made facts in his mind. As the saying goes, (which fits Paix very well) misery loves company.

  33. Mitch says:

    Hey Bus Driver, gee are you a Huckleberry, yourself?

    Nice that you defend convicted criminals!

  34. Abe Meir says:

    Interesting how BusDriver goes all the way back to June and then bothers with Paix at all.

    Hey Ray Huckleberry are you driving a bus these days?

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