Crime & Courts

Judge won't dismiss charges against McHenry man accused of animal abuse

Michael Braun, formerly of McHenry, leaves the McHenry County Courthouse after a hearing on misdemeanor animal cruelty charges Dec. 7.
Michael Braun, formerly of McHenry, leaves the McHenry County Courthouse after a hearing on misdemeanor animal cruelty charges Dec. 7.

A man argued Wednesday that members of a liberal Facebook group fabricated a police report that led prosecutors to charge him with animal abuse and disorderly conduct.

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt denied a handwritten request to dismiss the charges against former McHenry resident Michael Braun. Charged in April 2017, Braun claims his arrest was orchestrated by anti-Trump Facebook users.

A woman previously told police she witnessed Braun beat a white German shepherd with a trash can lid April 14, 2017, court records show. Braun’s side of the story, however, paints him in a more flattering light.

The man claims to have been trying to pull the German shepherd’s head out of the mouth of an antagonistic bull mastiff. He said the woman who called police never witnessed the struggle between Braun and the animals.

“The fact of the matter is this woman’s testimony was a complete lie,” Braun said. “She was never there.”

The dog owner made his argument in court Wednesday morning without success. Wilbrandt ultimately said what Braun had filed as a motion to dismiss the charges would be better suited for a defense at trial.

“Mr. Braun, I’m not saying that your arguments are incorrect,” Wilbrandt said. “I’m saying at this point, they’re premature.”

Braun, who doesn’t have a Facebook account, said he’s unsure what the private Facebook group is called. He claimed to have learned about the group through a relative who was invited to join.

Braun filed the motion on his own after Woodstock attorney Robert Hanlon withdrew from the case in April.

Braun hopes to hire a new attorney, but only if the case is moved to another county, he said.

Previous Northwest Herald articles about the charges have impeded his chances of a fair trial and possibly warded off local attorneys, he said.

“It’s like they’re all afraid of me and afraid of this case,” he said.

Braun will represent himself in court and argue his own motions, as he did Wednesday when he told the judge that police failed to properly investigate the accusations before making an arrest.

A witness description at the time identified Braun as having tattoos on one arm, but he has tattoos on both, he said. His shoulder-length brown hair, long graying beard and full body of tattoos should have made for a more specific description if the woman really had been outside Braun’s home that day, he said.

“It’s not likely to confuse me easily with someone else,” he told the judge.

This isn’t the first time Braun has claimed to be a target of internet politics.

In February 2016, a 22-year-old woman unsuccessfully filed for a no-contact order against Braun, accusing him of showing up at her doorstep to say, “I don’t appreciate you talking about me and my girlfriend on Facebook.”

Braun said the root of his legal woes lies in a pro-Trump flag that has “drawn a lot of controversy” because he hung it outside his former McHenry home at the start of the presidential election.

Braun has since moved to Wisconsin, but he hasn’t updated his address with the McHenry County government.

“To be totally honest, I don’t want to give anyone in this whole courthouse my address,” Braun said.

Wilbrandt agreed to have court notices mailed to his former home, where Braun said family lives.

A hearing on Braun’s motion to move his case to another county is scheduled for July 11.

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