- Associated Press - Friday, June 2, 2017

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A man in central Michigan has been convicted of jury tampering after handing out pamphlets in front of a courthouse.

Jurors in Mecosta County found Keith Wood, 41, guilty Thursday of trying to influence separate potential jurors in a 2015 case against a man, Andy Yoder, who had a dispute with the state over illegally filling wetlands. Mecosta County Assistant Prosecutor Nathan Hull said Wood had an interest in the case.

“What made this illegal was specifically how the defendant did it,” Hull told jurors. “He did not go to a Walmart. He chose the date of the Yoder trial. The time that jurors would be appearing for the trial. And one of the only two entrances jurors had to walk through.”

Court documents said Wood was arrested in 2015 for standing outside of the 77th District Court in Big Rapids and handing out pamphlets, which advised prospective jurors to vote their conscience over the law. County prosecutors said such information misrepresents the legal system and could lead to a lawless society.

Wood’s attorney, David Kallman, said his client was on a public sidewalk exercising his First Amendment rights and that it has nothing to do with the Yoder case.

“I understand they don’t like it, but you know what? In our country, again, we can still speak freely - at least I think I can,” Kallman said in court.

Wood says he plans to appeal the verdict.

“We really hoped that the jury would see that I wasn’t intentionally trying to tamper or influence with actual jurors in a case; that wasn’t the intent,” he said. “It doesn’t look good for free speech, let’s put it that way.”

Wood remains free on bond and faces up to a year in jail when he returns for sentencing next month.

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