GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Looking down the barrel of at least 16 years in prison followed by deportation to Zimbabwe, a 23-year-old who pleaded to a brutal assault and robbery is ready to make a deal.
Police say Tafadzwa Dennis Muzamhindo was among a group of men who broke into a home late the night of Sept. 16 in the 3700 block of Dunbar Avenue SW, near 36th Street and Clyde Park Avenue.
The rest of the suspects escaped, leaving Muzamhindo alone to face punishment.
The result is the career criminal was facing a minimum of 16 to 26 years after pleading no contest last month to conspiracy to commit home invasion, assault with intent to rob while armed, unlawful imprisonment and felony firearms violations.
But as Kent County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Leiber was about to pronounce sentence on Thursday, Feb. 26, Muzamhindo applied the judicial brakes even as he made his apology to the victims and his own family.
“I want to withdraw my plea real bad,” Muzamhindo told the judge.
Leiber told the defendant that he would likely get “favorable consideration” if he were willing to identify his cohorts in the home invasion. Leiber asked Muzamhindo if would be willing to provide truthful testimony should suspects be arrested.
“Yes,” Muzamhindo answered.
The judge ordered that the case be adjourned until April 12 to give defense attorney Amy Rademaker time to meet with the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office to see if a new agreement could be worked out.
After the hearing, Rademaker said this was the first time her client had been offered any consideration for identifying the others involved in the incident. She said her client also had not been interested in such a deal until he was standing on the precipice of a prison sentence.
Assistant Kent County Prosecutor James Benison was recently moved from working in the circuit court to a new position of the county’s chief appellate attorney. He said that he has no memory of deal being offered to Muzamhindo in exchange for testimony.
Benison said, in general, the prosecution looks at whether a suspects testimony would have value and whether any information he may give would be credible.
In this case, the victims are no longer West Michigan, according to the attorneys.
This case stated in the wee hours of Sept. 16 when Wyoming father Humberto Garcia-Garza reported that he and his children were asleep when he heard his bulldog barking and found masked gunmen ransacking his home.
Garcia-Garza tried to protect his wife and children only to be bound with duct tape and then struck with the butt of a handgun, beaten and kicked as he was on the floor. His children, ages 9, 14 and 19 years old, watched the attack.
The family’s bulldog kept assailants from going to the basement where Garcia-Garza’s frantic wife called police, who arrived moments later.
During a hearing in October in Wyoming District Court, the victims said their assailants were masked so they could not identify them.
The men fled and police arrested Muzamhindo as he hid behind a garage on nearby Illinois Street SW.
Muzamhindo has a lengthy criminal record, including four felony convictions that would have required a mandatory penalty of 25 years to life in prison if found guilty in this case.
In exchange for the plea, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to drop additional charges from the home invasion case as well as charges stemming from a separate July incident in Grand Rapids of carrying a concealed weapon.
Mozamhindo is in the country legally but is from Zimbabwe.
Part of the prosecution rationale to agreeing to the plea was that Mozamhindo faces deportation to Zimbabwe after he serves at least 14 years on top of the mandatory two year gun law violation prison term.
It remains to be seen if the decision of the defendant leads to the capture of the remaining suspects.