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James Crumbley wasn't threatening prosecutor Karen McDonald, he was just venting, attorney says

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(CBS DETROIT) - The lawyer of James Crumbley, the father of the Oxford High School shooter, says that the statements he made during jail calls toward Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, weren't threats. 

In court filings obtained by CBS News Detroit, defense attorney Mariell Lehman says James Crumbley was just venting. Lehman said his comments toward McDonald were made in the hopes that she would lose her license over her role in the case. 

This comes a day before James and Jennifer Crumbley are scheduled to be sentenced for their roles in the Oxford High School shooting where their son killed four students and injured seven other people. 

READ: James Crumbley's threatening jail calls against Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald released

"In reviewing the phone calls which are alleged to contain threats of physical harm, it is clear that Mr. Crumbley is venting to loved ones about his frustrations related to the lack of investigation done by the prosecution prior to authorizing charges against him and his wife which resulted in his more than two-year incarceration up to this point. He does not threaten physical harm to Karen McDonald, instead, the calls are clear that he wants to ensure that she does not do to other people what she had done in this case - authorizing charges before an investigation could be conducted," Lehman said in court filings. 

Details regarding the jail calls James Crumbley made were released by the prosecution on Wednesday, April 3. They say his threatening calls show that he hasn't taken responsibility for his role in the shooting. 

"Defendant's jail calls showed that he blamed everyone but himself for what happened and that he repeatedly referred to himself as being persecuted and considered himself a 'martyr,'" the prosecution said in a recent court document.

In a call made on Jan. 3, 2024, James Crumbley said "I am f****** on a rampage, Karen. Yes, Karen McDonald. Your a** is going down and you better be f****** scared."

READ: James Crumbley, father of Oxford High School shooter, found guilty of involuntary manslaughter

His jails communications were revoked during his trial, on March 7. The prosecution alleges that after that form of communication was cut off, James Crumbley raised his middle finger to the prosecution while in court during his trial. 

Lehman says that James Crumbley wasn't flipping anyone off, but was holding his headphones close to his ear to hear better. He wore headphones during the trial because he had trouble hearing, which Lehman made clear during his trial. 

"This assertion by the prosecution related to Mr. Crumbley making an obscene gesture is not only irrelevant but it is also blatantly false and should be stricken from the record," Lehman said in the filing. "The Court could review the several days of trial and see that there were occasions where Mr. Crumbley used one or more fingers to press the device against his ears. Any assertion that Mr. Crumbley was doing anything other than attempting to hear the proceedings is baseless and a continued attempt to make Mr. Crumbley look bad to the media and the public."

READ: Oakland County prosecutors seek 10 to 15 years in prison for James and Jennifer Crumbley

In addition, Lehman asked that an independent prosecutor handle the sentencing of James Crumbley. 

She says that the jail calls being used against him in the sentencing are a conflict of interest and that because they are being used, McDonald and others could be called as witnesses. 

The prosecution is seeking 10 to 15 years in prison for James and Jennifer Crumbley, and an Oakland County judge will decide their sentencing terms on Tuesday, April 9. CBS News Detroit will stream live coverage of the hearing starting at 9 a.m. 

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