Thursday, July 13, 2017
A former Michigan prosecutor has been disbarred as a result of a felony misconduct in office and misdemeanor engaging the services of a prostitute convictions.
The Detroit Free Press had the story
Eight months and 11 days after he was arrested outside a coffee shop and charged with 15 prostitution-related crimes, former Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney Stuart Dunnings III will start serving his year-long jail sentence.
Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah on Tuesday ordered Dunnings, 64, to report to jail by 6 p.m. Friday.
Dunnings will be on probation for two years after his release, the judge ordered, and will be required to pay costs that will be calculated later.
Attorney General Bill Schuette said in March, during a news conference announcing charges, that Dunnings paid for sex hundreds of times and used his position of power to coerce a woman to be paid for sex. Schuette's office also identified five other victims, who were designed W-1, W-2, etc. in court documents. Dunnings' relationship with the woman investigators say he coerced, referred to in court records as W-6, was the basis for the 20-year felony Dunnings faced after his arraignment. That charged was dropped in exchange for a five-year felony, misconduct in office, to which he eventually pleaded guilty.
Vincent Toussaint, Dunnings attorney, asked Farah for leniency for his client and in doing so asked Farah to consider the "measure of a man" as more than his crimes or misdeeds, but also his positive contributions to society. Farah said he received about 40 letters in support of Dunnings, including from the former prosecutor's wife and an Ingham County Circuit Court judge. It was not clear Tuesday which judge authored the letter.
Toussaint asked Farah that if Dunnings were given jail time that it be delayed so he could continue treatment for a sex addiction. He has been in treatment for that addiction since his arrest, including a 35-day in-patient program at The Ranch, an addiction treatment center in middle Tennessee.
Farah referenced Toussaint's words when he imposed the sentence, saying the measure of who Dunnings was as a man isn't what he did when people were paying attention, but rather what he did in private when he faced temptation.
"It pains me to say that Stuart Dunnings did not rise to the challenge," Farah said, who described Dunnings as a "brother in the legal profession."
Dunnings declined comment to reporters as he walked out of court with his attorney, but addressed Farah for nearly 15 minutes during the hearing. He was often emotional and cried.
He apologized to his family, to the prosecutors who served under him and to the community. He spoke about his sex addiction and desire to continue treatment.
However, Farah, who was presiding over the case because Ingham County judges recused themselves, said since Dunnings admitted his struggles with sex addiction started in college, he should have sought treatment long before he was arrested.
Dunnings denied several of the allegations made by the Michigan Attorney General's Office.
He said at the time he didn't think his relationship with W-6 was harmful to her, but that he can now look back and see that it was. He offered to pay for her counseling if he could afford it.
"Beginning in 1996 there were five times the people of Ingham County elected me as their prosecutor," Dunnings told Farah. "And beginning in 2010, I violated that oath (of office). I betrayed the trust of the people. And for that I am infinitely remorseful.
"If anything can be worse, I violated my covenant to God and my wife."
Investigative records obtained by the State Journal show that Dunnings' misdeeds may have begun before 2010. Those reports, made public last month by the State Journal, show that some police and county employees were aware of Dunnings' questionable conduct long before a criminal investigation into his dealings with prostitutes was launched in 2015. The investigation was conducted by the Ingham County Sheriff's Office and the FBI.
A woman who ran an escort service told investigators this year that Dunnings was a regular customer of hers in the late-1990s. When the Michigan State Police shut down the escort service in 2003 and arrested the woman, Dunnings called her and asked if the police would find his name in her records. He also promised the woman he would make sure her record was clean. The woman said she later found her record cleared even though she never asked a judge to do so.
Some of those investigators' records even indicate Dunnings enlisted aid from other public employees who might not have known that at least some women they helped were prostitutes with whom Dunnings had relationships.
Deal paved way for jail sentence
Attorney General Bill Schuette's office and Dunnings' attorneys reached a plea deal that allowed the former county prosecutor to plead guilty to misconduct in office and a single misdemeanor charge of engaging in the services of a prostitute. Dunnings was arrested March 14 in Lansing and pleaded guilty Aug. 2.
Schuette told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he had hoped Dunnings would have been sentenced to more than a year, which would have triggered his entry into the state prison system.
However, Schuette added that the sentence didn't make him rethink the plea agreement, which lowered the maximum sentence from 20 years in prison to five years in prison.
"I would have thought it'd been more appropriate to be in prison for at least a year or two," he said, "but I am pleased that he's behind bars. He broke the public trust."
Officials said because of his former role as prosecutor, Dunnings will serve his sentence in the Clinton County jail. He was given credit for one day served, although he has never spent a night in jail. He appeared at the jail briefly in March for his arraignment on felony and misdemeanor charges.
Farah said that any further requests to the court for jail credits would be denied, and that it is his intention that Dunnings serve his full jail sentence.
Dunnings was first elected as county prosecutor in 1996. He resigned in July, just six months shy of a 20-year tenure as Ingham County's top law enforcement officer.
Gretchen Whitmer was appointed to serve the remainder of his term and voters elected Democrat Carol Siemon on Nov. 8 to serve as the next prosecutor. She will take office Jan. 1.
Attorneys for W-6, one of the Dunnings' victims, issued a statement following the sentencing.
"Our independent investigation as it pertains to these matters is ongoing," the statement from Okemos-based White Law PLLC read. "Our firm continues to represent W-6 in all matters related to this incident. After a comprehensive review, a decision will be made regarding what action is appropriate for our client."
Dunnings' wife, Cynthia Dunnings, filed for divorce March 18. The divorce case is ongoing, with court hearings set for 2017.