Approximately three weeks ago, an 18-year-old male hiker was walking at the Highbanks Metro Park in Lewis Center, OH when he was sexually assaulted by an unknown male. The victim claimed that as he was walking, the suspect attempted to encourage him to walk off the trail north of an overlook deck area that was approximately 75 feet away. When the victim became fearful, he began moving away from the suspect, who then pushed him to the ground and assaulted him, according to NBC4.boise-foothills-4-1336499-m

Kevin Savage, Captain at the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, told reporters that the park was fairly crowded at the time the assault occurred, which was around 4:30 in the afternoon.

The victim told authorities that the suspect is of Indian descent, had a slight accent, and was wearing black running shorts and a white t-shirt with black vertical stripes. He also described the man as having salt-and-pepper hair, a goatee, and nearly six feet tall, thought to be middle-aged. A composite sketch of the suspect was released shortly after the attack for help with possible identification by the public.

Today, many public parks meant for enjoyment are becoming dangerous. Parks with wooded areas give predators opportunities to sexually assault hikers, runners, and those who are simply enjoying nature. However, there are also occasions on which alleged victims wrongly accuse others of sexual assault. Determining whether someone is innocent or guilty of a sex crime can be a very difficult and involved process.

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On Friday, August 22, it was announced on CNN that 27-year-old Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer, had been charged with several sex offenses after a woman came forward with her story of Holtzclaw’s “sexual impropriety” during a traffic stop. breaklight-1160608-m

Captain Dexter Nelson of the Oklahoma City police gave CNN the story, which began when the first alleged victim’s complaint led to authorities investigating all of the traffic stops Holtzclaw made in an attempt to determine if there may be other victims. On Thursday, August 21, Holtzclaw was arrested and is facing nine criminal charges including two counts of sexual battery, two counts of indecent exposure, three counts of forcible oral sodomy, and two counts of rape, according to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Six other victims were found during the investigation, according to Nelson who said that some of the women “were initially less than cooperative, but investigators were able to gain statements.” Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said that the incidents date back to February, so authorities believe there may be even more victims. He urged anyone who was sexually assaulted by Holtzclaw to come forward.

Holtzclaw’s bond was set at $5 million; at the time of news reports, it was unclear whether he had a defense lawyer.

Holtzclaw played on the Eastern Michigan University football team from 2005 through 2008.

All sex crimes are serious, particularly rape. In Michigan, rape is charged as first-degree criminal sexual conduct, an offense that involves penetration and leaves the offender facing potential life behind bars if convicted.

Individuals who are found guilty of committing even those sex crimes which may be considered less serious such as indecent exposure face ruin of their reputations and careers. More serious offenses will leave those convicted facing the requirement to register as sex offenders, which impacts employment, housing, and much more. Essentially, you life may be ruined if found guilty of rape, child molestation, or other serious charges.

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A man who has been in prison for about 16 years for allegedly raping and murdering a Kalkaska woman in 1996 will now get a new trial thanks to recent testing of DNA evidence, according to a news article at Mlive.com. Jamie Peterson was sentenced to life in prison for the 1996 crimes against Geraldine Montgomery, who was 68 years old at the time she was found dead in the trunk of her car after being raped. dna-markers-97211-m

At the time the crimes took place, DNA technology was in is infancy. The source of saliva and semen found on Montgomery’s shirt could not be identified, although prosecutors argued that it likely belonged to the defendant, Jamie Peterson.

Last year, the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and Michigan Law School innocent projects concluded that Peterson had been wrongly convicted of the crime after sending hundreds of hours researching the case. DNA testing that was performed recently indicated that the saliva and semen did not belong to Peterson, but instead to James Anthony Ryan, a 35-year-old Davison man. The victim was raped before being left in the trunk of her car with the engine running.

The Innocence Clinic maintains that the DNA testing performed on the rape kit excludes Peterson as the donor. Ryan is awaiting trial on the charges, while Peterson will get a new trial as according to the judge, the DNA test results qualify as newly discovered evidence. Although Peterson made a false confession at the time of the rape and murder, his attorney maintains his client is innocent, and was never inside the victim’s home.

Michigan sex crime attorneys know all too well that suspects often confess when under duress and pressured relentlessly by police. While the most horrendous aspect of this case is the fact that the victim lost her life, being falsely accused of rape happens all too often. A man has spent many years of his life in prison for a crime he very likely did not commit, according to new DNA evidence.

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On Wednesday, August 13, an Emmett Township police officer who was not identified was arrested by Michigan State Police on two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor, according to news articles at Mlive.com. police-on-the-scene-1172422-m

Two separate incidents allegedly took place at the officer’s home while he was not on duty, according to a police news release. He has been suspended with pay while the investigation continues.

It was announced the following day that a special prosecutor is being sought by Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert’s office to review the case. State police investigators submitted the case to the prosecutor’s office for review on Thursday; Gilbert said that his office wants to request counsel from outside the county in order to “avoid the appearance of any impropriety.” The prosecutor who is brought in will then determine if charges should be filed against the officer.

While Michigan State Police and Gilbert declined to identify the officer, other media outlets have identified the alleged offender as Troy Estree, a 45-year-old Emmett Township resident whose wife is on staff with the Battle Creek Police Department as a detective.

First-degree CSC is an extremely serious charge, particularly when the crime involves a minor. In Michigan, anyone convicted of this offense, which involves penetration, may face a maximum term of life in prison. When the victim is younger than 13 years of age, the mandatory minimum prison term is 25 years. News reports in this cases do not reveal the age of the victim, only that she was a teenager.

As all Michigan sex crime lawyers know, these types of cases can be tough. Teenagers are often ready to explore areas such as sex, drugs, and alcohol. While this does not justify any adult taking advantage of a teen sexually, teens are also apt to make accusations regarding individuals in positions of authority. Proving or disproving allegations of sexual assault can be extremely difficult without solid, undisputable evidence.

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On July 29, 23-year-old Willus L. Williamson allegedly raped and robbed a woman near his East Side Saginaw home, according to news reports at Mlive.com. In all, Williamson has been charged with seven felonies including three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct causing personal injury, and one count each of unarmed robbery, unlawful imprisonment, assault by strangulation, and second-degree CSC causing personal injury. crowbar-854266-m

News reports indicate the crimes occurred about a block away from Williamson’s home, and that he took the victim’s clothing, cigarettes, lighter, and driver’s license. A statute which was made effective in April 2013 defines assault by strangulation as, “intentionally impeding normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth of another person.”

If found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Williamson may face a maximum term of life in prison, as first-degree CSC involves penetration. The defendant may also face up to 15 years on the imprisonment and second-degree robbery charges. Williamson pleaded not guilty and is currently held on a $700,000 bond. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 15.

While all of the charges leveled against Williamson are serious, first-degree CSC is the most serious of all, as it could leave him facing the rest of his life behind bars if found guilty. It is too soon to tell at this point, but Williamson’s defense attorney may choose to discuss the possibility with his client of working a plea deal with prosecutors, particularly if the evidence against Williamson is solid. In most cases, pleading down to a lesser offense will result in less serious criminal penalties. However, if Mr. Williamson is indeed innocent, the case will likely go to trial.

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On Wednesday August 6, 45-year-old Bruce Scherzer of Bay city was arraigned on five felony charges in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a girl who is younger than 13, according to news reports at Mlive.com. sad-silhouette-1080946-m

The girl reported the two incidents, which allegedly took place in July, to staff at the Nathan Weidner Children’s Advocacy Center. She claimed that Scherzer had touched her private area, and had her touch his private area at a Bangor Township residence, and claimed that he had sex with her on two different occasions.

Scherzer is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13, an offense that if convicted could leave him facing up to life in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence for a conviction of first-degree CSC with someone younger than 13 is 25 years. Scherzer is also charged with three counts of second-degree CSC with a person younger than 13, a 15-year felony.

Scherzer, a married father of four children, requested that Bay County District Judge Mark E. Janer appoint him an attorney, as he could not afford to hire a lawyer himself. His bond was set at $200,000 as requested by the prosecutor, who said Scherzer had been convicted on a conspiracy to commit armed robbery charge back in the mid-90′s.

Protecting a defendant’s freedom and reputation can be extremely tough in sexual assault cases, particularly when children are involved. As all Michigan sex crime attorneys are aware, too many innocent people are found guilty of crimes of this nature. Children are easily influenced by adults, who may coerce them into making up stories or saying things that are not factual. While children are sexually abused in our country every day, there are unfortunately many cases in which innocent individuals sit behind bars today.

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Image from Mlive.com

Michael E. Flores, a 28-year-old Saginaw man, was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl who was under the age of 13 in August of last year. Flores was initially charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and now one count of second-degree CSC has been added.

In July, a not guilty plea was entered by Saginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson on Flores’ behalf. He was ordered held in custody on a $150,000 bond. At his preliminary hearing on August 1, a judge ruled that prosecutors in the case demonstrated probable cause to take Flores to trial in Circuit Court.

If Flores goes to trial and is found guilty, he will spend a minimum of 25 years in prison. In Michigan, first-degree criminal sexual conduct carries a maximum penalty of life in prison; however, when the victim is younger than 13 years of age at the time of the assault, the minimum sentence is 25 years. This means that if Flores is found guilty, he will likely be in his mid 50′s before he has any chance of being released from prison – but he could be sentenced to life. Continue reading →

In early July, former Kent County Prosecutor Mark Richard Vandermolen was accused of groping and sexually assaulting a woman after she met him at a downtown dancing event and went back to his home with him. Vandermolen is 61, the alleged victim 41. Personal Safety Guides Protect Yourself Against Sex Crimes Pic

According to police, the woman said that she was not interested in a sexual relationship, however Vandermolen allegedly groped her, kissed her breasts, and exposed her private areas as she fought to push him off. Police said that Vandermolen granted her request, and that they recorded a phone call in which the former county prosecutor apologized for his behavior, explaining to the victim that he had not been with a woman in a long time.

Vandermolen had initially decided he would represent himself in court, but has since changed his mind. He has since hired a criminal defense lawyer to represent him against charges of assault with intent to commit sexual penetration and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Vandermolen served more than 10 years in the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office, and is facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the charges against him.

News reports claim that the woman was from Iran, and had only recently come to the West Michigan area. Vandermolen allegedly began kissing her neck which progressed to more serious conduct as the two were watching television at his home.

The former Kent County prosecutor pleaded not guilty. The next hearing is scheduled for August 26.

Michigan sex crime attorneys know the serious consequences individuals face when accused of sexual assault, rape, and other sex crimes. While Vandermolen pleaded not guilty, will the recorded phone conversation between himself and the victim in which he was apologizing be detrimental to his case? It will be interesting to see how this case is resolved.

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On Friday, July 25, 80-year-o9ld Jose G. Espitia waived his right to a preliminary hearing after appearing before Saginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson on sexual assault charges, according to a news article at Mlive.com. Espitia is accused of sexually assaulting a young female relative, and is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct against a relative, and two counts of first-degree CSC against someone younger than 13. old-man-2-1179695-m

Espitia was arrested by Buena Vista police on July 11 for allegedly sexually assaulting the young girl from 2008 until just last month. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and is being held on a $200,000 bond.

If convicted, Espitia could face up to life in prison. The mandatory minimum prison sentence is 25 years when an individual is convicted of first-degree CSC involving someone younger than 13 years of age. News reports state that Espitia can go forward with a trial, accept a plea agreement from prosecutors, or plead guilty or no contest to the charges now that he is in Circuit Court.

Michigan sex crime attorneys know there are several legal options for individuals who are accused of sexual assault and other similar crimes. How a defendant proceeds is often based on whether he/she is guilty or innocent, the strength of the evidence, and other factors. Typically, if a defendant is guilty and accepts a plea agreement, charges are reduced which results in less damaging criminal penalties.

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Last week, 23-year-old Edward Charles Eubanks was arraigned on charges in connection with two separate incidents in which he allegedly raped 14-year-old girls in his car. According to a news article at Mlive.com, Eubanks, a Muskegon resident, was charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving sexual penetration through force or coercion, causing physical injury, and one count of third-degree CSC with a victim between 13 and 16 years old. new-york-times-square-1443347-m

Eubanks has been convicted on drug charges in the past, and was charged as a fourth-time habitual offender in the rape cases. According to Timothy Maat, Chief Assistant Muskegon County Prosecutor, both of the 14-year-old girls knew Eubanks, who raped each girl after offering her a ride in his car. One of the rapes is alleged to have occurred on June 1, and the other on July 21. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 5; Eubanks remains in Muskegon County Jail.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct involves penetration, and is the most serious sex offense an individual may be accused of. If convicted, the defendant may face up to life in prison. Registration as a sex offender is mandatory for those found guilty of first-degree CSC.

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct also involves penetration, and is a charge given when other conditions are met, such as force or coercion, the defendant knows that the victim is incapacitated either physically or mentally, and other conditions. The criminal penalties for a conviction of third-degree CSC include up to 15 years in prison and sex offender registration, among other penalties.

Michigan sex crime defense attorneys are certainly aware that rape, child molestation, and other similar crimes do happen all too often, however there are also many occasions on which an individual who is innocent is accused of rape or sexual assault. This can result in an innocent person spending a substantial number of years or even life behind bars. Even worse in some cases is the fact that the individual will be labeled as a sex offender, and shunned by society.

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