Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to accuse someone of sexual assault in today’s society. Many who accuse others of sexual assault do so when they aren’t clear on what actually occurred due to the fact they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or simply made wrongful allegations out of spite or revenge. iStock_000000182036XSmall-300x224

Recently a Roman Catholic priest in Northern Michigan was found not guilty by a jury of allegedly sexually assaulting another priest. According to news reports, Reverend Sylvestre Obwaka was acquitted of sexually assaulting another priest who testified in court that while visiting Obwaka and spending a night in Rogers City at the rectory at St. Ignatius Church, he was sexually assaulted by the priest. Obwaka did not deny sexual contact, however he did maintain the consensual sex took place following a night of drinking.

Obwaka is a native of Kenya and became pastor at St. Ignatius in 2013, although he has been a priest since 2010. Gaylor Bishop Steven Raica, a witness at the three-day trial who reportedly spoke to the accused following the alleged assault said that Obwaka didn’t indicate consensual sex between the two priests. Bishop Raica spoke on the phone with Obwaka, and said he was concerned when the priest admitted he couldn’t recall what occurred between him and the alleged victim.

In what looked like an impossible hurdle to climb, the law firm of Grabel and Associates shocked the state of Michigan by winning their second decision before the Michigan Supreme Court in less than a 3-week time span when the highest court of the state overturned the “People v. Alexander” decision that was rendered before the Michigan Court of Appeals (People v. Alexander, 2016 WL 5887900 [Red Flagged Michigan Court of Appeals decision]).

The case is one that has garnered an immense amount of controversy on social media and beyond. At trial, a jury found former Michigan State Police Officer Brian Alexander guilty of four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct but after that decision was rendered the defendant filed a motion for a new trial and evidentiary hearing based upon various allegations which included inconsistent testimony that was on the record at the preliminary hearing and new evidence that could’ve changed the outcome of the case. The trial court granted the motion and with it a new trial was ordered. The Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the trial court’s decision and now the Michigan Supreme Court weighed in by overturning the Appellate Court which leaves the legal community to ponder whether or not newly discovered evidence will grant a new trial? Grabel04a-2-300x146

Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates was the lead counsel for the defense. Grabel spoke of the Supreme Court’s decision and weighed in on the law. Grabel was quoted as saying, “Whenever you are faced with a decision such as this, we have to turn to “People v. Cress” which lays out the elements that have to be proven (People v. Cress,  468 Mich 678, 664 NW2d 174 [2003]). The Cress court provides the blueprint and once that research is completed, it’s time to go to battle. Today, our Supreme Court voted in the favor of protecting the constitutional rights of not only Brian Alexander but anyone faced with similar circumstances and now he has a new chance at freedom. As a criminal defense attorney, the only thing that we can really ask is that our court system preserves the protections of our constitution. Today, I’m proud to say that was accomplished.”

Recently it was announced the House of Representatives had passed a bill that could effectively leave teenagers facing 15 years in prison for doing something many teens do – sexting, or sending messages or photos via mobile devices that are sexually explicit in nature. The measure was called “deadly and counterproductive” by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime who said the bill, although well intended, will ultimately punish our children, the very people the it is designed to protect. shutterstock_106035773-300x200

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash was one of only two Republicans who voted against the bill; a spokesperson from his office said Amash opposes mandatory minimum expansions and crimes already prosecuted at the state level. Additionally, H.R. 1761 or the “Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017” reportedly prohibits some conduct that Congress is not allowed to regulate under the Constitution.

The new bill builds on existing law making teen-to-teen sexting a crime. At the present time any person who violates the sexting law may be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison, and possibly up to 30 years. This is the punishment for first-time offenders; the penalties for second- or third-time offenders is even more serious.

Currently in the state of Michigan there are four degrees of CSC, or criminal sexual conduct, which a person who allegedly commits a sex-related crime may be charged with depending on various factors. These include first-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, with first-degree the most serious of all and leaving the defendant potentially facing life in prison if convicted. justice

Some Michigan lawmakers, including Representative Holly Hughes, are looking to change state law in an effort to not only protect children and families from sex offenses, but also to secure justice for victims who were allegedly sexually abused in the past, some decades ago. If a new bill sponsored by Hughes passes, it will result in additional prosecution of individuals who are allegedly sexual predators.

In 2001 the statute of limitations was eliminated by the legislature, however Hughes wants to make the law retroactive which would mean those who claim to have been sexually abused prior to that time could bring criminal charges against an alleged offender, even if the alleged crime took place decades ago. In essence, someone who claims to have been raped in 1970 could work with prosecutors to bring criminal charges nearly 50 years after the fact. If convicted, the offender could face a life prison term.

Recently it was reported that Grant Perry, a wide receiver for the University of Michigan football teamiStock_000011098721_Full-2-300x200 from Royal Oak was arrested after allegedly touching a woman in an inappropriate manner as Perry and the woman were in line waiting to enter an East Lansing bar.  The incident reportedly occurred on October 15.  Perry, who is 19 years old, was charged with a single count of underage drinking, two counts of criminal sexual conduct, and one count of assaulting, battering, resisting or obstructing an officer.

December 29th news reports reveal Perry denied that he sexually assault the woman.  The incident took place at a bar and restaurant locating in East Lansing, Lou & Harry’s, where witnesses said Perry and two other men tried to cut in line while approximately 20 or 25 others waited outside of the establishment.  One officer reported that after requesting Perry’s identification, he fumbled through his wallet and attempted to run away before he was apprehended and arrested by another officer.
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Recently it was revealed that two 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old were arrested after Detroit police claim iStock_000068527987_Large-2-300x200the teens were interfering in a prostitution sting.  The teens are now filing suit against police, saying they were mistreated when police ordered them out of a vehicle and handcuffed them. According to news reports two of the teens were waiting for the third to get off work while simultaneously police were conducting a prostitution sting at a CVS across the street.

Police claim the teens were trying to warn a relative not to have any dealings with a prostitute who was undercover, however their lawyers maintain this behavior isn’t a crime.  Ultimately, the teens were helping to stop a crime regardless of their intentions.  A photo taken and posted via Snap Chat allegedly made the teens feel humiliated.  Two of the teens were minors, and news reports claim police drove all three around before dropping them off and telling them to walk to Dearborn, their home.  Sex crimes defense attorneys want to uncover the police officers’ motive, although criminal charges against the teens were dropped in August.
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There are dozens of myths and misconceptions surrounding sexual assault and violence, but what are the facts? While there are countless people who are innocent sitting behind bars today for crimes they did not commit in every state in the U.S., the fact is sexual assault DOES happen – and much more often than you might think, as many victims do not report rape or other sex crimes. Below we’ve included five of the most common myths about sexual violence, along with the facts. 673264_hammer_to_fall

Myth #1 – Victims often “ask” to be raped or sexually assaulted by wearing revealing or promiscuous clothing or acting in a manner that may come across as inviting. The truth is, it makes absolutely no difference what a person is wearing (or not wearing) or how that person acts. Sexual assault and rape are threatening, forceful, and even violent crimes that can result in injury. Regardless of how a person is dressed, the act of forcing a person to engage in intercourse or any type of sexual activity without that person’s consent constitutes sexual assault.

Myth #2 – The majority of rapes or sexual assaults are committed by strangers; if the victim and perpetrator know each other, it isn’t a crime. This is a common misconception, and in fact most victims of rape or sexual assault are attacked by someone they know. In fact, in victims ages 18 to 29, about 65% who were raped or sexually assaulted had been in a relationship with the offender prior to the sexual violence.

Recently, 19-year-old Brendan Baia, a former student at Central Michigan University, was accused of ‘sexting’ with a 12-year-old girl. According to reports, Baia and the girl had been exchanging messages and photos via their cell phones that were sexually explicit. Police claim to have discovered more than 122 Snapchat messages between the two during the last two weeks of August on the suspect’s computer and cell phone. courtroom-one-gavel-1_l-300x200

Police were contacted by the girl’s mother after she searched through the 12-year-old’s cell phone because her daughter had been acting depressed. Baia has been charged with three counts of committing a crime with a computer, accosting a minor for immoral purposes, distributing child sexually abusive material, and possessing child sexually abusive material.

Baia told the alleged victim’s mother that her daughter told him she would be turning 16 soon. As of September 15, the investigation into the allegations were ongoing; Baia is out on bond.

Early Sunday morning over the long Labor Day holiday weekend it was reported that a sexual assault had occurred in McDonel Hall on the MSU (Michigan State University) campus. According to MSU police, the incident took place between 10:30 Saturday evening and 2:30 Sunday morning. The alleged sexual assault was reported at about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday. iStock_000014700004_XXXLarge (2)

Authorities at MSU called in the special victims unit to investigate the incident. According to the university, the SVU is referring to the situation as a “non-stranger investigation.” Investigations were ongoing as of last news reports. Essentially, in a “non-stranger” situation the alleged victim and perpetrator knew each other, or were at least familiar with one another to some extent.

Captain Doug Monette of the MSU police department said that “These types of crimes will not be tolerated on campus. They are a violation of Michigan state law as well as MSU policy on relationship violence and sexual misconduct.”

In late July, 36-year-old Christopher Craig Bennett pleaded no contest to seduction in the alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl at Waldenwoods resort in Hartland in 2009. Bennett was a park ranger at the resort at the time, although it is unclear as to whether he is still employed. Bennett was initially charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, which prosecutors dismissed in exchange for his no contest plea. swing-in-a-park-1351566-m

The alleged victim was camping with her family at the time, who had been members of the resort for many years according to her father. He said the family had always respected the park rangers, and that when Bennett invited his daughter to go along with him on patrol, she agreed. Her father alleges that Bennett raped her on the grounds of the resort.

News reports indicate Bennett was sentenced on August 30 to four months in the Livingston County Jail after pleading no contest to seduction. He also faces two years of probation.