Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

Human trafficking is a crime that occurs in every state, some more than others. Unfortunately, Michigan (and in particular West Michigan) has come under the radar for being ranked second in the U.S. for trafficking, a statistic that isn’t accurate according to Michigan State Police. MSP claims there has been a “significant increase” in human trafficking in the state, however whether Michigan experiences more of this offense than other states similar in size is a debatable topic. sad-silhouette-1080946-m

According to Michigan Department of Health & Human Services human trafficking is the second most common criminal offense in the state behind drug crimes. What is human trafficking? Simply stated, it’s controlling victims using fraud, coercion or force for the purpose of participating in labor services or commercial sexual exploitation against the victim’s will. Sometimes referred to as human sex trafficking or simply sex trafficking when the victim is coerced or forced to engage in the commercial sex industry, this crime is viewed by many as a type of modern-day slavery.

Michigan State Police claim the FBI ranks the state 10th in the nation for human trafficking; this ranking is based on the arrest data police agencies across the U.S. submit to the FBI. Others claim that Michigan is #2 right behind Nevada, with up to 150 young females in Michigan taken into sex slavery on a monthly basis. Who do we believe, and what is the truth?

“Familial DNA” is a topic that has come to the attention of many who had never heard of the term until recently when the Golden State Killer, an alleged murderer and serial rapist, was arrested by California authorities who had used the DNA of former policeman Joseph James DeAngelo’s family members to track him down.

Currently there are several states that have protocols in place to use familial DNA in criminal cases. These include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. iStock_000015311791_Full-2-300x200

How does familial DNA work in tracking criminal suspects?

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Larry Nassar

Today was a big day in the world of criminal law. A hero to many was convicted of a crime that the media focused on and the story is trending across Facebook and Twitter of Bill Cosby being deemed guilty of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. While many in the #MeToo movement are celebrating a victory, we have to take a step back and analyze just where the future of Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) is heading and we have to ask if those accused are facing conviction before the complaint has even been drawn up? We will discuss 3 different situations and break down the concept with commentary and a study of the situation.

I: Bill Cosby

With a verdict of guilty in the Bill Cosby case, legal pundits across the country are faced with a decision of whether the outcome was one that was just or one that was the product of outrage on social media? The Cosby decision leads many to wonder if the famed comedian and actor was a victim of his own fame or someone that truly deserved the punishment that will be dealt out at sentencing. In any event, the Cosby decision is one that is filled with controversy and will have a profound affect the legal community. How the judicial system and social media will continue to co-exist is a matter of pure speculation but one that needs to be addressed and this article will attempt to do so.

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Photo Credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

There is no question that the “#MeToo” Movement has left a resounding mark on those in the criminal defense sector and the state of Michigan has come to the forefront with accusations of criminal assault on the rise. To review the Cosby case and to discuss the impact felt across the state of Michigan, we sat down with leaders in the criminal law sector to gather their thoughts on the issue.

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.

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.

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.

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