It’s no secret today that many individuals are convicted of sex crimes they did not commit. Unfortunately, unlike with other crimes those found guilty of rape, child pornography, sexual assault, and other offenses don’t only face punishment in the form of jail or prison time, probation, etc. They also face undeserved special attention in the form of being labeled a sex offender. This is extreme punishment when an innocent person has been found guilty of a sex crime, as sex offender status not only destroys a person’s reputation, it also impacts employment and housing opportunities, and much more. With sex crimes, those who are wrongfully convicted certainly face punishment that does not “fit the crime.” file451297827287

How does this even happen? How can someone who is completely innocent of the crime he or she is accused of be found guilty? While it can happen with any type of crime, it is particularly easy for someone who’s innocent to be convicted of a sex crime. If you’re reading this article, be aware it could even happen to you, although it seems impossible – others who are locked behind bars today probably thought the same exact thing.

In every state including Michigan, the penalties for those convicted of a sex crime are extremely harsh. The unfortunate truth is that about a quarter of reported sexual attacks are false. Even with a lack of physical evidence, many prosecutors secure convictions because of juries who may feel sympathetic toward the “alleged” victim. Considering the details of these reported “crimes” are often horrific in nature, it sometimes isn’t difficult for a judge or jury to be convinced the victim is telling the truth – even if the story is fabricated.

Stuart Dunnings III, the former prosecutor for Ingham County who served for nearly 20 yearsstuart dunnings iii and began his career as prosecutor in 1997, has pleaded guilty to two charges after 13 of the charges involving patronage of prostitutes over a five year period were dropped in a plea deal.

Initially, Dunnings faced 10 counts of engaging in prostitution, four counts of willful neglect of duty, and a single count of pandering prostitution.  According to witness statements, Dunnings paid for YMCA memberships, rent, methadone treatments, and other things in exchange for sex.

While he was Ingham County prosecutor, Dunnings was allegedly soliciting sex with prostitutes while at the same time publicly attacking human trafficking.  Now, according to Michigan AG Bill Schuette, Dunnings has pleaded guilty to a single felony misconduct in office charge, and one misdemeanor count of soliciting a prostitute.
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According to federal campus safety data, in 2014 the colleges and universities with the highest number of rapes on campus were the University of Connecticut and Brown University, a private Ivy League university in Providence, RI. However, sexual assault among college students (whether on or off campus) is a growing problem around the nation. 1195993_learn_english_1

A survey involving 150,000+ students at 27 universities conducted by the Association of American Universities revealed some very disturbing numbers. What’s not surprising is that in many cases, unwanted sexual contact or even rape occurs when students are under the influence of drugs or alcohol – in other words, incapacitated.

The survey found that 23% of female college students who participated said they had been the victims of unwanted sexual contact, whether it be kissing or touching, or even rape. Almost 11% claimed they were forced into unwanted oral sex or penetration.

Michigan criminal defense attorneys know that individuals found guilty of sex crimes involving children face extremely serious consequences. Recently, 35-year-old Kevin M. Lambert of Ypsilanti was sentenced to up to 70 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 4-year-old girl who was in his care, according to news reports. Michigan Department of Corrections Struggles With Budget Challenges Pic

In October of last year, Lambert was charged in federal court for producing, distributing, receipt, and possession of child pornography. An undercover federal agent discovered that several videos and images of a young female child were displayed in a chat room, posted by a user with screen name Akyle679, and that the user insinuated the young girl was a child who was in his care. After discovering that the screen name belonged to Lambert on the Kik messaging app, agents began surveilling Lambert’s home. He was taken into federal custody and indicted on the charges.

The incidents took place between April and October of last year; all child pornography cases are handled at the federal level. On July 14, Lambert was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison by U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds on the producing, distributing, and possessing charges. An incident in June 2015 led to charges on six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which Lambert pleaded guilty to. These charges resulted in the 70-year sentence handed down on July 20. Lambert will serve the 40-year and 40 to 70 year sentences concurrently.

Recent news reports reveal that Kenneth Zolnierek, a 52-year-old man found guilty of sex crimes between 1994 and 2008 and ordered to register as a sex offender, is now a write-in candidate for the position of sheriff of Bay County. While it may sound a bit disconcerting to have someone convicted of felony crimes running for sheriff, it is perfectly legal for Zolnierek to seek the office under Michigan elections law. police-on-the-scene-1172422-m

Zolnierek is a registered sex offender and was convicted on sex charges in Alpena in 1994. Zolnierek says his mission as Bay County Sheriff is to make people of the community feel safer and more at home so they don’t have to lock their doors.”

Data obtained from the Michigan Department of Corrections revealed that since 1984, Zolnierek has been convicted on numerous charges including:

Recently it was revealed in a study conducted by Bowling Green State University that across the U.S., 40% of crimes committed by police officers are committed while those officers are on duty. Michigan is not immune when it comes to these statistics; in 2011, a Wayne State University police officer allegedly pulled over a female driver before placing her in his police vehicle and driving to a building where he reportedly pressured her into having sex. This officer was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and is now serving a 16 to 30 year prison sentence. Writing to Win Button- Appeals Section

According to news reports, there are at least three known instances over the past 18 months in which Michigan police officers have been charged with soliciting a prostitute, sexual assault, and larceny. County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III who was charged with 15 prostitution-related offenses himself earlier this year brought charges against two of these police officers.

The study which included criminal cases across the nation from 2005 to 2011 against police officers found that during this time period, more than 6,720 police officers faced criminal charges. The crimes these officers allegedly committed ran the gamut from sexual assault and DUI to child pornography and even murder. While the numbers are certainly disturbing, even more disturbing is the fact that 40% of these offenses were committed while the officers were on duty.

Being charged with sexual assault at any level can be life changing.  In Michigan, sexual assault or victim-shadowrape is charged as criminal sexual conduct, or CSC of varying degrees.  An individual may be charged with first-, second-, third-, or fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct depending on certain factors such as whether penetration occurred, the age of the alleged victim, and more.

The person charged with CSC may be referred to as the defendant or “actor.”  There are certain definitions under Michigan Penal Code Section 750.520a that will help you better understand each degree (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th) as we explain them below.  

Actor.  The actor, or defendant, is the individual accused of committing CSC.

Intimate parts include the breast, groin, buttock, inner thigh, or primary genital area of an individual.

Sexual penetration includes not only sexual intercourse, but any intrusion by an object or other body part into an opening (genital, anal) and also includes anal intercourse, fellatio, and cunnilingus.

Sexual contact is defined as deliberate touching of someone else’s intimate parts as defined above, regardless of whether those intimate parts are clothed or unclothed.

First- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct (or sexual assault) involves penetration, which second- and fourth-degree CSC (sexual assault) involves only sexual contact.
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According to Branch County Circuit Court Judge Boll O’Grady who made his 2015 annual report branch county and coldwater, mibefore the Branch County Commission recently regarding criminal cases in Coldwater, MI, cases involving criminal sexual conduct have increased significantly while the total number of criminal cases remain steady.  Heroin cases have also increased, according to the judge.

In the state of Michigan, criminal sexual conduct (CSC) is any type of sexual assault and varies in degree.  The most serious criminal charge is first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which involves penetration.  The degrees of CSC include first-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree.  Depending on degree and the circumstances of the case, a conviction may result in life in state prison or life in prison without parole for the most serious offenders, to two years in state prison for offenders considered less dangerous.  Those convicted also face sex offender registration and other sanctions.  Essentially, in Michigan a CSC charge can be more serious than homicide as the penalties are extremely harsh.
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Ivan N. was 17 years old when he admitted that he had touched his 7-year-old adoptive sister (referred to  girl with teddy bearas the “victim”) by using his penis and hands to touch her genital area numerous times over the period of approximately one year.  At 17, Ivan N. was considered a minor; his adoptive parents learned of the sexual abuse (molestation) due to an incident that occurred in the home.  In April of 2015, Ivan N. was arrested and charged with two counts of committing a lewd act on a minor under the age of 14; he was arraigned and confined at juvenile hall.

The court dismissed one count after Ivan admitted to one count in May of 2015.  He admitted that he molested the victim to get back at his parents, and apologized during an interview for his conduct.  Ivan was referred to an outpatient or residential facility following a psychological evaluation, a facility offering therapy and programming for treatment of adolescent male sex offenders.  It was determined that Ivan was a person described by section 602 who was subject to probation.  The probation department prepared a social study, which recommended Ivan, could receive appropriate treatment at a CBO (community based organization).
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Dating violence is far more common than most of us think, and often involvessexual assault sexual assault or “rape.”  Whether a couple has been dating for a year or it is a first date makes no difference.  A forced sexual act without the consent of the other person is unlawful, and could result in criminal charges if the alleged victim decides to come forth and report it to law enforcement.  Dating violence in Michigan as well as other states knows no boundaries in terms of age; sexual assault can happen to someone who’s 13, 18, 40, 60, or even older.

In some cases of sexual assault a victim may have been drugged with a “date rape” drug such as Rohypnol, a powerful sedative.  In other cases, those involved in a dating relationship may have engaged in drug activity, drinking alcohol, or other substances that can impair a person’s ability to think rationally.  In many cases of dating violence involving sexual assault, there are no outside factors – it’s simply a case of one person wanting to engage in sex, while the other person doesn’t.  When one party does not consent or give permission to engage in sex (regardless of whether the non-consenting person is male or female), he or she may be the victim of sexual assault or rape.
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