Stuart Dunnings III soon will be going to prison, probably for three to five years. Really not enough time.
After pleading to felony misconduct in office and one misdemeanor prostitution charge, Dunnings was facing just 0-to-6 months’ incarceration. It was an astoundingly light sentence considering his brazen relations with prostitutes, allegations of hundreds of related encounters, abuse of his office and felony coercion of a woman into the sex trade.
Just another example of a rigged system?
But the Attorney General's Office, rejecting the light pre-sentencing guidelines, is making the case for significant prison time.
Its sentencing report on the former Ingham County prosecutor's reckless conduct details callously exploiting women he paid for sex, betraying his self-proclaimed campaign against trafficking and enabling of assorted criminal activities while he was the county's chief law enforcement officer.
As prosecutor, he claimed prostitution as his specialty. Little did we know. His office prosecuted prostitution in Lansing, normally handled by the city attorney. He publicly railed against sex trafficking, ordered felony charges against repeat prostitution solicitors and heralded law enforcement personnel combating the exploitation of “vulnerable young ladies in our society.”
The state's sentencing report focused on six women who provided Dunnings with sex. He took them to local motels, sometimes to apartments, drove them around town during working hours — his working hours.
He encouraged his victims to call him at work and engaged in sex with one woman in his Lansing office, where investigators found condoms and lubricant hidden in a pot on his bookcase. He trolled the Internet to find local prostitutes whose charges for services started at $100 for the first half hour. One victim, a heroin addict who was prostituting herself to pay for her drug habit, said she and Dunnings had sex as often as three or four times a week.
Incredibly, Dunnings asked his victims whether they knew who he was, and when they didn't, he told them. As the sentencing report notes, this alone would intimidate the women who were “committing crimes by using drugs and engaging in prostitution.”
Even more incredibly, he attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings with two of the prostitutes, and while his victims didn't recognize him as county prosecutor, others did.
According to the sentencing report, Dunnings' presence at these meetings intimidated the other women who were trying to become sober, discouraging them from attending.
The state's sentencing report portrays Dunnings’ actions as so calculating, so abusive, that they seem almost fictional — the stuff of a TV crime procedural or detective novel.
While the FBI was investigating a notorious local sex trafficker, Tyrone Smith, Dunnings was sleeping with the pimp's prostitutes, sometimes at Smith's house in Lansing. According to the sentencing report, one victim, identified as W-3, was forced by Smith to have sex with as many as 20 men a day. He supplied the women he was pimping with drugs —heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine — and beat them regularly.
“During the time W-3 was having commercial sex with Dunnings, W-3 had visible bruising on her body and multiple, noticeable needle marks on her arms from heroin injections. W-3 has stated it would have been obvious to Dunnings that during their commercial sex dates W-3 was high on drugs,” the sentencing report said.
Another victim, W-4, also had sex with Dunnings at Smith's house. She was punched repeatedly, slammed to the ground and burned in the eye with a heated spoon after Smith caught her freelancing to support her drug habit. Dunnings' victims were poor, had troubled backgrounds and were abused, which the sentencing report said would have been obvious to an experienced prosecutor.
There was one victim, W-6, a 26-year-old with no connection to prostitution or the sex trade, who sought Dunnings' help in a child custody dispute. After two meetings, he pressured her into having sex in exchange for cash, which she did.
According to the sentencing report, W-6 believed that if she did not agree to Dunnings' demand he would have retaliated against her in the custody case.
In a three-page letter to the court, she tells how Dunnings' demand ruined her life.
"I knew that my body and my soul didn't have a price to be bought for. But, I couldn't say no. … He took that choice away from me.
“I can still feel the sadness inside of me. It is still a part of my everyday life. Everything that I do and everything that happens to me is harder now. Everything hurts more than it should. I do not know if I will ever heal or overcome the depression I've encountered and suffered through. I can only hope that I can overcome for the sake of my sons, my family, and myself.”