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MONDAY. March 14 — Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings has been charged with pandering, a felony involving aiding and abetting prostitution, as well as 10 counts of engaging prostitutes and four of willful neglect of office.
The pandering charge arises from allegations that Dunnings, in his role as a prosecutor, enticed a woman he met through the office into engaging in sexual activity for cash, an affidavit alleges. That commercial sex relationship was an on again and off again situation for two years.
If found guilty of the felony charge, Dunnings could land in prison for up to 20 years. If found guilty of engaging prostitutes, he could face 93 days in jail and up to $500 on each charge. On each of the four willful neglect charges, he could face up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Law enforcement officials said the county’s top law enforcement official had been engaging the services of the sex workers for at least five years. Charges were filed in both 54-A District Court in Lansing and 55 District Court in Mason, as well as in Ionia and Clinton counties.
“We arrested him shortly after 8 a.m. as he was leaving a local coffee shop,” Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth said at a press conference. Wriggeslworth called Dunnings’ alleged crimes a “betrayal.”
Dunnings’ brother, Lansing attorney Steven Dunnings, was also arrested and charged with two counts of engaging the services of a prostitution.
Wriggelsworth, a Democrat, joined Republican Bill Schuette, the state attorney, to announce the charges today.
Both men called on Dunnings to resign his elected post because it could interfere with ongoing criminal cases. Wrigglesworth said if Dunnings did not resign, steps should be taken to remove him from office.
The case grew out of the investigation of Tyrone Smith, 45, of Lansing. Smith was indicted and pleaded guilty to three counts of sex trafficking women and taking them over state lines. Those charges were agreed to in federal court in Grand Rapids in November. He faces at least 15 years in federal prison on those charges.
Smith was convicted of second-degree murder in 1996 in an Ingham County court and served 15 years in the Michigan prison system. A pandering conviction carries up to a 20-year sentence.
Dunnings, a Democrat, was first elected in 1996.
The Michigan Penal Code defines pandering as:
(a) Procures an inmate for a house of prostitution.
(b) Induces, persuades, encourages, inveigles, or entices a person to become a prostitute.
(c) By promise, threat, or violence, or by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, encourages, takes, places, harbors, inveigles, or entices a person to become an inmate of a house of prostitution or assignation place or any place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged, or allowed.
(d) By any promise or threat, or by violence or any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, encourages, inveigles, or entices an inmate of a house of prostitution or place of assignation to remain there as an inmate.
(e) By any promise or threat, or by violence, any device or scheme, fraud or artifice, or by duress of person or goods, or by abuse of any position of confidence or authority, or having legal charge, takes, places, harbors, inveigles, entices, persuades, encourages, or procures any person to engage in prostitution.
(f) Inveigles, entices, persuades, encourages, or procures any person to come into this state or to leave this state for the purpose of prostitution.
(g) Upon the pretense of marriage, takes or detains a person for the purpose of sexual intercourse.
(h) Receives or gives, or agrees to receive or give, any money or thing of value for procuring or attempting to procure any person to become a prostitute or to come into this state or leave this state for the purpose of prostitution.