The Prostitution Prosecutor: Talking the Talk, But Not Walking the Walk

Prosecutors carry a tremendous amount of power. The prosecutor’s office determines who will be charged with an offense, what offenses the criminal justice system will focus on prosecuting, and often what sentence the accused individuals will receive. But, as Voltaire – and Spiderman – acknowledged: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Therefore, a prosecutor blatantly violating the very law for which he zealously prosecutes others on a daily basis is downright offensive.

The Example of Stuart Dunnings

Stuart Dunnings has been the top prosecutor in Ingam County Michigan for almost 20 years. For the past decade, Dunnings and his office explicitly focused on cracking down on the commercial sex industry by imposing harsher sanctions on both johns and prostitutes. In 2001, the Ingam County prosecutor’s office began impounding johns’ vehicles in conjunction with their arrests and has been charging third offenses as felonies. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schusette described Dunnings as an “outspoken advocate for ending human trafficking and prostitution.”

Shocking Display of Hypocrisy and Irony

However, beginning in 2015, an investigation by a combined team of the Michigan State Office of the Attorney General, the FBI, and the Ingham County Sherriff’s Office conducted a probe into Michigan’s “human trafficking” (prostitution) ring. During the investigation, they uncovered a shocking display of hypocrisy and irony: Ingam County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings has paid to have sex with prostitutes hundreds of times. It was not just a one-time occurrence. The records suggest that Dunnings used escort websites to find dozens upon dozens of prostitutes and paid for sex hundreds of times amongst three counties from 2010-2015. There is even evidence that his brother, Michigan attorney Steven Dunnings, also engaged in prostitution activities.

On Monday, March 14, 2016, Dunnings was charged with fifteen counts spanning four different courts in three different Michigan counties. The charges include: (1) 10 misdemeanor counts of engaging the services of a prostitute; (2) four misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty by an elected official (by blatantly violating the law that he swore an oath to uphold); and (3) one felony count of pandering.

Pandering Charge Displaying True Colors

The pandering felony count is definitely the most interesting charge against Dunnings. Pandering – commonly known as “pimping” – occurs when an individual induces or persuades a woman to “become” a prostitute. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.455. The facts behind this charge are downright disturbing. Apparently, a domestic violence victim had come to Dunnings for help regarding a custody dispute. Dunnings allegedly coerced this woman into having sex with him and then paid her for it. According to the police, the woman initially did not accept but was worn down and eventually did accept because she felt she had no choice but to accept. For the next couple years, Dunnings continued to pay her about $1200 a month. Apparently, that is how much the top prosecutor thought a domestic violence victim was worth. These disgusting actions were happening while Dunnings was simultaneously putting “criminals” behind bars for much less serious offenses.

Possible Sentencing Could Have Serious Repercussions

The amount of hypocrisy and chutzpah required for such a feat would almost be impressive— if it wasn’t so disgusting. The pandering charge on its own carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. If he is convicted on all charges, Dunnings can face a maximum sentence of 26.5 years in prison. I can only imagine that some of his fellow inmates will have a few strong words for the prosecutor when he shows up at the prison.

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