Ingham County Prosecutor Defends Plea Deal For 3 Ex-MSU Football Players Accused Of Rape
Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon defended her office's plea deal for three former Michigan State football players who had been charged with sexual assault.
Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance were charged in June with varying degrees of criminal sexual conduct stemming from an incident at an early-2017 party where they were accused of sexually assaulting a woman. But on Wednesday, prosecutors and the trio's attorneys agreed to a plea deal that eliminates those CSC charges in exchange for pleas to felony seduction.
The Michigan Compiled Laws defines the seduction statute thus: "Any man who shall seduce and debauch any unmarried woman shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 5 years or by fine of not more than 2,500 dollars." It was enacted in 1931.
Siemon, in a statement released late Wednesday, explained her office's reasoning for offering the plea deal.
"The use of 'seducing and debauching an unmarried female' as a plea is one that prosecutors have used consistently, but infrequently in the State of Michigan," she said. "The law itself is archaic and while the statute itself is valid, it certainly was originally enacted in a bygone era.
"The plea to seduction is a tool that we have as prosecutors, but it is an imperfect tool. It allows the criminal justice system to acknowledge the victim, and it provides an incentive for that offender to plea, in particular because it’s not an offense that requires that they register as a sex offender."
The plea agreement calls for King, Corley and Vance to have no up-front jail time. Additionally, the three players' court record would become non-public so long as they meet the terms of the agreement and do not commit any future offenses.
Prosecutors said the victim had been consulted and signed off on the terms of the plea deal.
King, Corley and Vance were suspended from the MSU football program in early 2017 after allegations against them were first made. All three were summarily dismissed from the program when charges were authorized by the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office in June. They were expelled from the university after a Title IX investigation not long after.
Siemon's full statement follows:
When I began receiving media requests earlier today, I was at an event commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. This anniversary is a reminder not only of how much has changed, but also in how much of his cause remains undone. Dr. King said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. But he didn’t mean that it happens automatically or that it doesn’t require us to work and change the system.
We must have a legal framework that allows us to treat the facts of each criminal case proportionately, which the current laws sometimes make difficult. For cases that are submitted for our review, we look at multiple factors to try to craft an outcome that reflects the facts of the individual event.
The use of “seducing and debauching an unmarried female” as a plea is one that prosecutors have used consistently, but infrequently in the State of Michigan. The law itself is archaic and while the statute itself is valid, it certainly was originally enacted in a bygone era.
The plea to seduction is a tool that we have as prosecutors, but it is an imperfect tool. It allows the criminal justice system to acknowledge the victim, and it provides an incentive for that offender to plea, in particular because it’s not an offense that requires that they register as a sex offender.
The sex offender registry is a blunt instrument that I believe needs to be reformed and streamlined so that law enforcement can make better use of the information. It would be more effective as a law enforcement tool to keep the public safe if it targeted the cases that are most likely to result in recidivism – child abuse and child sexual assault, for example, or serial rapists.
The sex offender registry is just one example of the types of cases where we have laws that are well-intentioned, but go too far from their original intent – and don’t allow our courts to provide a proportionate response. We have seen people sentenced to a 40 year maximum sentence over one gram of cocaine or parents who are charged with child neglect for letting their kids walk home from the park. In the recent cases of school threats and bomb threats, for example, we’re working to create a proportionate response that gives us the legal tools and range of options that addresses the individual situation.
In any case of domestic or sexual violence, we believe that it’s just to not only consult with the victim, but to create a real consensus with that victim, whenever possible, about the resolution of their case. I’m not able to comment about any case that’s sealed under YTA, but I can confirm that we consult with the victims/survivors in all cases of this sensitive nature.
The Holmes Youthful Training Act (YTA) is another imperfect tool that is available to prosecutors, defendants, and the courts. We know that the brain is still developing until a person is in their mid-twenties, yet in all too many cases, we have seen young persons incarcerated offenses, for decades, if not life – and burdened with a felony conviction. YTA is a tool that can be used to stem the epidemic of mass incarceration and create sentencing reforms that handle each case in an appropriate manner.
Under Michigan law, prosecutors have a great deal of discretion in the sanction that each offender receives. Prosecutors decide whether to issue charges, and if so, often have multiple options. Once a case is charged, pleas can be offered at the prosecutor’s discretion. It’s my belief that prosecutors can work to reform the system from within.
At an early age, children are taught to recite the promise of America: “Liberty and justice for all.” If they have to say it, then we have to do it – Do our best to provide justice to all, and use the law to do what we should do, not just what we can do.