Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

Michigan is on the rise but not for the reasons you may think. A study was done in 2014 listed our state as the 49th highest ranked state for criminal sexual conduct (CSC) charges. A more recent study (2017) has moved Michigan from number 49 to number 2 in the United States. A close look into Michigan statutes displays that there are harsh penalties even when a promising plea is negotiated. One such law that often traps defendants is Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) 770.9b. This statute calls for the revocation on bond upon a plea of guilty to a CSC of a minor. To discuss this statute in greater detail, we spoke to several of the top criminal defense attorneys’ in the state of Michigan to gather input. 10896969-300x201

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, and his firm is known as the top CSC defense firm in the Midwest. When asked about 770.9b. Grabel stated, “The statute is tricky because even when a no jail sentencing agreement is negotiated, one can have their bond revoked while waiting for their sentence. This is something that most defense lawyers are not prepared for, but the revocation occurs more than one would expect. There are ways to alleviate the revocation, but much of this depends upon which county that you are in.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. Known as one of the top criminal attorneys in the state of Michigan, Amadeo stated, “I’ve had cases in Washtenaw, Wayne and Macomb County where the judge will agree to continue bond despite the plea when the victim is a minor. Other counties such as Shiawassee or Eaton County you need to prepare your client to have a 6-week stay in jail, even when the sentence is suspended. Judges in Jackson County view this as an “impact period,” and the reality is that if the lawyer does not know the rules of the locale, their client will suffer. I think Judge Nick Holowka said it best when I started CSC defense. He told me, “Bond is a privilege, not a right.” While he continued bond on my client that day, his words were powerful and have always stuck with me throughout my career.”

One tool that a defense lawyer can utilize in defending their client is past sexual history between themselves and the complaining witness. While using the account of the party claiming to be the victim and the individual defending their freedom can present a great option, many courts are reluctant to allow such evidence into admissibility. iStock_000013709005_Medium-300x210

Statutory Authority

750.520j Evidence of a victim’s sexual conduct.

One of the strictest jurisdictions to be charged with a CSC is Ingham County. With the county seat in Mason, Michigan, Ingham County has always been known for academics at Michigan State University, Lansing Community College and Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School are all located within 20 minutes of each other. While education had always been the hallmark of Ingham County, crimes of a sexual nature have risen to new heights in the last 5 years. With a new abundance of prosecutions, the role of the criminal defense attorney has taken on a whole outlook. The reality is that without competent counsel, the criminal defendant is facing a monumental task. To discuss this topic, we sat down with 3 of the top criminal defense lawyers in Ingham County to gain perspective. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. Grabel has built a firm that has gained a reputation as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. When asked about the rise of CSC charges in Ingham County, Grabel said, “It has become a county where many judges are not allowing Cobbs or Killebrew Agreements, and when that happens the Probation Officer plays a vital role in plea deals. With negotiations becoming more difficult, we find that in Ingham County trying a case is becoming the optimal move for the criminal defendant. To protect our clients, we have built a trial team that is ready to fight our clients from the onset of the charge and have a trial prep in mind from day one.”

Peter Samouris owns and operates Samouris Law and is known as one of the top criminal litigators in the state of Michigan. Samouris’s experience in trying capital cases in Ingham and surrounding counties have earned him the respect of his peers. Samouris provided commentary when he said, “Probably the most difficult aspect of CSC cases-and this is especially true when the accuser is a child-is walking the fine line between discrediting the accuser, without coming across as a bully.”

A concept that the Michigan State Police have endorsed in CSC cases in the “pretext” phone call. The “pretext” phone call is an investigative tool that is utilized in a wide array of criminal investigations but has the most potent impact in crimes of a sexual nature. girl-on-cell-phone-184534-m

The “pretext” call is a recorded telephone call between the victim and the suspect. The call is generated by the victim who will generally prepare a script and work under the supervision of an investigating officer. The Michigan State Police Department find the “pretext” call helpful because there is often a lack of physical evidence in these types of cases and the information gathered through this technique can come into admissibility as a “party admission” at trial. To learn more about the “pretext” call, we turned to some of the leaders in the field of criminal defense litigation across the state of Michigan.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has developed a law firm that is known as the strongest in the state of Michigan. When asked about the “pretext” call, Grabel said, “A call is an effective tool for the prosecution, but it is viewed in very different fashions in different jurisdictions. In a jurisdiction such as Caro, the jury applauds the police for the call even if nothing fruitful comes from it. In a place like Washtenaw County, if the call is unsuccessful, it could destroy a prosecutor’s case. The defendant needs always to be careful when they engage in conversations because the “Collins Call” can destroy one’s case.”

My client looked at me with a tear in his eyes when we won his rape case at a preliminary hearing. “Henry” was going to be a free man and we hugged each other as he was eternally grateful but the reality is that his life of freedom would still end up being one that was a living hell. My client was innocent, in fact, the individual that lied about him rolled the dice on his future just because she could and the joy of the judge saying that his case would not be bound over to Circuit Court was soon be replaced with the horrors of what his life had become. The allegation against him was false but the pain of what he had endured at the hands of a liar with a motive to destroy him would never make up for what he lost. iStock_000006818663_Full-1-300x200

After some time had passed, we kept in contact with each other. Henry was a good man but would forever be looked at in a different light. When asked about the experience, Henry somberly spoke of his ordeal: “She took everything from me. I lost my job when the prosecutor charged me. There was no physical evidence. There was no witness. There was nothing other than her word. We had been dating off and on for a couple of years and she wanted me to lend her money. She already had a history of not paying me back. This time I told her no and she told the police that I raped her. Despite the lack of evidence, I was still charged. I’m forever grateful that I am still a free man but what happened to me is something that I hope will never happen to anybody else. I can never truly get back to the place I was before the charge and the prosecutor just went on with his life like nothing happened.”

Is there anything that can be done about false allegations? How do we as a legal profession protect someone when the accusation is false and when it comes to Criminal Sexual Conduct cases (CSC), is the defendant presumed guilty before being proven innocent?

A Sugar Land, Texas man is in federal custody while he awaits trial on charges of child pornography.  Glenn Casey Portwood, 52, is believed to be a danger to the community, and was ordered to remain in custody by U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy.  Portwood has been charged with possession of child pornography and attempting to distribute child pornograpchild-abusehy, according to news reports.

Portwood’s home was searched in September of 2012 after officers obtained a search warrant.  An FBI press release indicated that Portwood’s computer was sharing pornographic files.  Authorities obtained the search warrant to search the suspect’s home and subsequently found photos and videos of child pornography on several CDs and an external hard drive, all of which were in his vehicle.  The materials were confiscated.

Federal agents testified that in the videos and images, children were engaging in sex and being raped; some of the children depicted in the graphic images were toddlers and babies, according to the FBI.  Court documents indicate that the defendant has a long history of criminal charges related to sex offenses, dating back to 2001.  He also lives in an environment giving him access to young children.  For these reasons, Judge Stacy ordered that Portwood be held in federal custody until his May 19th trial. Continue reading

In October of 2012, Jeramy David Wagner allegedly punched his 3-month-old baby in the head; he was charged with felony murder, and first- and second-degree child abuse. On February 4 the 24-year-old father pleaded guilty, claiming that the baby would not stop crying. Wagner pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree child abuse. Police Officer Holds baby

Wagner was sentenced by Genesee Circuit Judge Richard Yuille on February 26 to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years according to news reports at Mlive.com. The baby’s mother, Tiffany Leach, addressed the judge prior to his handing down Wagner’s sentence, saying that the baby’s death had been hard on her family, and that she had lost not only her child, but her job and home as well.

Prior to sentencing, Wagner apologized to both his own and Leach’s family, saying that the murder was the “single most deviant act I’ve ever committed.” Wagner reportedly punched the baby in the head when he would not stop crying. The defendant was caring for the baby while Leach was out; he snapped and struck the infant a single time with a closed fist. Leach attempted to administer CPR to the baby when she returned, but to no avail.

This is a tragic story, both because of the death of a child and the fact that a young man may now live out the rest of his life behind bars. It is likely that Wagner acted out of frustration or anger, not meaning to kill the baby. The price he will pay is astronomical considering his reputation, life, and career are ruined in addition to losing his freedom.

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Robert Hezekiah Prescott, a 38-year-old Kalamazoo taxi driver who works for Godspeed Taxi, is facing trial for the alleged sexual assault of a woman who used his cab service on January 12 of this year, according to news reports at Mlive.com.

Court documents indicate Prescott was bound over for trial last month. The alleged victim, who had ridden in Prescott’s taxi on multiple occasions, said that Prescott told her they were going to go to his home, to which she replied, “No, we’re not.” He then allegedly forced her into the back of the cab and raped her. Prescott drove the woman home, at which point she notified police. Prescott was arrested later that evening by Kalamazoo Public Safety Officers.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, the defendant was on parole at the time the alleged sexual assault occurred. He has been charged with four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count each of possession of a firearm by a felon, assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a concealed weapon, and unlawful imprisonment, and seven counts of felony firearm.cab-778099-m

On Tuesday February 4, 37-year-old Ryan D. Tafel of Saginaw Township was sentenced to one year in prison and one year on a GPS-enabled tether after pleading no contest to attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Saginaw County Circuit Judge Janet M. Boes sentenced Tafel, who pleaded no contest to the charge in exchange for prosecutors dismissing three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Tafel allegedly sexually assaulted a young female relative, according to news reports at Mlive.com. jail2-606956-m

Tafel is accused of sexually assaulting the female relative in Saginaw Township in 2005 and 2012; the girl is now 14 years old. The victim testified at Tafel’s preliminary hearing in May of last year behind closed doors. According to Christopher Boyd, Saginaw County Chief Assistant Prosecutor, Tafel was offered a plea agreement due to the prosecutor’s office trying to spare the teenage girl the stress of testifying, and because of potential proof problems.

Tafel declined a plea deal offered by prosecutors in which he would have pleaded guilty to second-degree CSC against someone under the age of 13. The plea would have left him facing three to 15 years in prison. He also declined to take a polygraph test.

Michigan sex crime appeals attorneys know that there are many innocent people sitting behind bars for crimes they did not commit. Unfortunately, rape, child molestation, and sexual assault are some of the easiest crimes someone can be accused of committing, regardless of whether the allegations are true. However, disproving the accusations is not easy – and regardless of your innocence or guilt, the public, and often jurors, have a preconceived notion that you are guilty. When jurors are biased, it can result in a wrongful conviction. 282848_law_library.jpg

A conviction does not mean that you are at the end of the road and there are no other options. When you have been wrongly convicted of any criminal offense, the best thing you can do is to consult with an experienced Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who is skilled and highly familiar with the appeals process. Winning an appeal is not easy, and the process is complex. Your attorney will thoroughly review your case to determine if you have strong grounds for an appeal of the decision made at trial.

The fact is, jurors are not the only ones who can make mistakes or have clouded judgment; judges and prosecutors can err as well, and often do. Even witnesses may not always tell the whole truth. Children who are alleged victims are often coerced into making accusations by adults, or may hear/see things on television and in the media that give them ideas. Whatever the reason, if you are not guilty of the crime you have been convicted of, you must take action.

Following a conviction, there are several options that may apply in your situation depending on the circumstances. You may want to consider filing a motion for a new trial, file a motion for a Ginther Hearing if you feel your conviction was a result of ineffective counsel, or introduce new evidence which may support your innocence.

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