Stuart Dunnings III, the former Ingham County Prosecutor, has accepted a plea offer in the ongoing prostitution and human trafficking case against him. He appeared this afternoon in the Ingham County Court before Jackson County District Judge Michael Klaeren, where he admitted to having paid for sexual services. The case has been overseen by Judge Klaeren because all of the Ingham County judges recused themselves due to their long prior professional relationships with Dunnings.
Dunnings was initially facing several prostitution, pandering and misconduct in office related charges in Ingham, Clinton and Ionia counties. However, part of the plea agreement is that while he will still answer to charges in Ingham county, the charges in Ionia and Clinton counties will be dropped. As per the agreement, the single count of Pandering, which is a 20 year felony, and the nine misdemeanors for engaging the services of a prostitute have been reduced to two lesser charges. He is now charged with single counts of Misconduct in office, and Engaging the services of a prostitute.
The charges against Dunnings were the result of an extensive year-long federal investigation into a Michigan-based human trafficking ring. Eventually the feds involved the Ingham County Sheriff, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Attorney General’s office. According to court documents, Dunnings was said to have paid prostitutes for sex on hundreds of occasions over a period of several years. He was arrested in early March 2016.
One of the other individuals also arrested as a result of the investigation is a man named Tyrone Smith. Smith, who was apparently the leader of the trafficking ring, was arrested back in November 2015 and faced federal charges. Ultimately, Smith pled guilty to three counts of trafficking girls and women for sex. In addition, he admitted to transporting his victims across state lines for paid sex with others. The allegations against Dunnings originated from Smith’s arrest.
After Dunning’s arrest, Attorney General Bill Schuette alleged that the prosecutor used his position of authority to coerce one woman who was not a prostitute, to let him pay her for sex. This would account for the pandering charge. Under Michigan law, pandering, which is also known as “pimping”, refers to a person “enticing another person to become a prostitute” and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Now that the pandering charge has been dismissed, the most serious charge Dunnings is facing is the single felony count of Misconduct in office. It is punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The misdemeanor count of Engaging the services of a prostitute is punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Court documents show that a sentencing date has not yet been scheduled, however the case will continue to be handled here in Ingham County. An Ingham County Judge will be randomly assigned to the case. However, if that and other judges choose to recuse themselves from the case, it will be assigned to a judge from another county by the State Court Administrator’s Office.
In a public statement made by Attorney General Schuette after Dunnings’ plea hearing, he said that “The system in Michigan is not rigged. We have one system of justice and the rules apply to all.” He also went on to say that he intends to push for a prison sentence for Dunnings. Some have accused Schuette, a Republican, of grandstanding in his tirade against Dunning, who is a Democrat. Others believe that Attorney General Schuette is just bringing down a corrupt former prosecutor. It is widely believed that Shute will run for Governor of Michigan. As of now, Dunnings remains free on bond pending his sentencing.