LANSING, MI – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that ex-Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings has pleaded guilty to felony Misconduct in Office, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and to a charge of soliciting a prostitute.
Schuette originally charged the sitting prosecutor on March 14, 2016, driving Dunnings from office, following investigations by the FBI, Ingham County Sheriff and Michigan Attorney General’s office into an unrelated Mid-Michigan human trafficking case and leads resulting from that case.
Dunnings, who resigned from office after Schuette filed charges, was originally to have his preliminary exam conference today. Instead, Dunnings entered the guilty plea to the new felony charge of Misconduct in Office, which carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, following negotiations with the Department of Attorney General. Dunnings also entered a guilty plea to one count of Engaging the Services of a Prostitute, a 93-day misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $500 and mandates collection of the defendant’s DNA upon conviction for entering into the CODIS database.
Schuette’s office announced it intends to seek a prison sentence for Dunnings on the charge of Misconduct in Office, a decision that will be made by the court at a later date. Felony Misconduct in Office carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Additionally, while Dunnings’ law license will be automatically suspended due to the felony plea, Schuette said he is sending a letter to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission notifying them of the felony plea. Schuette supports a permanent suspension of Dunnings’ ability to practice law in the State of Michigan.
The plea was entered this afternoon before Judge Michael J. Klaeren of the 12th District Court in Jackson. Judge Klaeren is currently acting as a judge of the 54-A District Court.
While some of the March 14th charges were dropped as part of this agreement, Schuette said he has a strong concern about re-victimizing women involved in a potential trial and sought to protect them and their families from further publicity, while ensuring that justice is done in this case. This is why the original charges were amended today to include the felony Misconduct in Office charge that carries a five-year maximum prison sentence, and one charge of prostitution.
Schuette’s office intends to seek a term of incarceration at sentencing.
“The system in Michigan is not rigged. We have one system of justice and the rules apply to all,” said Schuette. “Today we are one step closer to accountability for the defendant, justice for victims, and a chance to restore the public trust tarnished by a public servant who only served himself.”
The charges against Stuart Dunnings grew out of a federal investigation into a Michigan-based human trafficking ring which took place in 2015. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan filed federal charges in that case against human trafficking ring leader Tyrone Smith in July 2015. On May 16, 2016, Tyrone Smith was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for sex trafficking young girls and women, including one minor.
Following the federal investigation into Smith, members of the Michigan Attorney General’s office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Ingham County Sheriff’s Office jointly conducted an additional investigation based on information provided by witnesses in the federal investigation of Smith, which led to Dunnings. That resulted in evidence that Stuart Dunnings, the then-Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney, engaged in commercial sex numerous times with multiple women in three counties (Ingham, Clinton and Ionia) from 2010 – 2015.
Furthermore, evidence showed that Dunnings also allegedly induced a woman to become a prostitute who had not previously been one, resulting in the original charge of Pandering, a 20-year felony. In order to achieve justice and avoid victimizing the victim and her family, this charge is being dropped at this time. The defendant instead pleaded guilty to Misconduct in Office, a felony which carries a five-year maximum prison sentence.