A prosecutor who has been the top law enforcer in Michigan's capital area for nearly 20 years was charged Monday with hiring prostitutes hundreds of times and committing related crimes, including paying for sex with a woman who wanted help in a child custody dispute.
A police affidavit says Stuart Dunnings III met prostitutes through websites and told some of the women he was the county prosecutor. He paid one woman for sex as many as three or four times a week over five years, while another prostitute had sex with him more than 200 times, the complaint said.
The case against Dunnings, the elected Democratic prosecutor in Ingham County, developed from tips during a federal human-trafficking investigation, state Attorney General Bill Schuette said.
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Dunnings, 63, was charged with pandering — enticing a woman to become a prostitute, a 20-year felony — and willful neglect of duty. He also was charged with using the services of prostitutes — a misdemeanor — in Ingham, Clinton and Ionia counties hundreds of times between 2010 and 2015.
He was arrested while leaving a coffee shop, lodged at the Ingham County jail, arraigned and released on bond Monday.
One of his lawyers, Michael Hocking, declined to comment on the charges while leaving the courtroom. At the arraignment, he said Dunnings had been aware of the investigation for several weeks.
Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth said there had been chatter about Dunnings' activities but never any proof. The county's role in the investigation began about a year ago, and the sheriff notified the attorney general in late summer.
"This is a huge betrayal of his trust, his oath of office, his service to the people of this county," Wriggelsworth said.
Also charged was Dunnings' brother Steven, a Lansing attorney. A message seeking comment was left at Steven Dunnings' law office.
According to the affidavit filed by Ingham County Detective Amber Kenny-Hinojosa, one woman sent an email to Stuart Dunnings, telling him she had been the victim of domestic violence and asking for his help in a custody fight. After discussing the matter, he invited her to a lunch — at which he told her he was aware she was struggling financially and proposed paying her for a sexual relationship.
The woman, identified as W-6 in the court filing, told investigators she initially was shocked but ultimately felt she had no choice but to accept, hoping it would help in her custody dispute and fearing he might cause her problems if she refused. "W-6 asserts that she would not have gone along with the commercial sex if Dunnings III had not been the prosecutor," the affidavit states.
Schuette called on Dunnings to resign and said "it turns your stomach" that Dunnings never intervened to help victims he said were "brutalized, assaulted, manipulated, provided drugs, imprisoned."
"A member of law enforcement was using the services of women who were being trafficked," Schuette said at a news conference.
The human trafficking ring leader pleaded guilty in November and awaits sentencing, Schuette said.