Three former Michigan State football players charged with sexual assault have reached a plea deal with Ingham County prosecutors, multiple local outlets reported today. All three men—Donnie Corley, Josh King, and Demetric Vance—pleaded guilty today to the lesser charge of seducing an unmarried woman. King also pleaded guilty to a surveillance charge. The Lansing State Journal and the Detroit News both reported that the deal means the men, all age 20, will serve no additional time in jail or prison.
The agreement was announced at a hearing today before Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, the same judge who presided over the sentencing of serial abuser and former Michigan State employee Larry Nassar. The plea will become official at a hearing scheduled for June 6. The State Journal reported that the three men will be allowed to withdraw their pleas “if Aquilina includes jail time in their sentences.”
This also will mean that records related to the case would be sealed from the public. From the State Journal:
Their court records also would become non-public under a Michigan law that allows judges to close the records of young offenders as long as they meet the terms of their agreement and do not commit any future offenses. Aquilina said during the hearing that she was granting Holmes Youthful Trainee status to all three.
All three were charged originally with third-degree criminal sexual conduct; King also was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and capturing an image of an unclothed person. A police detective testified last year that the victim said King pulled her into a bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex, then have vaginal sex, then forced her to perform oral sex on the other two men. The men, through their lawyers, had maintained their innocence.
Deadspin asked the victim’s attorney, Karen Truszkowski, how her client felt about the plea deal. This was her response:
“Is it what she wanted? No. Obviously not,” Truszkowski said. “But she’s glad that portion of the proceedings are over with, and she’s glad that they stood in open court and pleaded guilty to something, finally, because they’ve been adamant all along that what happened was consensual—and it wasn’t.
“So she’s gotten some vindication from that. In that respect, I think that that’s good for her. It’s not the best outcome, but it’s kind of a difficult pill to swallow.”
Truszkowski added that the treatment of Nassar’s victims by Michigan State officials has influenced the victim’s decision not to speak publicly. “I’ve seen how they’ve treated the Nassar victims,” Truszkowski said. “The trustees, they’ve said awful things about them. Who would want to deal with that? I wouldn’t. They’ve been terrible to them.”
Lawyers for all three men declined to comment in local media reports, except for Vance’s attorney who said the plea deal “speaks for itself,” the State Journal reported.
After the plea deal was reported, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol A. Siemon released the following statement:
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.