Lansing – Three former Michigan State University football players accused of sexual assault learned Wednesday they will avoid jail time, thanks to pleading guilty in April to violating an archaic law that predates the Civil War.
Josh King, Donnie Corley Jr. and Demetric Vance were sentenced Wednesday in Ingham County Circuit Court to three years’ probation. They also must undergo sex offender treatment and therapy.
The three ex-players had faced more serious sexual assault charges but pleaded guilty in April to the reduced charge of seducing an unmarried woman.
The obscure statute calls for up to five years in prison, although Ingham County prosecutors recommended no jail time.
King, Corley and Vance also were prosecuted under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which is available to Michigan defendants between ages 17-24. The act allows them to keep felonies off their permanent record if they steer clear of legal trouble.
The guilty plea also allows the three defendants to keep their names off the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.
The seduction charge, adopted in 1846 and last amended in 1931, is rarely used, Cooley Law School professor Curt Benson said.
“It’s a handy thing prosecutors keep in their back pockets to say ‘I’ve got a tough case; I can’t prove the charges, so if you plead guilty to this, you’ll get a felony, but you’ll keep your name off the sex offender list, and in seven years you can get the felony expunged from your record,’” Benson said.
A woman claimed she was assaulted in an apartment bathroom last year. King, Corley and Vance were kicked off the football team when charges were filed. They were later dismissed from the school.
Karen Truszowski, the victim’s attorney, did not return a phone call from The Detroit News seeking comment, although she told WILX-TV it was best for her client to agree to the plea agreement in order to avoid a trial.
Michigan State University police did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
During an April plea deal hearing in Ingham Circuit Court before Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, the three defendants said they were aware their alleged victim was unmarried and “chaste” before they each had oral sex with her on a single night in January 2017.
After the hearing, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon released a statement in which she acknowledged the seduction statute is obscure, but said it has been used “consistently, but infrequently” in Michigan plea deals.
“The plea to seduction is a tool that we have as prosecutors, but it is an imperfect tool,” Siemon said. “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.”
Michigan Law 750.532 reads: “Any man who shall seduce and debauch any unmarried woman shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 5 years or by fine of not more than 2,500 dollars; but no prosecution shall be commenced under this section after 1 year from the time of committing the offense.”
Benson said the law wouldn’t be practical other than as a tool for plea bargains.
“If they were to start enforcing that law, how many of us would be guilty?” Benson said. “Just about every high school senior in the country would be guilty.”
The Associated Press contributed.
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