Dunnings could avoid jail despite felony conviction

LANSING, MICH. - The sentencing guidelines for former Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney Stuart Dunnings III call for no more than three months in jail, according to court records.

Dunnings, 64, is scheduled to be sentenced this afternoon, more than four months after he resigned from office and more than two months after he pleaded guilty to a felony.

The felony, misconduct in office, is punishable by up to five years in prison. The minimum sentence can be set no higher than two-thirds of the statutory maximum sentence, meaning the longest sentence that could be issued is about three to five years in prison.

That's the term the Michigan Attorney General's will ask for, according to a sentencing memorandum filed last week.

"Due to the severity of the defendant's conduct, his abuse of the public's trust, his exploitation of victims of crime whom he publicly pledged to protect, and the fact that the sentencing guidelines fail to account for these and the factors discussed (in this memorandum)," the Attorney General's Office wrote, "the People respectfully request that the Court sentence the defendant to 40 months to 5 years imprisonment in the Michigan Department of Corrections."

However, the state probation department is recommending no more than 90 days in jail, if any.

Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah — presiding over sentencing because Ingham County judges recused themselves — can adopt the guidelines or depart from them. He can sentence Dunnings to time in county jail, state prison, court fines, restitution or probation, or a combination. Any sentence of less than one year would typically be served in a county jail, although in Dunnings' case, it's not clear where he would be housed because of his previous role as prosecutor.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's office has used the misconduct in office charge at least six other times in recent years, but no one has been sentenced to jail. Dunnings was originally charged with pandering, a 20-year felony, but Schuette agreed to allow a plea deal to the lesser charge.

The office has used the charge in some recent high-profile cases, including against former state lawmakers Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat and against six state employees for their role in the Flint Water Crisis. The charges against Gamrat were dismissed. The other cases are still pending.

Dunnings served as county prosecutor for nearly 20 years. He was first elected in 1996 and resigned in July after spending several months on medical leave. He was arrested and charged March 14 with 15 prostitution-related charges spread over three counties, including the 20-year felony.

He pleaded guilty Aug. 2.

Investigative reports made public last month showed that some police and county employees were aware of Dunnings' questionable conduct long before a criminal investigation into his dealings with prostitutes was launched.

In fact, some records indicate that Dunnings enlisted aid from other public employees who might not have known that at least some women they helped were prostitutes with whom Dunnings had relationships.

Today's scheduled sentencing will mark the second time Dunnings appeared in an Ingham County court as a defendant. The first time was in September, when he appeared during a hearing asking Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to recuse herself from the case. He was a arraigned via video conference in March and pleaded guilty to Ingham County charges in Jackson County District Court.

Dunnings had been scheduled to be sentenced by Aquilina, but she granted in September a motion from Dunnings' attorneys for her to recuse herself.

Lansing State Journal


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