As expected, the three former Michigan State football players who were dismissed from the team after being accused of sexual assault avoided jail time at a sentencing hearing Wednesday.
The three players — Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance — were sentenced to three years probation in Ingham County (Michigan) Court. They must also complete sex offender treatment and 100 hours of community service. They were sentenced under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, a diversionary program that allows their records to be wiped clean if they complete probation without additional legal incidents.
In a deal with the prosecution, King, Corley and Vance pleaded guilty to a felony charge of seduction, a law the prosecution described in April as “archaic” (it dates back to 1931) but useful when attempting to reach a plea deal for offenders it does not believe should have to register as a sex offender.
“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 The law itself is archaic and while the statute itself is valid, it certainly was originally enacted in a bygone era,” Ingham County Prosecutor Carol A. Siemon said in a statement.
“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 three were accused of sexually assaulting a female student at an on-campus apartment in January 2017. Originally, King was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, third-degree criminal sexual conduct and capturing an image of an unclothed person while Corley and Vance each faced one count third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the three “expressed contrition, but denied raping the victim,” according to the Lansing State Journal.
Michigan State University Police previously said the victim reported that King invited her to “speak somewhere quiet,” then “pulled” her into a bathroom and forced her to perform oral and vaginal sex. Corley and Vance were each accused of later forcing her to perform oral sex. Police also alleged that King recorded himself having sex with the woman.
King also pleaded guilty to the “surveilling an unclothed person” charge, but Judge Rosemarie Aquilina did not issue additional penalties on Wednesday.
The victim’s attorney read a statement on her behalf at Wednesday’s hearing. From the LSJ:
“I accepted the plea deal for the sake of my own mental health, and to be able to move on from this criminal case,” the woman wrote in the statement. “I want to be able to put my life back together again. It’s my hope that my case would serve as a message of deterrence, to prevent anyone else from thinking they have any chance of just moving on after crushing an innocent person.”
The victim, acknowledged, however, that she has “zero confidence a significant level of deterrence will come out of this.”
Michigan State initially announced last February that it was investigating allegations of sexual assault that were “connected to the football program” and that it suspended three unnamed student-athletes (later revealed to be King, Corley and Vance). In May 2017, it was determined after a Title IX investigation that the three players violated school policy, leading to their dismissals from the team. In June, the players were formally brought up on charges in Ingham County.
Curtis Blackwell, MSU’s former director of college advancement and performance, was suspended for his response to the allegations. MSU police said Blackwell “interfered” with the investigation. His contract was not renewed.
An independent report that reviewed MSU’s handling of the situation concluded that MSU head coach Mark Dantonio and now-former athletic director Mark Hollis acted appropriately in their responses to the allegations. Dantonio, the report said, reported the incident to his superiors at the school “within minutes” of being informed of the incident by another player.
In 2016, Corley caught 33 passes for 453 yards while King, a defensive lineman, played in nine games and had 10 tackles. Vance, a defensive back, redshirted his lone season with the Spartans. All three players were members of MSU’s 2016 recruiting class.
Corley and Vance attended Coahoma Community College in Mississippi last year and hope to join the football program for the 2018 season. King is expected to join them at the school.
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