A high-level county prosecutor who specialized in fighting underground sex trafficking in Michigan's capital of Lansing was arrested Monday after authorities learned he hired prostitutes hundreds of times over a five-year period.
Ingham County prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III faces 15 charges, among them "willful neglect of duty and pandering," according to the Washington Post, and was publicly denounced by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette this week for being an "officer of the law" who was "a participant in commercial sex activity."
Sex trafficking is defined not merely as the illegal transportation of sex workers across state or federal borders, notes the Grand Rapids Press, but the part of the prostitution trade that involves violence or deception to force people into entering the trade in the first place.
— Lansing State Journal (@LSJNews) March 15, 2016
— 13 On Your Side (@wzzm13) March 14, 2016
If the allegations against Dunnings are true, they fit that bill closely — despite having served a top role in prosecuting Lansing's sex workers and their customers.
According to the Lansing State Journal, the most serious charge against Dunnings is "felony ... prostitution-pandering for allegedly using his position to coerce a woman who came to him for help with a child custody case to have sex with him for money, according to court records." The charge carries up to a 20-year prison sentence, Reutersreported.
"We've done some campaigning together," county Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth said in a statement, the State Journal reported. "This was a huge betrayal of his trust, his oath of office, his service to the people of this county."
The state of Michigan is one of the country's hotspots for human trafficking, and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates reported cases rose 16% last year. Of the 152 human trafficking cases reported, the center says, 122 were for sexual purposes.
Only Nevada outranks Michigan in the size of its human trafficking sex trade, reports WJBK. Contributing factors include the state's proximity to the Canadian border and major international water crossings, the state's large trucking industry and major conventions and expos in Detroit.
One country that has seen success dealing with similar problems is Sweden, which in 1999 put the liability for prostitution-related offenses entirely on the customer and has since seen plummeting rates of prostitution and trafficking.
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