By Griffin Wasik, Andy Merkle, and Xin Wen
Ingham County Chronicle Staff Reporters
Ingham County residents were stunned, shocked, and disappointed upon learning that Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III was arrested due to a human trafficking investigation.
Tina Timm, a professor at the School of Social Work at Michigan State University, said she was stunned with Dunnings’ arrest.
“He was such a strong advocate to eliminate those issues,” Timm said. “It’s fascinating to me, the louder they protest something, and the more of a psychological need there is to actually do these things behind the scenes.
“Dunnings’ wife also filed for divorce. This is very common in a situation like this. She felt betrayed and it is good that she doesn’t feel like she has to side with him.”
“A personal comment. I have worked with Stuart Dunnings while I have served as attorney general,” Schuette said at an announcement in Lansing on March 14. “I am saddened that an elected official who holds a special trust from voters and is the chief prosecutor in our capital city would allegedly engage in conduct causing felony and misdemeanor charges to be filed.”
Dunnings was charged with one count of prostitution, 10 counts of engaging in the services of prostitution and four counts of willful neglect of duty, according to the release.
Ingham County Field and Staff Services Major Joel Maatman commented on Dunnings’ arrest.
“I, like many that have known him for over 25 years, am very stunned by it,” Maatman said.
Doug Rutherford, a Lansing resident, said Dunnings misrepresented the public and broke his trust.
“I thought he did not have the character to be able to maintain office,” Rutherford said. “I am not shocked because that kind of stuff goes on today, but I’m disappointed. I think he will bargain to get a reduced sentence.”
Amy Parlette, a member of the East Lansing Fire Department, said she is not surprised and wants change to the legal system.
“Prostitution should be legalized and regulated so the women would be safe because it will happen regardless,” Parlette said. “In Detroit, prostitutes get killed. If there were some protections, women would be safe.”
Amy McDowell, a CATA bus ramp specialist, said she is surprised and disappointed.
“I think he will eventually plead guilty but it depends how strong the case is,” McDowell said.
Charges against Dunnings resulted from an investigation into a Michigan-based human trafficking ring, which took place in 2015, according to the release.
Human trafficking ringleader Tyrone Smith pleaded guilty on three counts of sex trafficking young girls and women, including one minor, according to the release.
Witnesses in the federal investigation of Smith led the FBI, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, and Michigan attorney general’s office to Dunnings.
“Through the course of investigating a human trafficking case with our partners from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, we developed information we could not ignore involving a public official,” FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Ted Docks said in the release.
Even highly-ranked officials at the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office did not know information about the investigation, Maatman said.
“I do not have the knowledge to how this investigation began,” Maatman said. “Yes, the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office was partnered with the FBI and the Michigan attorney general’s office, but I do not know the details of the investigation portion of it.
“We will let the court system play out,” Maatman said. “He is innocent until proven guilty, as is anybody else, so we will have to wait for the court proceeding.”