I love my state, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fucked up in many ways. We’re number one in unemployment, our economy is in the toilet, and now some judges have ruled that a Michigan law states that adulterers can be sent to prison for life:
In a ruling sure to make philandering spouses squirm, Michigan’s second-highest court says that anyone involved in an extramarital fling can be prosecuted for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison.
“We cannot help but question whether the Legislature actually intended the result we reach here today,” Judge William Murphy wrote in November for a unanimous Court of Appeals panel, “but we are curtailed by the language of the statute from reaching any other conclusion.”
“Technically,” he added, “any time a person engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship, he or she is guilty of CSC I,” the most serious sexual assault charge in Michigan’s criminal code.
What the fuck??
The ruling grows out of a case in which a Charlevoix man accused of trading Oxycontin pills for the sexual favors of a cocktail waitress was charged under an obscure provision of Michigan’s criminal law. The provision decrees that a person is guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct whenever “sexual penetration occurs under circumstances involving the commission of any other felony.”
Charlevoix Circuit Judge Richard Pajtas sentenced Lloyd Waltonen to up to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of delivering a controlled substance. But Pajtas threw out the sexual assault charge against Waltonen, citing the cocktail waitress’ testimony that she had willingly consented to the sex-for-drugs arrangement.
Charlevoix prosecuting attorney John Jarema said he decided to appeal after police discovered evidence that Waltonen may have struck drugs-for-sex deals with several other women.
OK, I’m following this so far: There’s an obscure provision in one of Michigan’s laws that says having sex while engaging in a felony makes that sexual act into felony sexual conduct. This was added to the law in 1931 and I can’t begin to imagine what the hell prompted that provision in the first place. Were people robbing banks while having sex or something? And how does that translate into adultery equals felony sexual conduct?
[Michigan’s Attorney General Mike] Cox’s office, which handled the appeal on the prosecutor’s behalf, insisted that the waitress’ consent was irrelevant. All that mattered, the attorney general argued in a brief demanding that the charge be reinstated, was that the pair had sex “under circumstances involving the commission of another felony”—the delivery of the Oxycontin pills.
The Attorney General’s Office got a whole lot more than it bargained for. The Court of Appeals agreed that the prosecutor in Waltonen’s case needed only to prove that the Oxycontin delivery and the consensual sex were related. But Murphy and his colleagues went further, ruling that a first-degree CSC charge could be justified when consensual sex occurred in conjunction with any felony, not just a drug sale.
The judges said they recognized their ruling could have sweeping consequences, “considering the voluminous number of felonious acts that can be found in the penal code.” Among the many crimes Michigan still recognizes as felonies, they noted pointedly, is adultery—although the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan notes that no one has been convicted of that offense since 1971.
Now there’s a wrinkle to this story that it’s important to mention at this point. Michigan’s aforementioned State Attorney General—Mike Cox (huh huhuh huh)—just so happens to be a self-confessed adulterer. Oops!
Needless to say there’s been quite a bit of gossip and whispering in Michigan’s legal circles since this ruling was handed down with some folks suggesting that it was a slap at Mike Cox (snicker) by the judges on the Court of Appeals:
“I never thought of it, and I’m confident that it was not something Judge Murphy or Judge Smolenski had in mind,” Whitbeck told me Friday. But he chuckled uncomfortably when I asked if the hypothetical described in Murphy’s opinion couldn’t be cited as justification for bringing first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges against the attorney general.
“Well, yeah,” he said.
Stunning hypocrisy from Attorney General Cox’s office in 3… 2… 1…
Cox’s spokesman, Rusty Hills, bristled at the suggestion that Cox or anyone else in his circumstances could face prosecution.
“To even ask about this borders on the nutty,” Hills told me in a phone interview Saturday. “Nobody connects the attorney general with this—N-O-B-O-D-Y—and anybody who thinks otherwise is hallucinogenic.”
Why is it nutty to think that our beloved Attorney General might be prosecuted for a felony he as openly admitted committing? Is he above the law? Does Michigan’s laws not apply to him? He’s the one who got all gung-ho about trying to prosecute someone under a rather obscure law, but he doesn’t think that same law should apply to him as well?
Hills said Sunday that Cox did not want to comment.
Big fucking surprise.
Naturally I’m opposed to this law myself as well as the one that makes adultery a felony and both should be removed from the books. Hopefully our beloved Attorney General has learned a thing or two about the concept of unintended consequences and, just perhaps, he’ll be more inclined to keep his dick in his pants until he gets a divorce. Good thing for him us liberals have made that fairly easy here in Michigan.
Link sent to me by an SEB regular who’s name I suddenly can’t recall. Dammit.