ESCANABA - An Escanaba man convicted of rape was ordered to spend up to 25 years in prison during his sentencing in Delta County Circuit Court on Friday.
Following a trial in March, a jury found Dustin Anthony Menard, 27, guilty of one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion, a 15-year felony.
He was sentenced Friday to a minimum of seven years to a maximum of 25 years with credit for 235 days served in the county jail. A fourth-offense habitual offender notice increased his punishment.
Menard was arrested on Sept. 9, 2013, in connection with a sexual assault reported by a 24-year-old female friend of his on June 9, 2013, in Wells Township.
The victim spoke at Friday's sentencing. Because she was raped, she stated she feels helpless, fears the dark, fears the defendant, has difficulty sleeping, and feels cheated on life.
"I'll never be the same," she told the court.
The victim reported being sexually assaulted by Menard after they attended a bonfire together and he drove her back to her car. Menard initially told police he never had sex with her then later told a deputy that they had consensual sex.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Philip Strom said Friday, "This case has always been about a woman's right to say no. This is a case of real rape."
In addition to experiencing physical and mental trauma because of the crime, as a rape victim, she also had her credibility questioned on the witness stand, he said.
"This has been extremely difficult on her and her family," said Strom.
The victim, the defendant, and other witnesses took the stand during the three-day trial in March. Other evidence presented in the case included text messages and photographic images the victim and Menard had exchanged on their cell phones.
Defense attorney Don LeMire said these communications were part of an "unusual set of circumstances" in the "very difficult" case. He questioned why the victim would send images of private body parts and go to a bonfire with the defendant when she was engaged to be married.
"I feel there was no proof of third-degree criminal sexual conduct beyond a reasonable doubt," said LeMire.
LeMire also questioned "the voluntary stunts and trickery" staged by deputies during Menard's taped interview.
Menard told the court the police "went too far" in their "trickery and deceit" during his interview, pretending the hospital called about evidence. He added the jury should have seen his complete interview as well as the police report filed by the victim.
"There was suppressed evidence," he told Judge Stephen Davis. "I still feel justice hasn't been served."
Prior to sentencing Menard, the judge said, "Rape is one of the most personally humiliating of all crimes."
Davis told Menard, "You are a rapist as the jury found. You are a convicted rapist. You are the very portrait of a rapist and shall be punished as a rapist."
In addition to the prison term, Menard was ordered Friday to not have contact with the victim, her family, or anyone 17 years old or younger. He must register as a sex offender and pay $198 in fines and costs.
During his trial, Menard was found not guilty on two charges - a second felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion, a two-year high-court misdemeanor.
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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, firstname.lastname@example.org