Hart man arrested in child sex crime sting operation sentenced to jail.

February 11, 2022


Hart man arrested in child sex crime sting operation sentenced to jail.

Please consider helping to fund local news. Mason County Press and Oceana County Press are available for free thanks to the generous support of our advertisers and individuals. Three ways to help us: Venmo: @MasonCountyPress; Paypal: MasonCountyPress@gmail.com; Mail a check to PO BOX 21, Scottville, MI 49454. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — A 65-year-old Hart man went to a local hotel last summer after making arrangements with whom he believed to be a 15-year-old girl to engage in oral sex with her. But when he entered the hotel room, he was arrested by police in a sting operation.

Lewis Ernest Stone, of 510 Hart St., was sentenced in 27th Circuit Court, Feb. 7, to one year in jail for a felony conviction of accosting a child for immoral purposes.

Stone pleaded “no contest” to the charge Dec. 13. 

The incident occurred Aug. 25, 2021 at the Dunes Express Inn in Hart Township where Oceana County and Genesee County sheriff’s offices were running a joint sting operation, said Judge Robert D. Springstead. “An officer was posing as an underage individual on a dating site. Mr. Stone expressed he was interested in performing oral sex on the female when she was contacted by him. The officer indicated that she was 15 years old. 

“The defendant originally said that’s too young and then later reconsidered. There was a price negotiated. He went into the room and then was caught by the police.”

In exchange for Stone’s plea, a felony charge of using a computer to commit a crime and a fourth-offense habitual offender designation were dismissed. Accosting a child for immoral purposes has a maximum possible penalty of four years, and using a computer to commit a crime is punishable by up to 10 years.

Sentencing guidelines in the case are two to 17 months, said Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon. 

Judge Springstead ordered five years probation. Stone received credit for 166 days served in jail. 

Stone responded to an ad on Craigslist, said Bizon, and the negotiated amount was $50.

Stone’s prior criminal history includes six retail fraud convictions and two drug delivery convictions, said Bizon. “The dismissed charges would not have increased his guidelines. The prior felonies have no relation to this conduct and would not have increased his sentence,” said Bizon for further clarification. The new sentencing laws, coupled with the age of his priors, are factors. His most recent conviction was in 2006.

Stone’s attorney, Timothy Hayes, said his client entered a “no contest” plea due to potential civil liability. Stone registered as a sex offender following his conviction.

Oceana County County Undersheriff Ryan Schiller does not believe Stone’s sentence was long enough.

“Human trafficking is a significant concern not only in our country, but right here in our own back yard,” said Oceana County Undersheriff Ryan Schiller. “These types of crimes are not only occurring in big city, metropolitan  areas. The Oceana County Sheriff’s Office desires to take a strong stand against this type  of activity occurring. We have found that there are predators right in our own community. It is our job to protect our citizens, especially our kids. 

“Given the unique circumstances of this investigation and the known facts, we feel the  consequences for this individual are not fitting for a crime of this nature,” said Undersheriff Schiller. “There are times that it may be appropriate to ‘dismiss’ charges; we do not feel this was one of them.”

The prosecutor said the state statute was followed.

Lewis Ernest Stone was arrested after an undercover sting run by the Genesee County GHOST (Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team),” said Prosecutor Bizon. “The facts show that the defendant used his phone to search for an escort. He responded to an advertisement for an 18-year-old escort. During the conversation with the undercover officer, the undercover officer informed Stone she was in fact 15. Mr. Stone indicated that was too young and he would not go any further. The undercover officer convinced Mr. Stone to proceed to the hotel where he was arrested.

“Mr. Stone was charged consistent with the law with two felony counts one for accosting a minor for immoral purposes — this law applies even when the other subject is not a minor but is a police officer pretending to be a minor. Stone was also charged with using a computer to commit a crime, because his cell phone does meet the legal definition of a computer

“Undersheriff Schiller is entitled to his opinion,” said Bizon. “But the facts are these: The count Stone pled to and was sentenced for has sentence guidelines of 217 months. The law states that he is presumed to be entitled to a sentence at the bottom of those guidelines (two months) MCL 769.34. The judge departed from the legal presumption to give the defendant in this case a 12-month sentence. The charge that was dismissed was using a computer to commit a crime scored at 017 guidelines. This second count would not have raised the guidelines on the first count and would have likely been sentenced concurrently (at the same time). Under the law, when a defendant is scored zero to anything, they are presumed entitled to a probation sentence — MCL 769.34. While the defendant had a prior record it was for marijuana crimes and retail fraud. 

“In this case, no child was ever harmed or even in existence,” said Bizon. “During the pendency of this case my office became aware that the Genesee County Sheriff was posting to Facebook information that is contrary to MRPC 3.6 and 3.8. He made statements identifying the suspect (and other suspects) prior to arraignment, made statements about their guilt, made statements about the facts of case and made disparaging remarks about the suspects prior to any court hearing. This is a clear violation of the ethical rules of conduct and violate the constitutional right granted in the Bill of Rights

“Defendant was arrested on Aug. 23, 2021. Since this time, not one individual has presented a claim of wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Stone. If there are any, they should report that to the sheriff’s office, but to date they have not.

“In this case, two separate preliminary exams were scheduled, on Sept. 20, 2021, and Nov. 15, 2021, (and) both times, the detective from GHOST, a necessary witness was unable to attend these hearings, even when allowed to appear by Zoom,” said the prosecutor. “The defendant was incarcerated and had a right to have this hearing within 21 days of his arraignment. If we did not give him his constitutional right to an exam, he would need to be released. Ultimately, he agreed to plead to a felony count and the court was able to sentence far over the presumed sentence outlined by law.

“So again, Undersheriff Schiller is entitled to his opinion,” said Bizon, “but this outcome of a sentence above the legal presumptions of a probation sentence with the complicating factors present in this case is a good legal outcome, consistent with the law, consistent with the facts.”

This story is copyrighted © 2022, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

As the services of Media Group 31, LLC news services, the information posted within the sites are archivable for public record and historical posterity. For this reason it is the policy and practice of this company to not delete postings. It is the editor’s discretion to update or edit a story when/if new information becomes available. This may be done by editing the posted story or posting a new “follow-up” story. Media Group 31, LLC or any of its agents have the right to make any changes to this policy. Refer to Use Policy for more information.

Area Churches

Eats & Drinks

Eats & Drinks