Air Force veteran charged with 12 counts of sex crimes

By Karen Bota

Terry Lee Hurst Jr., 48, was arraigned in Ionia County Circuit Court last Tuesday before Judge Ronald Schafer. Hurst appeared from the Ionia County Jail, where he has been held since Feb. 18. His attorney, Jeff Perlman, appeared via Zoom.

Hurst is charged with five counts of CSC in the first degree to a victim under 13 years of age, five in the second degree, one in the third degree and one in the fourth degree.

First-degree CSC is a felony that carries a mandatory minimum of 25 years up to life. Second-degree and third-degree CSC are 15-year felonies, and four-degree CSC is a two-year high court misdemeanor. All require registration under the Sex Offender Registration Act.

Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler put an offer on the record, saying if Hurst enters a plea to counts one and two, both first-degree CSC, Butler would agree to a sentence of 25 years minimum and 40 years maximum, lifetime electronic monitoring, and fines, costs and restitution. The sentences would run concurrently. The Prosecutor’s Office also would agree to dismiss the remaining counts and to not charge Hurst with any other counts arising from this situation.

The alleged incidents occurred from Jan. 1, 2000, to Jan. 1, 2019, in the city of Ionia.

Perlman asked the judge to reduce Hurst’s bond, which was set at $250,000 cash on Feb. 22, noting that he has a limited criminal history, with one operating while intoxicated conviction in 2017 in Ionia County. He added that Hurst has never failed to appear for court dates and has retained counsel, which “demonstrates how seriously he’s taking these allegations and his financial commitment to ensure his representation.”

According to Perlman, Hurst is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a hard worker who has lived in the community since 2003, where he raised his children. Close friends in the area provided character letters, which were submitted to the court.

“These letters demonstrate my client to be a good-hearted man who is an asset to his community … that he just goes out of his way to help others in the community,” Perlman said.

Perlman said Hurst has been gainfully employed and his employers will ensure he does not travel outside of Michigan pursuant to his bond conditions. There is no indication he is a flight risk, Perlman said, and asked for a “reasonable” bond so Hurst can get out of jail and provide for his family.

Butler objected, telling the judge that the presumption of Hurst’s guilt is “great.” The victims, who are now 25 and 14, described similar types of CSC at the hands of the Hurst from the time they were 4 years old to their mid-teens and from age 6 to about 11, respectively, according to Butler.

“Both indicated that many times the acts would begin the same way, with the defendant exposing them to pornography on his computer, and would have them sit on his lap while watching,” Butler said. “They both describe very similar acts of criminal sexual conduct … and that they were frequent in nature when they were in his presence.”

Butler said there was a concern that Hurst had moved to Indiana for work and might move to Florida, where it would be difficult to extradite him.

“The defendant’s guilt is great, and also the likelihood of flight does certainly exist,” Butler said. “We’re arguing at the very least that the $250,00 stay.”

The judge declined to lower Hurst’s bond, noting that individuals who write letters supporting a defendant don’t always have “all the information about a person.”

“Even though you may work with them for many, many years, you really don’t know what somebody does behind closed doors,” Schafer said. “I don’t know how much weight the court really should apply to those.”

Instead, Schafer said he would consider whether Hurst was a flight risk as well as protection of the public. He also noted that Ionia County District Court Magistrate David Wirth set a cash bond, not surety, which is “interesting” and something the court typically doesn’t from him. While Schafer didn’t necessarily agree with the prosecutor that there is “a great presumption of guilt” in fashioning an appropriate bond, he noted that there were two separate victims with identical stories “of an age that are potentially very good witnesses.”

“I am comfortable with the bond currently as set … for two reasons, “ Schafer said. “I do have a defendant who at one point was working out of state through his prior employment, military history, has contacts in different states — and that’s not a suggestion that he would flee, it’s just the idea that there is the opportunity if he’d like to.”

When facing serious charges, especially life offenses with a mandatory 25-year minimum, people do things that they would not otherwise do, like flee to another state, the judge added.

Protection of the public is a second “prong” the court looks at in contemplating a modification of bond, Schafer said, and he had to consider that there are allegations by two people.

Perlman then asked for a copy of the recorded interview with the alleged victims under a protective order “so that we have comprehensive discovery and that we have an opportunity to fully understand and absorb the allegations so that I can provide the proper defense to my client.” Due to the sensitive nature of the recording, Butler said, videos such as the one in question are not discoverable under the usual statutes. He proposed that Perlman watch the video at the Ionia Department of Public Safety. The judge agreed and denied Perlman’s motion.

“These are of very sensitive nature. The less copies that are out there, the better,” Schafer said. “Ideally there’s just one and that’s destroyed at the end of the case and/or kept in evidence for whatever retention period the various agencies might have as it relates to that type of investigation.”

The matter is next scheduled for a status conference on May 17.