September 2, 2014

Burgess pleads guilty as new defendants added to prostitution ring case

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ARENAC COUNTY — The defendant facing the most charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for his participation in an alleged Turner prostitution ring, Roger Burgess, 49, of Turner, pleaded guilty in Arenac County’s 23rd Circuit Court on Feb. 11.

He is scheduled for sentencing on March 11.

Burgess’ plea came the same day he was scheduled to be arraigned on five new files entered by the court regarding his role in the prostitution ring. Said files would have added 11 alleged counts of first-degree CSC to the case, on top of the nine counts of first-degree CSC and two counts of second-degree CSC he was already facing. In the alleged incidents, the victim was under 13 years old.

Burgess had previously been scheduled for a jury trial before the plea was entered.

Arenac County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Vollbach says the guilty plea entered by Burgess could potentially lead to other defendants in the case to plead guilty as well.

“Basically what breeds pleas is good evidence and we’ve got some good evidence in these cases,” Vollbach said.

Also on Feb. 11, three new defendants were charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) for their alleged participation in the Turner prostitution ring.

The three new defendants, James Booth, 21, of Harrison; Nichole Brown, 21, of AuGres; and Lisa Burgess, 21, of Bay City, were all scheduled to appear in Arenac County’s 23rd Circuit Court on Feb. 11. Brown and Lisa Burgess waived their scheduled arraignments, while Booth entered a plea of not guilty.

Booth and Brown are each facing one count on first-degree CSC, while Lisa Burgess is being charged with three. All alleged instances were with a person under 13.

Booth, Brown and Lisa Burgess will join existing defendants Kevin O’Neill, 24, of Turner; and Leo Nashatka, 22, of AuGres, who all face multiple counts of CSC with a person under 13.

Vollbach says even though some of the defendants may have been minors themselves when the alleged CSC violations occurred in 2003, Michigan law has a waiver in place when dealing with first-degree CSC that says defendants can be tried as adults, throwing out the age issue for the defense.

“The attorneys all understand that it’s (age at the time of the offenses) not a legal defense. It may be a factual argument they make to the jury,” he said. “Does it matter if these guys were young? I think it matters, but how much, is really up to a jury.”

The penalty for first-degree CSC can be as severe as life imprisonment.

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