Leon Hendrix -
GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Months before authorities say he broke into nearly a dozen Kent County homes, Corey Vansuilichem could have been going to prison for his sixth felony conviction.
Instead, the convict was sentenced to 60 days in jail for maintaining a drug house after a plea deal with the Ionia County Prosecutor's Office.
At 32, Vansuilichem's criminal history includes convictions for breaking and entering, domestic violence and drugs, court records show. He's now accused of breaking into 11 homes and attempting to break into several others in the Rockford area earlier this year.
Some question whether he should have been in prison and unable to commit the crimes of which he's accused given his past and that his most recent sentence was handed down in February.
"I don't think that after six felonies that he should be walking around like everything's fine," one of his victims, who asked not to be identified, told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.
The previous case stemmed from a domestic violence investigation during which officers discovered an illegal marijuana grow in his home. Vansuilichem did have a medical marijuana prescription, but was growing more marijuana than allowed by state law. He was charged with maintaining a drug house.
Vansuilichem and the prosecutors came up with a "Killebrew agreement" to resolve the case. That means the parties agreed the defendant would plead guilty in exchange for a particular sentencing recommendation from the prosecutor. If the judge goes above the recommendation, the defendant is allowed to withdraw his plea. In this case, the prosecutor agreed to recommend Vansuilichem be sentenced to 60 days in jail.>>PDF: Vansuilichem's presentence investigation report
At sentencing, Judge Ronald Schafer expressed concern about the agreement.
"I think most people would be appalled to recognize, or learn, that you can be in circuit court with five prior felonies, nine prior misdemeanors, plead to a new felony -- so this is number six -- and his guidelines are two to 17 (months)," Schafer said at the sentencing, according to transcripts obtained by 24 Hour News 8. "I think the average citizen would say, 'Hey, wait a minute, you're in circuit court for a sixth felony and the guidelines don't even call for prison? That seems crazy to me.'"
"I was strongly considering not following the Killebrew in this for many reasons," he said at another point in the hearing.
Schafer even double-checked the prosecutor's commitment to the agreement.
"Are you still comfortable with the Killebrew agreement that your office worked out with the defendant?" he asked the assistant prosecuting attorney who appeared for the case.
"Very much so, your honor," the attorney responded.
Schafer, the county's former prosecutor, eventually decided to go along with the deal.
"I also stood in (the prosecutor's) shoes one time, and I guess, I hope, they have good reasons for agreements that are at the bottom end of the guidelines when … for all intents and purposes, you probably should be going to prison," he said.
Weeks after Vansuilichem was released from his jail term, investigators say he began committing the break-ins in Kent County.
Despite the new allegations, Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler stands by the agreement he made.
"The bottom line is that the sentence for this offense was fair in light of the totality of the circumstances and supported by MDOC (the Michigan Department of Corrections) and ultimately the Judge as well (who could have refused to follow the agreement)," he said in a written statement to 24 Hour News 8. "My heart goes out to those people that may have been victimized by his actions and I'm sure that if the allegations prove true justice will be served."
The Kent County assistant prosecuting attorney handling the new allegations against Vansuilichem said no such deal should be expected.
On Wednesday, the suspect appeared in court briefly to waive his right to a preliminary exam on one of the counts he faces.
The full statement from the Ionia County prosecutor:
"Attached you'll find a portion of the PSIR for the recent case in which the Defendant was sentenced to 60 days jail and probation for 3 years (as well as other terms of probation). You'll see that this recommendation was supported by MDOC after they interviewed the Defendant and evaluated his criminal history, employment, education, and other facets of his life. "Yes, it is true that the offense he was sentenced on in our county was his 6th felony offense. Worth noting however, is that the prior felonies all occurred between the dates of 7/6/2002-7/19/2002 with no felony charges until 2016—14 years later. "One statement that you are surely not aware of is that during sentencing on this charge, Judge Schafer acknowledged that he too was once a prosecutor and he knows that prosecutors have reasons for the plea deals they make. Judges are not always privy to all the reasons why prosecutors offer the plea deals that they do and that is very true in this case."As you'll see in the "Agent's Description of the Offense" (see attached) you'll get a better feel for what this case was all about. The case involved the growing of marijuana and a violation of the MMMA. It would be a rare instance indeed that our office (under my tenor or my predecessor's) would request prison for such an offence under these circumstances unless the scoring guidelines absolutely required it—which in this case they clearly did not as the Defendant only scored 2-17 months incarceration. "The bottom line is that the sentence for this offense was fair in light of the totality of the circumstances and supported by MDOC and ultimately the Judge as well (who could have refused to follow the agreement). "I understand that the Defendant has been charged in Kent County with multiple counts of Home Invasion. That is very unfortunate for him as if he is found guilty of violating probation in our county and/or in Kent County for the charges then he will likely serve much more time in jail or prison. "My heart goes out to those people that may have been victimized by his actions and I'm sure that if the allegations prove true justice will be served."