GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The Grand Rapids man and sex offender accused of havinginappropriate contact with boys' feet won't face charges foraccosting a child for immoral purposes.
Benjamin Walcott would be released from jail Thursday, but nowhe will face charges in Ionia County and remain in custody pendingthe outcome of his arraignment in district court. He is accused ofviolating the state statute for working in a student safety zone asa convicted sex offender.
Walcott attended his preliminary hearing in Kent County districtcourt Thursday, where the judge said the 28-year-old's chargesdidn't fit his crime. He was charged in April with two counts ofaccosting a child for immoral purposes.
The facts needed for his particular charges were not presentedby Mike Cox's office, Judge David Buter said.
"There were any number of proper charges that which could havebeen appropriately brought," he said. "They may have been lesspunitive in terms of penalty provisions than this one."
Accosting a child for immoral purposes -- a four-year felony --requires prosecutors to prove several things, including grossindecency and sexual assault, Buter said, adding Cox's officesimply didn't make the case.
"Specifically looking at the terminology used in the statute, Idon't think that this is the proper charge to be brought," Butersaid.
During testimony, two football players said Walcott asked themto do different things with their feet, including crush toy carswhile he videotaped it.
"I just thought it was kind of fishy why we were doing that,"one of the boys said.
AG Mike Cox's office will likely appeal the decision to dropWalcott's charges.
But Walcott's attorney agrees with Buter.
"(It) might be weird (and) might be be creepy," Defense AttorneyPatricia Eppler said. "(But it's) not criminal."
Asked 24 Hour News 8: "Having said that, is your client a dangerto society?"
"Well, I mean, I can give you my opinion -- I don't believe so,"Eppler said.
In a 2001 case, he was accused of using his influence as asports coach or leader to lie to young boys and get them to showWalcott their feet.
Parents contacted Ottawa County investigators that year andcomplained Walcott found reasons to have the boys bare theirfeet.
During that time, he often would videotape the children doingvarious things with their feet, such as playing with toys orstepping on objects.
Walcott admitted to investigators he lied to the boys. But twoprosecutors decided he didn't commit any crimes.
Walcott had come close but hadn't "crossed that line," accordingto an Ottawa County police report.
The next year, in February 2002, he was convicted of two countsof fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Kent County, whichplaced him on the sex offender registry. In order to get around theregistry and continue to work at camps and with children, hestarted using the alias Benjamin Albright.
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