Ex-Sparta councilman pleads guilty to child sex crime

Kent County
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SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Sparta councilman charged by a grand jury with sex crimes against teen girls has pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor.

Ryan James Hayes pleaded guilty to the charge earlier this month. The judge agreed to dismiss the remaining count of attempted coercion and enticement at his sentencing, which is set for July 18.

The federal indictment accuses Hayes of using a 16-year-old girl for sexual explicit conduct, which he recorded on his cellphone around April 11, 2018.

Five months later, Kent County detectives say Hayes started texting with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. However, that person turned out to be an employee of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, the police affidavit stated.

Detectives say Hayes confessed to texting “Liv,” discussing sexual topics and planning to meet her at Grand Rapids’ Huff Park.

Detectives say the conversation continued for two weeks until Hayes planned to meet her at the park for sex. He was arrested by authorities when he arrived.

Hayes was previously charged in Kent County with accosting children for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime. However, it appears those charges were set aside in light of the federal charges.

After his arrest, Hayes stopped showing up to council meetings and eventually resigned on Oct. 31. However, his resignation came only six days before an election, which Hayes won.

Sparta Village President Kristi Dougan says Hayes never showed up to take the oath within the 30-day window the village allows. The council appointed somone to fill his seat on March 4, according to Dougan.

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