Sparta councilman indicted for child sex crimes

Kent County

SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — A Sparta councilman has been charged by a grand jury with sex crimes against teen girls.

The federal indictment filed Wednesday charges 34-year-old Ryan James Hayes with sexual exploitation of a minor and attempted coercion and enticement in connection to two incidents.

COUNCILMAN CAUGHT

The indictment accuses Hayes of using a 16-year-old girl for sexual explicit conduct, which he recorded on his cellphone. The indictment says that crime happened around April 11 in Ottawa County.

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, according to the police affidavit.

Police say from the very first text, Hayes began steering the conversation toward sexual topics. Officers say Hayes also said he wanted to meet the girl for a date that would include sexual relations.

Detectives say the conversation continued for two weeks until Hayes planned a meeting for Sept. 16 at Huff Park in northeast Grand Rapids, coincidentally close to the jail where he would end up.

The date was supposed to include sex, but when Hayes arrived, he was arrested by Kent County detectives.

Detectives say Hayes confessed to texting “Liv,” discussing sexual topics and planning to meet her at the park.

On Thursday, 24 Hour News 8 stopped by two homes Hayes listed in court papers, but no one answered the doors.

Hayes was previously charged with accosting children for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime. The accosting charge is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.

RESIGNED THEN ELECTED

Hayes was new to the Sparta village council — appointed in February to fill a vacant seat. He was sworn in on March 12, according to the village’s Facebook page.

After his arrest, Hayes stopped showing up to council meetings and eventually resigned on Oct. 31. In a letter to media, he denied he was guilty and said his resignation was because his “personal situation has become a distraction.”

However, Hayes’ resignation came only six days before an election in which he received 562 votes, more than the four hastily declared write-in candidates combined.

Sparta Village Manager Julius Suchy said Hayes will be certified by the Kent County Clerk as the elected village council member sometime next month. The village then has about 30 days to hold a swearing-in for the elected officials.

If Hayes decides to skip the signing-in, then the council is free to pick a new council member.

Newly re-elected Village President Kristi Dougan said despite the new charges, the council still doesn’t have the legal power to remove Hayes from his elected role.

“We remain bound by the constraints of Michigan law,” she stated in an email.

If Hayes is sworn in, only the governor will have the power to oust him, and only if Hayes is convicted of a felony.

UP TO THE COURTS

Hayes asked to have his bond amended to allow him to continue his job in security at Old Orchard Brands in Sparta, where he said he worked for 11 years. Court records show he’s free on a $25,000 bond, but a representative for Old Orchard said Hayes no longer works there.

Hayes’ case remains in Kent County Circuit Court where he has a status conference scheduled for Dec. 13. However with the new charges, the case will likely shift to federal court where Hayes faces harsher penalties of 15 to 30 years in prison if convicted.

He’s been denied a court-appointed attorney.

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