MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Muskegon County prosecutor said he’s frustrated that state law would not allow him to charge a recently fired sheriff’s detective with a sex crime over an alleged relationship with a suspect.
Instead, former Muskegon County sheriff’s detective Darric Roesler is charged with misconduct in office.
Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said state law should treat a consensual relationship between a detective and a suspect no differently than it does a teacher and student, or a therapist and patient. Those relationships are illegal because the teacher or the therapist is in a position of power over their victim.
“Ultimately, there’s a loophole here that needs to be addressed,” Hilson said.
Roesler, 51, is facing a felony misconduct charge over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a woman he was investigating for embezzling money from a vulnerable adult.
“Obviously, it was our opinion that the nature of the relationship itself was not appropriate, and we just had to find an avenue in order to address that,” Hilson said.
The prosecutor said he would have charged the detective with a sex crime if the law had allowed it.
“If that statute had covered officers in this particular arena and (with) what was happening, absolutely,” he said.
Roesler was a member of the county’s Elder Abuse Task Force.
“You have that appearance of authority, especially if you’re dealing with a person in uniform. They have a badge,” Hilson said. “It’s similar to a teacher/student — you have that sort of semblance of authority, where a teacher has authority over the student — the doctor/patient or psychologist/patient.”
Roesler identified the woman in court while testifying against her co-defendant in June 2022.
That, according to court records, is about when the alleged misconduct started.
The woman posed as the nurse of a man who was pretending to be a patient in need of heart surgery. They conned an elderly man into paying $1,890 to help cover the bill, and the victim delivered the money to the woman in a paper bag outside a hospital in Muskegon.
The case sent the phony patient to jail for a year. The woman recently pleaded no contest to a reduced charge and will be sentenced in December.
Hilson said his office first learned of the allegations involving Roesler, leading the prosecutor to ask the Michigan State Police to investigate.
Roesler was arraigned Monday on the misconduct charge, released on a $5,000 bond and ordered to stand trial the same day. The sheriff fired him in June. He could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
The prosecutor said misconduct by a detective can raise doubts.
“Does that investigator feel obligated to come to bat for that particular person, whether it be prior to charging or after charging at the time of sentence?” Hilson asked.
Hilson declined to discuss details of the case against Roesler, including whether the woman was expecting any favors from the detective.
“Ultimately there was no, if you will, favor gained as a result,” Hilson said.
He said the case highlights the need for change.
“I really think that this is an area that the legislature really needs to take a look at,” Hilson said. “And I’m asking that they do that.”