A former Michigan police officer Michael Couture was sentenced to seven years and one month to 50 years in prison after signing a no contest plea deal, charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The sentence was handed down by Lenawee County Circuit Judge Anna Marie Anzalone, appointed to the court by Governor Rick Snyder. Members of law, victims’ rights advocates and prosecutors attended. Couture, a former full-time police officer in Milan, Michigan, will be required to “register as a sex offender for life, have no contact with his victim and have no contact with minors 16 years or younger.”
As part of the plea deal, the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to dismiss Couture’s other charges, including “two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct,” with one charge was specifically related to the victim being younger than 13 and Couture being 17 or older, and “two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of accosting children for immoral purposes,” according to court records.
A Michigan State Police investigation began in 2019, and law enforcement concluded Couture was engaged in sexual conduct with a minor beginning in 2008, which continued for about a decade. Couture turned himself in to the Michigan State Police at the Clinton police station on July 12 of last year.
The victim addressed the court, saying the response he’s received from his family since he has come out about the alleged abuse has been worse for his mental state than the abuse he received from Couture. They supported Couture amid the allegations. The victim stated, “I’ve grown, I’ve forgave and gotten a lot stronger mentally and just a heck of a lot bigger heart from what happened with Mike.”
The victim, now an adult, confided about the abuse to a youth pastor at his church. He did not know his pastor was a mandated reporter who is required to tell Child Protective Services about incidents of child abuse. He said that he still wanted to have a relationship with his family even though they were not supportive, adding, “I am grateful for the justice system and what came of it and all the people that have supported me.”
Couture’s attorney, Joseph Hall, asked the judge to be lenient in sentencing after the plea due to the fact that this client did not have a criminal record and had been a police officer for years. He stated, “Over 22 years in law enforcement with numerous awards and recognition without sanction or discipline. Very active with his church as indicated in many of the letters before your honor. Same goes for community, family. And that’s not just his own family as your honor has read, that Mr. Couture and his wife took other families into their home, provided for them when they were in their greatest time of need. These are actions definitive of his character.”
Lenawee County Assistant Prosecutor Jackie Wyse responded, saying that the judge should consider the “severity of the crimes Couture pleaded to” and pointing out the that the victim didn’t originally want to come forward since “he knew it would mean him losing his family.”
Prior to handing down her sentence at the plea hearing, Anzalone addressed the victim’s concern over losing his family after having been victimized, saying, “You can build your own family if you lose this one. Everyone can do that. And sometimes, it’s a better family.”
The news comes just two months after Christopher Traskal, 42, of Sterling Heights, the former marching band director at Eisenhower High School in Macomb County for eighteen years, faced prosecution for sex crime charges in two cases involving students. Traskal had been charged with one count each of “child sexually abusive activity and using a computer to commit a crime” as well as “two counts of “fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct,” the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office said.