Jury deliberation continues in sexual conduct case

ESCANABA – Jury deliberation continued this morning in a criminal sexual conduct case in Delta County Circuit Court.

Dustin Anthony Menard, 27, is charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion, each a 15-year felony, and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion, a two-year high-court misdemeanor.

He was also being tried as a fourth-offense habitual offender.

Menard was arrested last fall in connection with an alleged sexual assault reported by a 24-year-old female friend of his on June 9, 2013, in Wells Township.

Following an investigation by police, Menard was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion, each a 15-year felony, and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct by force or coercion, a two-year high-court misdemeanor.

Witness testimony began Tuesday with the victim taking the stand. Other witnesses included a nurse, the victim’s fiance, an expert on sexual assaults, and two Delta County sheriff’s deputies. Menard took the stand Wednesday and Thursday.

The five-woman, seven-man jury began deliberating the case at around 2 p.m. Thursday and returned for further deliberation at 8 a.m. today.

The victim reported being sexually assaulted by Menard after they attended a bonfire together and he drove her back to her car. Menard initially told police he never had sex with her then later told a deputy on June 20 that they had consensual sex on June 9.

Menard testified they dated for a short time when they were young teens; after years of not seeing each other, they ran across one another at a local grocery store in May 2013.

Both the victim and the defendant said they started exchanging text messages and later sent each other photographs of their private body parts. The victim testified earlier in the week that the pictures she sent him were images from the Internet.

During the attorneys’ closing statements on Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Philip Strom told jurors the case has always been about the victim’s right to say no. He said the defendant did not let the victim go home and used force on her when he sexually assaulted her.

Defense Attorney Don LeMire described the trial as a “he said she said” case, saying his client said the sexual relationship was consensual. LeMire added the victim had a motive to claim she was sexually assaulted because she is engaged.

Since his arrest on Sept. 9, Menard has been lodged in the county jail in lieu of a $25,000 bond.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net