Buchanan attorney charged with 14 counts of sex crimes

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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NILES — Buchanan attorney Lanny Fisher was arraigned Tuesday in Berrien County Trial Court on 14 charges relating to his alleged actions to force women to have sexual relations with him instead of paying him legal fees. The incidents allegedly occurred over 12 years, dating back to 2010.  

Fisher, 54, of Woodland in Buchanan, pleaded not guilty to nine counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and four counts of misdemeanor prostitution related offenses. The incidents are alleged to have occurred between Aug. 1, 2010 and Feb. 28, 2022. 

The nine third-degree CSC counts include seven involving women he allegedly forced to have sex with him at his office and his home and two counts involving a female age 13 to 15. The maximum penalty for those offenses is 15 years in prison. 

The one fourth-degree CSC count involved sexual contact with a woman and is a high court misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison.  

The four remaining misdemeanor counts allege that he did “being a male person, engage or offer to engage the services of another, not his or her spouse, for the purpose of prostitution, lewdness or assignation.” Those counts carry a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail. 

Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith presided over the arraignment of Fisher who appeared via video from the Berrien County Jail. Judge Smith set his bond at $150,000 cash or surety bond and ordered him to surrender his passport and any enhanced driver’s license he has. If released, he will be on GPS monitoring tether. 

Although the next court dates for Fisher have been set for next Wednesday, May 3 for a pre-exam conference and Tuesday, May 9 for a preliminary hearing, it’s unclear whether those court hearings will be held on those dates as a new judge will have to be found to hear the case. 

Judge Smith recused herself from hearing anything future in the case, noting that Fisher has appeared in front of the court as an attorney for several years and that she had contact with him while she was a Berrien County assistant prosecutor. It’s unclear whether or not other Berrien County Trial Judges will also recuse themselves. 

Berrien County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Taylor appeared for the people at the arraignment. He said afterwards that he and other prosecutors in the prosecutor’s office would not be recusing themselves. 

A Michigan State Police complaint states that detectives began interviewing a number of women about Fisher’s alleged criminal actions last October. Detectives found evidence of alleged actions by Fisher dating back to 2010 and continuing into the present. 

Seven women interviewed by MSP detectives said that they had contacted Fisher to represent them or family members in legal matters and that he had propositioned them to perform sex acts, in some instances when they said they couldn’t pay his legal fees. 

Detectives wrote that women told them that they felt coerced with one woman saying “she felt pressure to do what he asked and was afraid of what would happen to her and her legal case if she refused.” In at least two instances, women said they refused to comply with Fisher’s requests and left his office. 

Fisher has taken on a number of high-profile cases over the years including then teen Dakotah Eliason who was convicted of killing his step-grandfather. Fisher has appeared on national shows such as Nancy Grace to talk about that and other cases including the case of Destiny Coulson who as a teenager was convicted of killing her boyfriend. 

Fisher is a 1987 graduate of Buchanan High School. He graduated in 2005 from the Ave Maria Law School in Ann Arbor. He was a law clerk for now-retired Cass County Circuit Judge Michael Dodge and then an associate attorney with a local Niles law firm before establishing his own practice.