Buchanan lawyer charged sex crimes takes plea deal

Published 6:40 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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ST. JOSEPH — Buchanan attorney Lanny Fisher will be sentenced in early July on criminal sexual conduct and prostitution charges after accepting a plea deal Friday. The plea agreement was announced Friday afternoon in the St. Joseph courthouse in a hearing before Kalamazoo County Trial Judge Pamela Lightvoet.

     Fisher, 55, of Buchanan, was arrested in April, 2023 on criminal sexual conduct, prostitution and kidnapping related charges on alleged conduct dating back over a decade. The incidents occurred at his Buchanan law office, his Buchanan area home and a Benton Township hotel with him forcing women to perform sexual favors in exchange for his representation.

     Friday, Berrien County Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli announced details of the plea agreement reached between his office and Fisher’s attorney, Josh Blanchard of Grand Rapids.

Fisher is pleading guilty to two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) which had been reduced from third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Third-degree CSC is a 15 year felony while fourth-degree CSC is a two year high court misdemeanor which is considered a felony.

He is also pleading guilty to another count of fourth-degree CSC as well as two counts of prostitution-engaging or offering to engage the services of another for prostitution. The prostitution charges are 93 day misdemeanors.

Judge Lightvoet set a sentencing date of July 3 for Fisher. It is expected to take place at the St. Joseph courthouse. The judge continued Fisher’s bond which is $150,000 cash or surety as well as bond conditions including electronic monitoring and being allowed to travel out of state for work.

Pierangeli and Blanchard said that the sentencing guidelines have preliminarily been calculated to be between zero and 17 months. They said they expect the sentence to likely be probation and/or jail as well as possibly registering as a sex offender. Blanchard said if the judge exceeds any expected jail sentence, Fisher will be allowed to withdraw his plea.

The incidents he pleaded guilty to occurred in Buchanan in 2020, 2021 and 2022 and involved inappropriate touching as well as engaging the services of another for purposes of prostitution.

Fisher was facing trial in August on a total of 16 felony and misdemeanor charges before accepting the plea deal. The plea agreement calls for the remaining charges to be dismissed-including one count of first-degree CSC in the commission of a felony and one count of kidnapping-both of those counts carried maximum penalties of life or any term of years.

Pierangeli said after Friday’s hearing that his office had informed the victims in the incidents about the proposed plea deal and had their consent in moving forward with the plea agreement.