Fisher gets jail, probation in criminal sexual conduct case

Published 7:19 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2024

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ST. JOSEPH — Buchanan attorney Lanny Fisher will spend the next year in jail and the next five years on probation after being sentenced Wednesday afternoon in the St. Joseph courthouse.

     Fisher had pleaded guilty in late May to three counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct as well as two misdemeanor counts of prostitution-engaging or offering to engage the services of another for prostitution. The CSC charges carried a maximum penalty of two years in prison while the prostitution charges are 93 day misdemeanors.

     In addition to the five years probation, three terms of one year in jail for the CSC charges, he was sentenced to two terms of 93 days in jail for the prostitution charges. He has credit for four days served and all the jail sentences are concurrent.

     Fisher must register as a sex offender for the next 15 years and pay $1,494 in fines and costs. Restitution was reserved.

     The incidents he pleaded guilty to occurred in Buchanan in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

     Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Pamela Lightvoet spoke before the sentencing and called Fisher’s actions in sexually assaulting female clients were sick, selfish and shameful. She was assigned the case after all Berrien County judges recused themselves as they knew Fisher.

     “I’m just at a loss at how you could take advantage of those folks at their worst moments,” Judge Lightvoet said. “The maximum jail sentence is appropriate given what you did. I will follow the plea agreement but you could have been going to prison very easily for what you did.”

     “I certainly disagree that only probation would be appropriate,” she added. “You had an ethical obligation to your profession and to the women. All these women came to you in a vulnerable state and you took advantage of them. I think it was sick. I don’t know what was going on in your head to do this over and over again.”

     The judge’s statements came after Fisher and his attorney, Josh Blanchard, spoke as did Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Cortney O’Malley and four of Fisher’s victims. The St. Joseph courtroom was filled with Fisher’s family and friends, other attorneys and victims and their families.

     Fisher, 55, apologized to “everyone” he affected with his actions.

“I’ve had time to reflect the last 15 months,” he said. “I want to demonstrate that I can live a crime free lifestyle and better myself. This will never happen again, I’m sorry for the people I hurt.”

     Blanchard called it a “tough case”. He said Fisher had made some very bad decisions but also has some very good qualities.

“He made terrible choices and he’s already suffering the consequences,” he said. “He’s lost his reputation and career. He’s had to face what he did.”

     He argued for probation and no jail, noting that Fisher had taken responsibility for his actions as he pleaded guilty and not “no contest” and has already suffered the consequences for his actions.

     O’Malley disagreed.

“It’s important to recognize that he did this to seven women who were extremely vulnerable and susceptible to his manipulation and abuse,” she said. “He took an oath to uphold the law and protect the most vulnerable. This was an ongoing pattern of behavior.”

     “He was the person they trusted most to help them keep their liberty,” she added. “There’s no telling how this will impact their lives in the future.”

     Four victims spoke. Three said that Fisher had traumatized all of them and changed their lives.

“It makes me angry,” one young woman said. “He used his position of power to abuse us. We were like yesterday’s trash that had been thrown away. He’s a monster.”

     A fourth victim said that Fisher’s actions had led her life into a downward spiral of depression and anxiety. She noted that she felt threatened by Fisher as he told her that he knew the judges, other lawyers and police as well as criminals who owed him some favors.

Fisher had been facing trial in August on a total of 16 felony and misdemeanor charges for incidents dating back 10 to 12 years. 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.