The parents of a girl allegedly molested by a neighbor didn't report it to police. Instead, they extorted money from the man in exchange for their silence, a prosecutor said Friday.
Derek Lamport, 57, pleaded not guilty Thursday to three counts of criminal sexual conduct, two counts of kidnapping and one count of indecent exposure.The parents were charged with one count each of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. They did not enter pleas at their arraignment Thursday.
Lamport allegedly lured the girl, now 11, and her 8-year-old brother, into his home last summer, and sexually assaulted the girl, said Kim Eddie, Ingham County chief assistant prosecutor.
The girl was assaulted more than once over 21/2 months, Eddie said.
Lamport's lawyer, Bernard Finn, Friday suggested the parents urged the child to falsely accuse his client so they could extort money from him.
"From what I understand about these parents and their children, nothing would surprise me about what would come out of their mouths," Finn said.
The couple does not yet have an attorney, and there was no answer Friday at their home in Mason, a Lansing suburb. They allegedly accepted between $5,000 and $10,000 in hush money, Eddie said, declining to give a specific amount.
Prosecutors were notified about the case by a third party earlier this year. Eddie would not identify the informant.
An emergency petition asking that the children be removed from their home was filed by prosecutors. A hearing on that motion was scheduled for May 30.
Lamport, a professor in the Plant Research Lab at Michigan State University, was released on $15,000 bail. A preliminary examination was scheduled for May 23.
The parents were each released on $10,000 bail pending another court appearance also scheduled for May 23.
Lamport's adult son, Joseph, is listed as a witness for the prosecution. Finn said he did not know why.
If convicted of any of the criminal sexual conduct charges, Lamport could be sentenced to up to life imprisonment. The parents could face maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.