Lansing man pleads guilty in sex trafficking ring

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – A Lansing man charged with running a sex trafficking ring that targeted teenage girls was in court Wednesday.

Judge: “So did you allow your vehicle to be used to transport her?”
Jonathan Purnell: “Yes ma’am.”
Judge: “And was that for the purposes of prostitution?”
Purnell: “Yes ma’am.”

Jonathan Purnell, 28 entered the courtroom expressionless.

Purnell stood before Ingham County Judge Joyce Draganchuk during a plea hearing Wednesday morning, charged with five counts of prostitution and persuasion and four counts of human trafficking.

“Those are each felonies and each punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Have you had enough time to talk about these charges with your attorney?” said Judge Joyce Draganchuck.
Purnell: “Yes, ma’am.”
Judge: “Do you understand the charges against you?”
Purnell: “Yes, ma’am.”

Purnell was arrested last October for his role in a child sex trafficking ring.

The man at the head of the ring, Christopher Bryant has already been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

“If I accept your plea, that means you can’t come back later on and try to say that the plea is the result of some promise or threat that no one has told me about today, do you understand that?” said Judge Draganchuck.

Under an agreement with the prosecutor Purnell pleaded guilty to the prostitution and transportation charges in exchange for a minimum sentence no higher or lower than five years and six months.

But Purnell said that’s not how the deal was laid out to him.

Judge: “Is that different than your understanding?”
Purnell: “Yes ma’am that’s different.”
Judge: “Then maybe you need to speak with your attorney some more.”
Purnell returned to the courtroom with a better understanding of the deal.
Judge: “So what do you want to do now?”
Purnell: “I want to plea.”
Judge: “You want to plea?”

With that understanding, Purnell entered guilty pleas to the prostitution and transportation counts. He’s due back in court in September.


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