After a nearly four year legal battle, a Howell-area man has entered a plea in a sexual assault case.

In November of 2014, 25-year-old Justin Michael Bailey of Oceola Township was alleged to have raped a 17-year-old girl at a friend’s party after she became sick from drinking too much. He was charged with two counts of third degree criminal sexual conduct. On Friday, he pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct in exchange for the two other counts being dropped. The case had made the rounds of state courts, having been before the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court at various times over the issue of the state’s rape shield law and how it applied in this case.

The Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office had requested evidence be excluded that indicated DNA collected from the alleged victim was from two different males; Bailey, and an unidentified source. They maintained it violated the rape shield law, which protects victim’s sexual history being used against them. While it was eventually ruled that the evidence of the second male DNA donor in the case did not fall within the scope of the rape-shield statute, the court of appeals ruled that Bailey would not be able to cross-examine witnesses if the case went to trial.

Had Bailey been convicted on the original charges, he could have faced up to 15 years in prison. When he is sentenced October 10th by Judge Suzanne Geddis, he now faces a maximum of 5 years behind bars. (JK)