Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 27, 2013

Additional testimony key to rape conviction

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Tyler Shananaquet’s violent sexual behvaior caught up to the Williamsburg man when a jury convicted him of rape and assault.

Shananaquet, 21, faces up to life in prison after a jury convicted him Friday of raping and beating a woman who sought a ride home from him following a November bonfire party. Two women came forward after Shananaquet’s arrest for the sexual assault. Their testimony about separate incidents when Shananaquet forced them to have sex was key in gaining the conviction, said Grand Traverse County’s chief assistant prosecutor, Noelle Moeggenberg.

“Any time you have these additional witnesses come forward, it changes it,” Moeggenberg said. “It’s no longer a ‘he said, she said.’”

Shananaquet did not face charges related to allegations raised by the other women, and Moeggenberg said before the trial a conviction would make further charges unnecessary.

The jury deliberated for about five hours before it found Shananaquet guiltyof first-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and assault with intent to do bodily harm. Shananaquet was on probation at the time of the assault for an unrelated crime and may face sentencing as a habitual offender. A sentencing date by 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power has not been set.

Shananaquet’s attorney, Janet Mistele, said she was very disappointed with the verdict and found testimony from the two women who alleged prior sexual assaults “utterly unbelievable.

“I respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict. I think there was overwhelming reasonable doubt,” Mistele said.

Mistele used her closing argument to highlight inconsistencies in the victim’s testimony. She said the woman’s story changed throughout the five months since the bonfire.

Moeggenberg countered that the victim and two other female witnesses had no reason to lie. She said the evidence supported the victims account, not Shananaquet’s.

The 20-year-old victim said Shananaquet punched her when she got in his truck on Nov. 22. She said she feared for her life as he hit her across the face, choked her and raped her.

Shananaquet testified the victim initiated sex and he had no doubt it was consensual. He said he did hit her twice after he drove her home because she didn’t give him $20 in gas money she promised.

“It makes me feel real bad,” he said when shown photographs of the victim’s bruised face during his testimony.

The woman’s eye was swollen shut, her face was bruised and she had a chipped tooth. Moeggenberg said there were also some indications of choking.

“That was a lot of damage if he only hit her twice,” Moeggenberg said.

Mistele said a conviciton appeal will be filed.