Jury deliberates in sexual assault trial

June 4, 2015
Benjamin Bentz, with his attorney, Ryan Maesen, during a hearing in 51st Circuit Court in April.

Benjamin Bentz, with his attorney, Ryan Maesen, during a hearing in 51st Circuit Court in April.

By Allison Scarbrough. Contributing Editor.

LUDINGTON — The trial against a 34-year-old Ludington man accused of five counts of criminal sexual conduct (CSC) involving a female victim who was at 8 and 9 years old at the time of the alleged incidents ended shortly before 5 p.m. today, and the jury is currently deliberating.

The prosecution and the defense each called three witnesses to the stand Thursday, June 4, said defense attorney Ryan Maesen, who was retained to represent Benjamin Michael Bentz by his client’s family. The prosecution also called a rebuttal witness, Maesen said.

Maesen, who is a Grand Rapids attorney, said 51st Circuit Court Judge Susan Sniegowski gave the jurors until 8:30 p.m. this evening to reach a verdict. If they do not agree upon a verdict, they will resume deliberations Friday morning.

The victim in the case provided graphic testimony Wednesday, June 3, stating that four instances of “penile/anal penetration occurred in her bedroom in the family house in Ludington,” Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola said. “She also testified to one instance of sexual contact, defendant’s fingers on her vagina (skin on skin) in conjunction with one of the penetration incidents. The incidents occurred when the victim’s mother was in jail.”

Bentz was arrested last November by the Ludington Police Department and charged with four felony counts of first-degree CSC (victim under 13/defendant over 17) and one felony count of second-degree CSC.

First-degree CSC, which is punishable by up to life in prison, alleges sexual penetration took place, while second-degree CSC alleges sexual activity.

Spaniola offered a plea agreement in April in which Bentz could plead to count five of second-degree CSC and an added sixth count of first-degree CSC without the age specification, then the other four counts would be dismissed. The plea agreement also required that Bentz be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring.

Bentz is currently lodged in the Mason County Jail on a $75,000 cash/surety bond.