On March 17, 1992, The Detroit Free Press reported that longtime Mecosta County, MI county commissioner Ray Christiansen, age 71, pleaded guilty to molesting children. He was set to stand trial the following month for molesting four young girls. At the time, the charged crimes could have resulted in a sentence of 15 years. A plea agreement provided Christiansen would not be sentenced to more than a year in prison, and remarkably, that he could not be charged with similar crimes should other victims come forward.
A compassionate reader sent me an opinion piece that appeared in the local Mecosta County newpaper, The Pioneer, a little over a month later on April 30, 1992.
The download is difficult to read (photo of a clipping sent to me), so I am going to retype it in full. Some parts are hard to decipher even with a magnifying glass and I note my interpretation with brackets in places. Of course you can’t find this article online; friends of the former commissioner probably saw to that.
OPINION, Pioneer Thursday, April 30, 1994, PAGE 4
There was no one willing to help me prosecute this child molester.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following two articles were written by the mother and father of a nine-year-old girl who police say was sexually assaulted by Ray Christiansen. The 72-year-old longtime Mecosta County commissioner was sentenced recently to similar charges to one year in jail–six months must be served now and the remaining six months at the court’s discretion. The parents’ names have been suppressed [?] to protect the identity of their daughter. The purpose for publishing the two articles is to show the frailties [?] and frustrations of the two–a male/female perspective.
I was finally here, about to listen to the judge pronounce sentence on our neighbor, the Mecosta County Commissioner Ray Christiansen, for molesting my daughter and several of her friends. I prayed that all of my pushing, pressuring and persuading had been enough.
It began in September 1991, when a mother of one of my daughter’s friends called to say what happened to them, and to have me ask my daughter if Ray had done anything to her. I knew with cold certainty he had before I even asked, before she told me with tears streaming down her face that she thought it was her fault and felt dirty and ashamed because of it.
I began by trying to report it to the state police but they claimed no knowledge of Ray doing anything wrong and wouldn’t listen. Finally I was able to find the right social worker in Big Rapids who could get the state police to believe me.
Then came several phone calls to the Mecosta County prosecuting attorney, and Mecosta County judges to find out what being done, only to discover they had dropped it like a hot potato, because Ray held their purse strings. They knew then something was wrong. After all we don’t send our children to the neighbors to be spanked when they misbehave.
After six weeks of calls to the state attorney general, who misplaced the file, and to Jim Samuels, the Mecosta County prosecuting attorney, who didn’t want to talk about it, they were finally able to come up with a neighbor to spank their naughty child, Larry Burdick, the Isabella County prosecuting attorney. [They handed off the case to a special prosecutor, Burdick, because they wouldn’t go after one of their own.]
However, he had not received the police reports and could not start until he had all the papers. Another series of phone calls produced papers needed, and I was told that my child would have to relive the experience once again for Larry Burdick.
I prayed he was not [erroneous?] as the state troopers had been, reducing my tiny 40 pound daughter to nothing, learned it was much worse. Larry Burdick [ . . . ?] conducted the interview without my being present.
It went against all of my maternal instincts to leave my child alone with a complete stranger who would force her to do something she did not want to do. This all resulted in the original 12 being reduced to six who would be willing to testify and be reduced further still to the four Ray would be charged with.
For months I made phone calls to lawyers who told me to be a “good girl” and sit and wait as politicians who hid behind the law and said they couldn’t intervene on an individual’s behalf and to organizations nationwide that gave me referral numbers, who gave me more referral numbers, which referred me back to the politicians and lawyers.
There was no one willing to help me prosecute this child molester, but several who were willing to help ensure the child molester’s rights were not violated.
The one resource to come through for the children was The Pioneer and its staff, whether because of my pushing or because Ray was a public figure did not matter. But then I had to listen to the judge chastise the newspaper in his opening remarks and trivialize their efforts.
I had sat behind Ray as he spoke to the judge, and watched him cross his fingers behind his back and say he was sorry and had tried to tell us so but we rebuffed him, remembering the only words Ray had ever spoken to me being “It never happened.”
I listened to Ray tell the judge that whoever thought a proper punishment was to disfigure him to make him frightening to all children was barbaric. That person was my nine year old daughter. I listened as he told the judge a more fitting punishment would be to work on the Commission for Aging and give him a small fine.
I listened with silent rage as he said with self-righteous conviction that he had “never been on welfare.” As if to say he was allowed to do as he pleased with any child who was on welfare.
I then listened to the judge give Ray a 6 to 12-month jail sentence, five years on probation and $25,000 in ordered payments. It was not enough! I made a vow that I would not let it end here. I am now doing everything I can to form an organization to fill in a terrible gap. I want to be there to help children and their parents go through the cold, insensitive legal system, so that child molesters and rapists won’t feel, like Ray does, that they don’t hurt anyone.
Crimes of a sexual nature: The laws are for men only
When I discovered that Raymond Christiansen had molested my daughter, I was very angry. The anger turned into a soul destroying fear. A fear that I could not protect my child. I cried a lot that day.
I told my daughter we should call the police about the incident with Ray. I told her it was illegal for any man to fondle young children. She didn’t want to tell about what happened anymore, to anyone. I managed to convince her to report Ray, so we could stop him from fondling other children. She agreed to talk to the State Police with us. When she did, the policemen said there had been 11 reports so far, and they expected more.
I assumed that the police would arrest Ray, that he would go to jail, and that would be the end of it. Boy was I wrong!
Raymond Christiansen knew the law and procedure very well. Well enough to deny all 12 of the different girls claims of his misconduct. Ray would not confess like a man, he would rather drag the victims through court.
I have come to realize the loophole that exists in sexual assault cases, rape cases, and sexual misconduct cases. This loophole is called intimidation. The molesters use this loophole in hopes of the victims dropping their charges against them.
It was when I convinced Ray my daughter would face him in court , we were able to turn the tables and intimidate him. He finally plead guilty. Only in sex crimes is it necessary to sacrifice oneself to do justice. The law should not be this way especially when children are involved. The sacrifice comes in the form of reliving a humiliating, degrading experience of a very personal nature. Not only once, but many times to several different strangers.
As in my daughter’s instance, she had to tell the police, the prosecuting attorney and if Ray had not of plea bargained, she would have had to tell the judge, jury, court reporter, and an entire room full of people.
The laws pertaining to crimes of a sexual nature must have been [legislated] by men for men. For there is a great deal of insensitivity in regards to the feelings of children and women.
Father of a Victim
Maybe if law enforcement in Michigan started playing by the rules–on the streets and in FOIA cases, tax payers wouldn’t have to pay as much for your fuck ups when you do get caught and you could stop complaining about having your unfair protections, exceptions and exemptions examined.
In law enforcement, as in life, those that cheat and lie about the “little things” (hiding FOIA documents for the prosecutor, destroying records, making exceptions for criminals who are public officials) probably cheat on the big things, too. No wonder they want to keep their qualified immunity and keep their police misconduct files secret.