By Roberto Acosta | MLive.com
FLINT, MI — Former Flint police Sgt. Lawrence Woods will spend more than a decade in prison in connection with sexual assaults that took place while he was still on the force.
Woods, 68, was sentenced Tuesday, Nov. 15, to 15-25 years in prison after he plead guilty in June on 16 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct that included persons under 13 years old.
An investigation was opened by Flint police in summer 2014 after a victim stepped forward with allegations of incidents two decades prior.
Other victims came out with their own stories of inappropriate conduct by Woods between 1996-1999. Woods retired from the department in 2002.
Investigators revealed in September 2014 they’d unearthed a substantial amount of child pornography at four homes Woods lived or stayed at in the past.
A woman who identified herself as a victim told Genesee Circuit Judge Richard Yuille prior to the sentence that Woods befriended her mother, offered her drugs and would take the children out to dinner, shopping, and swimming.
“I feel like in the beginning, he sweetened us up,” said the woman, whom told the court Woods soon began to force her to perform sexual acts in his living room and would threaten and beat her if he believed another man touched her.
MLive-The Flint Journal does not identify victims of sexual assault.
The woman told the judge Woods would force her to perform sexual acts on him while in the police department office and cop car.
“Not only did I put my trust in him, but my mother … as well, and they both failed me,” said the mother of three children.
She didn’t understand why no one at the police department ever stepped forward to question her appearance in the office late at night.
“I didn’t know if it was the fear they had from him, because I had it as well,” said the woman.
She shared a story of Woods ripping into a fellow officer after he pulled the car over for excessive speed down a Flint street.
“That was the day I knew nobody could protect me from him,” she said.
Flint police issued a statement after Woods pleaded guilty.
“The Flint Police Department is disgusted by the actions of Lawrence Woods. His crimes victimized numerous citizens of the community that it is our duty to protect and serve,” read the statement. “We commend the brave victims who came forward, allowing the Flint Police Department Criminal Investigations Bureau to investigate these crimes and remove this criminal from our streets.”
The woman said she tried to get out of Woods’ grasp by finding her father’s side of the family, but she said he would always manage to find her and kept a constant surveillance on her whereabouts.
Woods arranged sensors and placed powder on the floor at his Flint apartment while he was gone to find out if anyone came into the dwelling or if she left at any point, she told the court.
“He has single-handedly destroyed what was left in me. I have dreams about him, the scent of his cologne, I still smell it,” she said. “If I’m out in public and I smell it or if I see a car that he drove that I was forced to do stuff in, it sends me into a rage. A rage that I can’t understand.”
The woman asked Yuille to “please don’t allow him to see the light of day again or be able to hurt anyone else ever.”
Woods said he never beat anyone or forced anyone to take part in any illicit behavior while he was a Flint police officer.
“I’m being sent to prison on unsubstantiated lies and to be murdered by the same people I defended my life to protect society against,” he said. “I have definitive proof of my innocence.”
But Yuille questioned the sincerity of Woods’ comments, saying he used his stature as a police officer “to prey upon those individuals among us who are most vulnerable.” He also thanked the victims for stepping forward.
“I hope they realize what they’ve done is the right thing,” he said.
Woods received a little more than two years time served in the case.
He attempted to withdraw his guilty plea prior to the sentencing date, but the request was denied.
His plea agreement includes lifetime registry on the sex offender list, required testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and lifetime electronic monitoring upon release from prison.