Former Lansing Officer sentenced to less than a year in jail

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EAST LANSING, MI. (WILX) - A former Lansing Police Officer was sentenced to a year in jail with credit for the 52 days he already spent in jail, and five years probation.

Matthew Priebe pleaded no contest to charges that include second degree criminal sexual conduct. (Source WILX)

He cannot have contact with anyone under the age of 17 unless they are family, and must register as a sex offender

Judge Draganchuk has sentenced Matthew Priebe to the maximum allowed.

She said in court, directly to Priebe, "to say you violated your role as a police officer would be an understatement."

She added that he was sworn to serve and protect the adolescences that he abused.

"Given the severity of the offense, the maximum sanction is necessary."

Priebe pleaded no contest to charges that include second degree criminal sexual conduct.

At the sentencing he expressed regret.

"I am extremely aware and understand the hurt and confusion and pain I've caused to the victims in this case and their families."

Priebe is the former Resource Officer at Lansing Eastern High School. He had been with the Lansing Police Department for 10 years until he resigned in June 2018.

Former Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski first placed Priebe on administrative leave back in May of 2018.

Priebe sexually assaulted at least three students.

According to the documents, police said the first victim was 16 years old when she started hanging out in Priebe's office at Eastern High during lunch.

Priebe gave her a business card with his cell phone number on it and asked the girl to call him, according to the documents.

One of Priebe's accusers also said he asked her for a hug when she met him in his office in March of 2018.

"...He pulled her hand to his genital area and put her hand on the area of his genitals," said Judge Joyce Draganchuk, reading a police report of the incident. "This was clearly done for a sexual purpose."

One of his accusers is a young woman who first met Priebe during her junior year at Eastern. She first shared her story with News 10 back in September. We protected her identity then, but she's decided to come forward publicly to help others.

Athziry Pilar, who is 19, says she's not afraid anymore. She granted an exclusive on-camera interview to News 10 as a way to encourage other victims of sexual assault to come forward. It is something she was afraid to do when she says school resource officer Matthew Priebe gained her trust and began making sexual advances toward her.

At the sentencing her attorney, Karen Truszkowski, read a statement from Pilar. She said, "There was not a day that went by that I did not wish for a car to run me over or that I did not wake up the next morning."

In her interview with News 10 she said, "I really didn't know what to do. But who was I going to report this to, the police? You know, because he is a police officer."

Pilar was a junior in high school at the time.

Now, more than three years later, she's still struggling with family relationships marred by the secret she kept from them.

"There has been a lot of guilt that my parents hold; there's been definitely plenty of guilt that I have held because I didn't come forward. It hurts because to see that there have been, there are other victims, and I didn't come forward immediately, I do hold a lot of guilt for that," she said.

That pain came full circle Tuesday morning when Pilar saw officer Priebe's picture show up on her Facebook feed in a news article outlining the charges against him.

"I just started crying instantly and they were tears of joy because I was afraid that this was going to get swept under the rug and not much was going to be done," she said. "So I am really thankful that he is facing charges."

Those charges not only involved her accusations, but other classmates at Eastern High School.

She was not aware of the other girls until she says someone spoke up. Pilar hopes that by speaking out, she can help others.

"Basically, to give other girls encouragement that its okay. It's okay to come forward because I know what it's like to hide and to not ... and feel like you have nobody," she said.

Pilar says she did tell a teacher at Eastern about the abuse. She says that teacher told an administrator and nothing was done.

In response to the one year sentence she said, “I don't agree on that and I will do whatever I can to change that to be longer because what he has to deal with is just for a year but what me and the rest of the girls have to deal with is a lifetime,” Pilar explained.

Former Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski said that people should not judge his department by one officer's actions.

“All allegations or complaints against department members are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated,” said Yankowski, in a statement to News 10. “The allegation against Priebe in this matter is disappointing and once I was made aware of the allegations I took swift action to remove his police authority and requested the Michigan State Police to investigate the allegations.”

He had faced 20 years in prison, but a deal with prosecutors means he will spend less than a year behind bars, after that he will have to register as a sex offender.

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