A former Flint, Michigan police sergeant was sentenced for up to 25 years in prison for 16 counts of sexual assault and abuse that transpired when he was on the force in the 1990s.
Lawrence Woods, 68, pleaded guilty to multiple charges of criminal sexual misconduct in June 2016, six instances of which involved victims under age 13, the Flint Journal reports.
Genesee Circuit Judge Richard Yuille also insisted Woods be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring upon release from prison, in addition to being put on the sex offender list and regularly tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Flint police first opened investigation into Woods in 2014, after an undisclosed woman came forward to accuse him of sexual abuse between 1996 and 1999 -- just a few years before Woods retired from the force in 2002.
By 2014, Police Chief James Tolbert told NBC 25 News “at least 50” victims had come forward with similar accusations against Woods.
One unnamed woman told Judge Yuille that Woods would offer her mother drugs, and “sweeten up” her and her siblings by taking them out to dinner, swimming, or shopping. Before long, he would force her to perform sexual acts on him while in the police office or cop car, and threaten and beat her if he believed another man touched her.
"He has single-handedly destroyed what was left in me." she said. "If I'm out in public and I smell [his cologne] 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."
Investigators also found a “substantial amount” of child pornography in their search, all photos taken at Woods’ former residences, hotels, and even the Flint Police Department, NBC 25 News reports.
Woods attempted to withdraw the guilty plea shortly before sentencing, claiming he had “definitive proof” of his innocence, but Judge Yuille declined the request.
Judge Yuiles claimed Wood used his status as a police officer “to prey upon those among us who are most vulnerable” at the sentencing, and thanked his victims for stepping forward to “do the right thing.”
The Flint Police Department mirrored Yuiles’ statements in comments released following Woods’ guilty plea in June 2016, saying: “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 city of Flint, Michigan has received national attention for its water crisis, which has been ongoing through 2015 and 2016, Michigan radio reports. Mayor Karen Weaver recently signed a declaration to renew the state of emergency in the city, claiming the crisis will not be over until Flint residents can drink their water “straight from the tap.”