Jeffrey Howenstine, 60, has plead guilty to one count of attempting to engage the services of a minor for prostitution. The plea, which came on January 17th in Ingham County Circuit Court, leaves the former Lansing school teacher facing 2.5 years in prison. Originally charged with sexually assaulting a former student, Howenstine will be compelled to register with the Michigan Sex Offender Registry for 15 years.
The case against Howenstine developed after officials investigated and charged Tyrone Smith with sex trafficking. Smith, 46, pled guilty to two counts of sex trafficking and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2016. Smith told Ingham County detectives that Howenstine was a former client of his.
When officers questioned Howenstine, he admitted to paying at least two of the women Smith trafficked for sex, one of whom is was a minor when the crimes were alleged to have occurred. While in custody, Howenstine told a detective he had a “sex addiction”, but said he was unaware that one of his victims was a minor. Ingham County Sheriff’s Office Detective Amber Kenny-Hinojosa told reporters that “(Howenstine) admitted when he looked for prostitutes, he looked for the age of 18 to 25 years.”
Howenstein recently testified in the sex trafficking trial of Amber Speed, a Lansing woman who was recently convicted of running a criminal enterprise involving the prostitution of minors. Howenstein told jurors that he was blackmailed by Speed after soliciting and paying Speed for sex with trafficking victims. He estimates that he paid “at least $20,000” to Speed over two years.
The former Otto Middle School band leader brought the school’s music program to national prominence but was accused of coercing a 15-year-old girl to perform oral sex acts on him in 2000. Howenstein denied the charges and was eventually acquitted by a jury on three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2002.
Following the acquittal, Lansing School District paid Howenstine $120,000 to leave his job. He was then hired as a school band director in Melvindale, working there for nine years until he retired in 2013.
Frank Reynolds, Howenstine’s attorney, said that his client was “looking forward to sentencing in order to conclude [the trial]”. Reynolds also noted that he was not aware of any other pending charges, criminal investigations, or other legal movements against his client. Ingham County Circuit Court will formally sentence Howenstine on February 21st.