CHARLEVOIX — A former Republican candidate for the state House was in court this week to face two felony charges for criminal sexual misconduct against a minor.
Tony Cutler, a former schoolteacher and former Sault Ste. Marie Downtown Development Authority director, was arrested May 10 on two counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct causing personal injury.
Cutler pleaded not guilty to the charges surrounding events with a then-16-year-old boy in June and July 2021. He is out on a $20,000 bond with conditions that he cannot possess a firearm and can have no contact with a minor child, according to court documents.
Emmet County Prosecuting Attorney James Linderman led a preliminary examination on Tuesday, June 28, in Charlevoix County’s 90th District Court with presiding Judge Angela J. Lasher.
A preliminary exam is a court hearing conducted to determine whether enough evidence exists to send a case to trial.
With Cutler being a well-known fixture in Charlevoix County, Charlevoix County’s Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof’s office has recused themselves from leading the trial.
During the hearing, Prosecuting Attorney Linderman added two addition felony charges of using a computer to commit a crime and assault with intent to commit sexual contact.
All four felony charges proposed against Cutler each have a 15-year maximum prison sentence.
During the hearing, Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Department Detective Cody Wheat described concerning and inappropriate text messages between Cutler and an underage boy, including an incident that took place last summer in which Cutler allegedly touched the boy near his genital area twice while both were at work at the Boyne City restaurant and bar, Lake Street Pub.
As a witness in the preliminary examination, Wheat said Cutler quit working at the pub last year due to the sexual misconduct allegations. He was later hired as the Sault Ste. Marie DDA director. After his arrest in May, Cutler was firedl from the DDA position.
During the hearing, the victim testified that
he was being “groomed” by Cutler.
The two counts of sexual misconduct surround one instance at the Lake Street Pub in the kitchen where the victim and Cutler worked in which the back of Cutler’s hand “grazed” below the belt of the victim twice within a five-second period without touching his genitals.
Cutler's attorney Mathew Gronda asked that the charges be dismissed.
Judge Lasher advised both parties she would consider each side and submit a written decision near the end of July on what, if any, charges will be taken up at the Circuit Court.
According to Detective Wheat, when he interviewed Cutler about the allegations, Cutler said any contact “would have been an accident.”
“He told me he was a big guy and it was close quarters at the restaurant,” said Wheat.
Wheat also said Cutler told him any text messages to the victim were “only joking and not trying to be inappropriate.”
Contact reporter Annie Doyle at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Former manager at Boyne City's Lake Street Pub, Tony Cutler, is charged with criminal sexual misconduct.