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Plea entered in music room incident

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By Lauren Winther

A man who was caught masturbating in front of a student in a secluded Grand Rapids Community College music room is scheduled to be sentenced today in Kent County Circuit Court.

Joseph Bryant, 50, was arrested and charged with indecent exposure by a sexually delinquent person, aggravated indecent exposure and being a fourth-time offender. He pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent exposure and habitual offender fourth offense on Aug. 26 and is facing a sentence of six to 11 years in prison.

Joseph Bryant
Joseph Bryant

These felony charges originate from an April 19 incident in which Bryant approached a student in the music building and asked if he could listen to her while she played piano, according to court records.

After agreeing, the student soon noticed in the reflection on the piano that Bryant was masturbating behind her, according to court records.

After making a hasty exit from the room, the student alerted campus police.

According to campus police records, the student went to the second floor, where Bryant followed her. She then hid in a computer lab.

Bryant’s trial was set for Aug. 26, however that same day he accepted a plea agreement whereby he would plead guilty to two of the three charges. According to court records, the agreement also called for Bryant to serve between 81 to 135 months in prison.

The incident caused a backlash for campus police, with some students, including a victim advocacy group, arguing that authorities should have informed students and staff about the incident, especially in light of Bryant’s lengthy criminal record that dates back to the 1990s. However, the college had no legal obligation to alert the student body or general public.

Under the Federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs must disclose to the public and student body certain crimes which occur on campus. Indecent exposure is not one of those crimes.

When asked if this incident could have been prevented, Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Josh Kuiper said these types of situations are not always preventable. “Everyone who was involved acted appropriately,” he said. “The response was almost immediate”.

He said that some sort of surveillance system would be beneficial in the future.

“I went to Grand Rapids Community College and was in the room,” Kuiper said. “It’s a small room and it’s sound proof.”

As a result of this incident, new safety procedures have been introduced to better protect these areas of campus.

The Music Building now has emergency phones placed in each of the practicing spaces, which   Campus Police Lt. Scott Merlo said was something that everyone thought was a top priority. The college declined any further comments.

A college employee will also monitor the rooms after hours to ensure the safety of the students and to be alert to the presence of any unwanted visitors.

In addition to these measures, the size of the practice room windows will be increased.

Bryant is scheduled to be sentenced today by Judge Paul Sullivan in the Kent County Courthouse, courtroom 10C at 2 p.m. For continued coverage, visit the thecollegiatelive.com.