Former Macomb County Sheriff William
Hackel was sentenced to at least three years
in prison Monday for his conviction on two rape
A jury had found Hackel, 58, guilty of two counts
of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, involving
oral penetration and forced sexual intercourse,
on April 27 in Isabella County Circuit Court.
The maximum sentence for the felony charges
is 15 years, but Hackel could be released after
three years if officials feel he is rehabilitated
“It doesn’t matter who it is that comes before
me,” Chief Judge Paul Chamberlain said before
sentencing. “I try to treat everyone with respect
and dignity, irrespective of their position.”
Hackel is guilty of raping a 26-year-old woman
Oct. 11 in her hotel room at the Soaring Eagle
Casino and Resort, 6800 Soaring Eagle Blvd.,
during a Michigan Sheriff’s Association fall
conference. The woman is an association staff
member. The trial began April 17 and closing
statements were made April 26.
Hackel’s lawyers, led by James Howarth of Detroit,
had called for a sentence of 18 months. Isabella
County Prosecutor Larry Burdick asked the judge
to stay within the sentencing guidelines, ranging
from 29 to 57 months, and that the defense motion
for bond pending appeal be denied.
Chamberlain denied bond, citing no clear and
convincing proof that Hackel would not pose
a danger to society. Howarth said he will start
appealing both the bond denial and the jury’s
verdict in the Michigan Court of Appeals in
Detroit as soon as possible.
Before sentencing, both Hackel and the victim
spoke to Chamberlain. The victim said she had
led a normal life before she was raped by Hackel.
“I don’t sleep well. I’m lucky if I sleep at
all. When I close my eyes I see the face of
the man who took away a part of me, a part of
my existence,” she said.
She said she looks at other sheriffs differently
today as well, and said when she talks about
the rape she ends up reliving it.
“I can’t just tear up this chapter of my life
and throw it away. If anything, this man should
be held to a higher standard than most. I too
am sentenced for this man’s actions.”
Hackel had admitted he and the woman had sex,
but testified during the trial that it was consensual.
He said he wanted to “apologize to everyone
for my indiscretion and involvement for that
one hour last October. My family has suffered
a great deal of public humiliation.”
Because the media made the Hackel’s home address
public, the Hackels are now attempting to sell
their home, he said. Hackel said his wife Ada
now lives in a small condominium waiting for
her husband, who has been in the Isabella County
Jail since his conviction.
“I’ve never felt so useless and unproductive
in my entire life,” he said.
Hackel had spent 24 of his 36 years in law enforcement
as Macomb County’s sheriff before his conviction,
resigning after the verdict was heard. One of
Hackel’s sons, Mark Hackel, plans on running
for his father’s former position this fall.
“This is the first time in 58 years that I’ve
not given my mother a hug on Mother’s Day,”
Hackel said before sentencing. “My wife has
forgiven me and we are still very much in love.
“Please do not waste my life by putting me behind
bars for a long time.”
Before sentencing, letters from family members
were read to the court by defense co-council
Joseph Barberi of Mount Pleasant. One was from
Hackel’s 76-year-old mother, Margaret Hackel.
In the letter, she said she and her husband
had watched the jury verdict on TV, and her
husband had said “Not my son!”
Hackel covered his face and cried as his mother’s
letter was read.
The victim had said that the judge should consider
other things in addition to the rape when creating
After the rape, “Doctors and nurses examined
my private parts, parts that had just been violated
and that I wanted to cover up and hide,” she
Barberi called Hackel’s action on Oct. 11 “one
blemish on an otherwise impeccable record.”
But Burdick said he disagreed with Barberi’s
belief that Hackel’s position should be disregarded
in creating his sentence.
“I would hope that police officers would hold
themselves to a higher degree,” he said.
Burdick also said Hackel’s convictions “besmirch
a profession of men and women who are the good
“No matter how you dress it up, as an unfortunate
or an embarrassing act, as a poor choice, as
an act of indiscretion, it’s a rape. It’s the
most violent act you can perpetrate against
Chamberlain said the sentence enables rape victims
to come forward and also tells officials who
commit crimes that their wrongs will not be
swept under the rug.
“The loss of your job and family is going to
have a rehabilitative effect on you,” he told
Hackel. “I think this sentence is lenient yet
respectful to the victim.”
To the victim, Chamberlain said the sexual assault
“isn’t a chapter you can rip up and throw away
but it is a chapter you can heal.”
“There’s a need for forgiveness, but there’s
also a need for atonement,” Burdick said.
Howarth said he thought the judge made a very
considered opinion in sentencing Hackel, but
said Hackel is “sorry for his moral indiscretion,
but he’s not saying ‘I’m sorry, I raped you.’”
After denying Hackel’s bond, Chamberlain said
there is grounds for an appeal of the trial.
The defense has claimed that the victim and
her mother saw a lawyer before the trial in
hopes of suing Hackel for economic gain. The
defense was not given the chance during the
trial to question the victim’s mother about
any economic motives, he said.
Howarth said he will raise other aspects in
his appeal, which he said could take up to three
years to work through court. Meanwhile, Hackel
may be transferred to the Jackson State Prison’s
processing center, where his place of incarceration
will be determined.
Hackel’s sentence also includes counseling,
including sexual abuse counseling, and a $60
crime victims rights fee.
Former Macomb County Sheriff William