Michael Begin plea (copy)

Michael Begin, 19, pleaded guilty Jan. 25 to molesting 20 children in Clark County; there are currently 11 civil cases pending against him, Greater Clark County Schools and the YMCA of Greater Louisville. The criminal charges are related to acts that took place at either Thomas Jefferson Elementary School or the Clark County YMCA. 

JEFFERSONVILLE – A month after he pleaded guilty to 20 charges of child molestation, there are still nearly a dozen civil cases pending against Michael Begin, along with the YMCA and Greater Clark County Schools.

Begin, 19, who had worked with children at Thomas Jefferson Elementary through a Jeffersonville High School program, and at the Clark County YMCA, was first arrested in October 2017 on two level 4 felonies of child molestation. He was released on bond but remanded to jail three months later as his charges added up.

He was eventually charged with 27 counts related to 20 victims; on Jan. 25 he entered a blind plea in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 for 20 of the charges. A sentencing hearing is set for March 21 at 9:30 a.m. where he could receive between two and 120 years in prison.

As the criminal case continued, parents and guardians of the victims — all children between 3 and 8 years old — began seeking civil action against Begin, the YMCA, GCCS and in several of the cases, Begin's parents.

Attorneys say Begin's plea, which under Indiana law includes specifics to which he's admitted, can be admitted as evidence in the civil cases and affect the overall outcome.

Karl Truman, who represents five of the plaintiffs, said the plea can stand as proof that Begin committed these acts, and that defense attorneys cannot use uncertainty as a case.

"The attorneys for the school or the Y can't try to say 'well, we're not really sure what happened and when,'" he said. "It definitely takes away a potential defense they have."

New Albany attorney Matthew Lemme represents Begin in all of the civil cases, and said the resolution of the criminal case may move things along in the civil action, and that the focus may shift.

"Now that there's been a plea in the criminal case, I think the face of litigation is going to change," Lemme said. "I also think it's going to be a lot more active. A lot of things were on hold because of the pending criminal case — the judge wasn't going to let civil litigation interfere with the prosecution in a criminal case."

However, Judge Andrew Adams, who presides over the criminal case and every civil case, found that the Jeffersonville Police Department was incorrect in withholding investigation information from civil litigants while the criminal case was pending; the department was ordered in November to produce the records.

The first civil case, filed in February 2018, alleges that the plaintiff in the case was sexually assaulted by Begin at Thomas Jefferson Elementary, and that GCCS was "negligent in failing to protect plaintiff while she was at school," the original complaint reads, in part. The next 10 suits, filed over the following months, would have similar language, and include allegations of molestation at either the school or the YMCA.

In cases where his parents are listed as co-defendants, they're accused of being negligent for knowing about potential charges and failing to notify the district. In most of the cases, the YMCA is named for either negligently allowing the molestation to happen to children there, or allegedly failing to notify GCCS that an investigation was underway, thus allowing abuse to continue to students in the after school program at Thomas Jefferson.

Truman said a big part of the litigation is holding the institutions accountable — he says that GCCS and the YMCA had a responsibility to protect the children from things such as what Begin has pleaded guilty to.

"It's my position under Indiana law because he was performing his duties on behalf of the Y and the school, that they are responsible for his conduct," Truman said. "Any resolution of this will have to involve them showing what they're doing to handle these situations. The evidence is going to show in this case that [Begin] was pretty brazen about what he did and there was nobody monitoring him."

Don Miller, one of the attorneys representing the YMCA, said in an email Thursday that while he could not comment in-depth on the pending cases, that Begin was suspended from work at the YMCA as soon as the investigation began, and never returned to work there.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the families as the process continues," he said in in the email.

A representative for Liberty Mutual Insurance responded by email that the company "does not publicly discuss matters in litigation." The Offices of Liberty Mutual are listed in court records as one of the representatives of GCCS; the district is also representing itself in the cases. The school district attorney was unable to be reached by phone for comment Thursday afternoon.

All cases are scheduled for a status conference Feb. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1.

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

Trending Video

Recommended for you