JEFFERSONVILLE — A Jeffersonville man who was sentenced to 120 years in prison in April for 20 counts of child molestation has filed an appeal to his sentence.
In April, Michael Begin, 19, was sentenced to 120 years to be served, with 20 suspended and on strict probation for acts of molestation to 20 children ages 3 to 8, which occurred between January and October 2017. Begin had access to the victims while overseeing or working with children either at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School or the Clark County YMCA.
Although his total charges reached 27 counts of level 3 or 4 molestation, Begin pleaded guilty in January to 20 level 4 felonies. According to the blind plea agreement, half of the charges would be served concurrently with the other half. Since level 4 felonies can carry between two and 12 years, this created a sentencing range between two and 120 years.
During his April sentencing, Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 Judge Andrew Adams sentenced Begin to 12 years for each charge, with two suspended on each. Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull had requested the full 120 years; defense attorney Jennifer Culotta had requested 40.
But a brief filed earlier this month by appellate attorney Thomas Lowe states that the sentence is inappropriate and effectively means a life sentence for a man with no prior criminal history.
"Regardless of what Michael Begin does, this sentence constitutes his entire anticipated natural life," the brief reads, in part. "Life sentences should be reserved for the worse of the worst offenders and for the offenses. Begin is neither the worst of the offenders nor are these the worst offenses."
The level 4 charges Begin was convicted of are lesser charges than the highest, and the brief states that for him to have received such a lengthy sentence in a non-homicide conviction violates the defendant's state and federal constitutional rights on cruel and unusual punishment.
The brief states that not only does Begin have no criminal history prior to the charges in this case, including juvenile cases, but that he's completed high school, maintained employment prior to the investigation, is an Eagle Scout and has done volunteer work with adults with disabilities. It also states that Begin should be given more credit for pleading guilty in the case.
"Begin was remorseful both in a letter to the trial court and at sentencing," the appellate brief reads. "Begin took responsibility for his crimes and saved the victims the trauma of testifying at trial."
The appellate counsel requests that Begin's sentence be modified to the six-year advisory on each count, which would bring the total to 60 years in prison. It's requested that this sentence be served in part at the Indiana Department of Correction, part through community corrections and part on strict terms of probation.
Under his current sentence, Begin's earliest release date would be Oct. 18, 2092. He would be 93 years old.
Since the case was opened, there have been nine civil lawsuits filed on behalf of the child victims against Begin, the YMCA and Greater Clark County Schools, with several of the suits also listing the defendant's parents. Two of the suits have reached partial resolution with the YMCA.