JEFFERSONVILLE — The Indiana Court of Appeals has denied a sentence reduction for a Jeffersonville man serving a 120-year sentence for molesting 20 children.
Michael Begin, 20, was sentenced in April to 100 years served, 20 on strict probation, after pleading guilty in January to 20 level 4 felonies of child molestation related to victims between 3 and 8 years old. He had contact with 19 of the 20 children through an early childhood education program at Thomas Jefferson Elementary or as an after school caretaker at the Clark County YMCA; one of the victims was a child known to his family.
Court records show Begin molested 19 of the children between January and October 2017, at which time he was initially charged. The allegations were that he did this usually while in a setting to help with their homework, and at times corroborated by video. Records state he told the children not to tell, at times would continue even when the children told him to stop and at one point molested more than one child at a time.
"The nature of Begin's numerous child molesting offenses is beyond troubling," the opinion reads, in part. "Begin's offenses had a devastating effect on his young victims, who continue to suffer from his actions in a variety of ways."
Begin was initially charged with two counts in October 2017, months after his 18th birthday. The charges were amended three times as more victims came forward, eventually reaching 27 felonies before the plea agreement.
In the appellate brief filed in May, Begin's attorneys requested his sentence be lowered to 60, served in a combination of prison time, community corrections and strict probation. They argued that the punishment was too stiff and essentially meant a life sentence for a man with no prior criminal record facing non-homicide charges.
That brief further requested that the appellate court consider Begin's background — he was an Eagle Scout, had volunteered with adults with disabilities and had graduated high school, despite being arrested on the charges while still a student.
But that failed to convince the appellate court, and in its decision handed down Wednesday stated that the nature of the crimes themselves overshadowed any prior marks of good character.
"It's disappointing but we will almost certainly seek transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court," appellate attorney Tom Lowe said Wednesday afternoon. He has 45 days to do so. While it's not mandatory that the Indiana Supreme Court hear and rule on the case, Lowe believes this might be a case they'd be interested in.
"Obviously the circumstances surrounding his conviction were horrible but you have a young man who the offenses were committed when he was 17 and a little over 18 and he gets what amounts to a life sentence," Lowe said.
"There's a set of circumstances in the case law that talks about ... somebody that gets a sentence such as this like Michael [Begin], he spends a much longer time in prison than somebody that's older."
The sentence for the blind plea could have carried between two and 120 years; his trial attorney, Jennifer Culotta, had argued for 40 years, and Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull had requested the full 120 to be served in prison.
"From the beginning of this case I believed it was appropriate to seek a sentence that would keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life so that no one else was victimized in our community," Mull said, after the opinion was issued Wednesday.
"The court of appeals agreed with my opinion on that, as evidenced by this opinion. I'm happy that the victims and the families can move forward with the confidence that Mr. Begin will not be able to hurt anyone else in the future."
Begin is housed at the Miami Correctional Facility at Grissom Joint Air Reserve Base in Bunker Hill, Ind. His earliest release date is Oct. 18, 2092.