Former teacher’s aide sentenced to 186 months in prison for sodomy conviction

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A former teacher's aide convicted of abusing a child six years ago has been sentenced to 186 months in prison.

That's roughly 15 years, but nowhere near the maximum sentence for the crime, life in prison.

Judge Dennis O'Dell handed down the sentence Thursday morning to Michael Horton, who had worked as a teacher's aide at Providence Elementary School.

In court as friends and family testified on his behalf, Michael Horton's body shook with unheard sobs. His family, too, tearfully listened to the judge's sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Tim Gann said, "He took advantage of a very young man... we are all satisfied he is going to prison. And [the sentence] is sufficient."

Horton's family disagreed. They packed the courtroom to show support for Horton, proclaim his innocence, and ask the judge for leniency.

Pauletta Horton, the defendant's wife, said, "Everyone that came out... believes in him. He's mentored a lot of people that came."

Horton's attorney, Robert Tuten, echoed that the show of support "illustrates that the Michael Horton portrayed by this child is not the true Michael Horton."

Judge O'Dell said he read several letters of support written on Horton's behalf, and considered what they had to say before handing down his sentence.

Pauletta Horton said when a jury read Horton's guilty verdict last month, she lost her faith in the justice system.

Tuten explains, "Juries, and I think probably adults in general tend to believe children, regardless of how ridiculously inconsistent and unbelievable their story is."

The family plans to appeal.

"He is innocent. And believe me, we will fight," said Pauletta Horton.

Assistant District Attorney Gann says while these emotions are powerful, it's important to remember a jury of 12 agreed on the guilty verdict last month.

"It's hard enough getting 12 people to decide where to go eat lunch," he said, "If you can get them to decide on a major fact like this [verdict,] then I believe in the system."

He said it's often hard for family members to accept loved ones' guilt, and that may be the case here.

"It is a fact that he is guilty of what he did, but it's hard to face. And I understand that."

A Madison County jury convicted Horton back in August of first-degree sodomy for an incident dating back to 2008. Jurors spent nearly two days deliberating before reaching a verdict.

Prosecutors say Horton was taking care of a child entrusted to him by the mother.  The mother began noticing behavioral changes in the child, which led to an investigation.

Click here for more background and courtroom reaction to the jury's verdict.

11 comments

    • jeff

      Why is it a common theme when someone is caught doing something like this, the parade of family and friends, even close neighbors saying “he was always so kind and help, he would never hurt a fly”. I say, how do you know? Are you inside his head? Know what they say when the whole world is wrong and your the only one who’s right? No one knows, and still don’t know and wont ever know except the poor kid, him and god.

  • Fed Up with this Trash

    No OPTION, he has been found GUILTY, so he is GUILTY. He will enjoy his days being the new lady of the jail.

    • option

      Read the whole story Fed Up with Trash!! At one time prosecutors was filing to dismiss the case! Hymmm really? The so called victim wanted a new set of tires just to testify….. yes that interesting huh. FACTS

    • Red

      Being judged “guilty” does not make a person guilty. It sounds to me like the defense has a valid argument that the judge put pressure on the jury, and that could have supressed a valid objection. As EASY as it would be to intimidate a bunch of people on a jury to reach a certain kind of decision, I wouldn’t be suprised at all.

      • jeff

        Yes, yes it does mean he is guilty. Tried and convicted. Everyone is so concerned about a man when they should be concerned with the child. Do you think these 12 people that didn’t know him from Adam had something against him? That’s the reason the system is made the way it is. If you are tried and convicted and public opinion can change that, why have a court to begin with. To assume he’s not guilty would mean that everyone in prison is not guilty.

  • Corbin Wallace

    Feel bad for the Family… Not so much for the convicted. 15 years is not enough for someone who would do such a horrible thing to a child.

  • styles

    This case has to be appealed all the way to the supreme court of the United States. Period. The judge in this case relentlessly pressured the jurors for an outcome when they were dead locked. He kept sending them back and forth for a resolution and that’s unconstitutional. It looks prejudiced along racial and political lines. Appeal. His legal team needs to get out of that closed good ‘ol boy court and go to a more open minded place.

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