Sutton emotional after acquittal

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man was acquitted of all charges Wednesday in Blair County Court, ending a three-day trial in which he was accused of indecently assaulting his former girlfriend’s young daughters.

Michael Francis Sutton, 24, began smiling and crying upon hearing the deputy prothonotary read “not guilty” verdicts on two counts of aggravated indecent assault.

While listening to six additional “not guilty” verdicts — on two counts each of unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors and indecent assault of a person less than 13 — Sutton buried his head in his hands and wiped away tears.

Judge Timothy M. Sullivan , who presided over the trial, authorized Sutton’s release from the county prison. Sutton had been there since his Feb. 11 arrest, with bail set at $100,000 cash.

“It was an appropriate verdict,” Assistant Public Defender John Siford said outside the courtroom. “I would hope that in the future, somebody evaluates these kind of cases more critically than this one.”

Assistant District Attorney Derek Elensky said he was very disappointed by the verdicts but was respectful of the jury’s decision.

“This was a difficult case from the beginning because this kind of abuse goes on behind closed doors,” Elensky said.

In response to Siford’s criticism, Elensky said he would have no recommendations.

“I’m thankful for the investigation Altoona police did and that the child’s allegations weren’t ignored,” he said.

Siford, during the trial and in his closing, pointed to inconsistencies and inaccuracies within the claims made by the 6-year-old who accused Sutton of inappropriately touching her and 4-year-old sister.

Sutton and the girls’ mother told the jury the girls were alone one time with Sutton — for maybe five minutes on a day in December — when the mother left her Fairview Drive apartment to tend to laundry.

In January, the 6-year-old girl told her grandparents that “Mikey” touched her and her sister, causing them to report the claim to Altoona police. In a subsequent interview at the Child Advocacy Center, the child reiterated the claim and initially said it happened one time, then later said it happened every morning.

Sutton denied being at the mother’s apartment every morning, something the mother confirmed.

In testifying for the jury, the girl said Sutton removed her clothes and did the same to her sister. She pointed to her vaginal area when asked where Sutton touched them. She also said it hurt.

In his closing, Elensky asked the jury to recall the child’s words: “He touched me, touched me down there. Mikey did it. … I saw my sister crying.”

Sutton, who took the stand in his own defense, said he thought the mother was behind the child’s allegations because she was angry with him when he ended their relationship in early January. The mother, when testifying, denied that.

Sutton also asked the jury to question how he would have been able, within a five-minute time span, to undress and assault the girls, then get them dressed by the time their mother returned from tending the laundry.

In his closing, Elensky suggested that maybe the time span was five minutes and maybe it was longer.

Elensky also took a seat during his closing and allowed one minute of silence to pass — then asked the jury to consider what could happen during five minutes.

Siford also asked the jury to recall Sutton’s testimony from the witness stand, where he expressed the frustrations of dealing with false allegations for seven months.

“She may say that Mikey Sutton touched her,” Siford told the jury. “But that doesn’t mean it’s true.”