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Deputy William Wilt handcuffs Michael Tillson before transporting him to Hamilton County Jail Aug. 28. (Photo/Pete Klein)


Tillson is sentenced; will appeal

Sunday, September 01, 2013 - Updated: 8:48 AM



INDIAN LAKE - Michael A. Tillson of Galway has been sentenced to 60 days in jail plus three years of probation.

Tillson, 64, is the Galway businessman and town council member who was found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child following a jury trial in Indian Lake Justice Court. The July 14, 2012 incident occurred in the Town of Indian Lake.

Indian Lake Justice Judith Durkin handed down the sentence Wednesday morning, Aug. 28.

According to District Attorney Marsha King Purdue, who prosecuted the case, Tillson attempted to remove the shirt of a 15-year-old girl "to get her in the nude and sleep with him in his bed at his camp, which caused the victim to become frightened."

The victim stopped Tillson and demanded he take her home to her parents. While traveling south on Rt. 30 she saw lights on at Cedarhurst Motel in Speculator and made Tillson stop there, where owner Robert Kuiken called the police.

"When she rang my doorbell she asked if she could call her parents," Kuiken says. "I of course said yes and by the time she stepped into my office and I was handing her the phone I noticed she was already on her cell phone calling her parents, but watching out the door like she was watching if anyone was coming.

"I locked the door and heard her telling the parents they needed to come get her in Speculator. I then was handed her phone and gave them directions here.

"I still did not know what had happened. I put a chair out for her and after a few minutes I asked her name and then her age, and when she told me how old she was I asked her what happened.

"After she told me the story I explained to her that because she was a minor I had to call the police. I notified the Sheriff's Office, which contacted the State Police."

Tillson had been the girl's coach and employer and a trusted friend of her family. She accompanied him to his camp at 955 Cedar River Road to help him install a new cook stove.

During the sentencing hearing Purdue said, "The defendant continues to deny intent [and says he] was just kidding around. He violated her trust and he should own up to it. Because he is not owning up, I am asking he be sentenced to 60 days plus three years probation."

Purdue also asked the court to order Tillson not to have any contact with the girl for five years, not to employ or teach children under age 18 and to undergo a psychological evaluation.

The victim's mother described the difficulty her daughter and the family has endured since the incident. She said it happened 410 days ago, and, "I believe he would do it again if she had not stood up to him. Think about what she has lost. No child should have to learn a lesson like this."

Tillson's attorney, John W. Sutton of Galway, told the court, "This is a life lesson for all. What happened to this man and his family could happen to anyone. This is a good man who did one thing wrong.

"He has always accepted he did something wrong. But I ask you to be aware of the good things he has done in Galway. There was no hint of anything wrong until this one night. With no previous charges, I am asking for time served and probation."

Saying "I have prayed over this," Durkin handed down the sentence Purdue wanted.

"Mr. Tillson does not seem to understand what he did wrong," Durkin said. "It will stay with [the victim] for the rest of her life."

Tillson owns Milburt Farm & Greenhouse in Galway and is a fixture at area farmers' markets. Sutton asked for a stay on the sentence, as he intends to file a notice of appeal in Hamilton County Court, but was denied.

Purdue said she would oppose an appeal. "I believe this will be a meritless appeal," she said.

Even if an appeal is not successful, Tillson could be released within 40 days with good behavior.

-- Staff Reporter Pete Klein contributed to this article.


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