INDIAN LAKE - A jury has found a Galway businessman and town council member guilty of endangering the welfare of a child.
State Police charged Michael A. Tillson, 64, after investigating a report received July 14, 2012 of non-domestic endangering the welfare of a child. The incident occurred at 955 Cedar River Road in the Town of Indian Lake.
Tillson was free on his own recognizance until the trial, but immediately after was remanded to Hamilton County Jail. He will be sentenced Aug. 14 at 9 a.m.
He owns Milburt Farm & Greenhouse in Galway and is a fixture at area farmers' markets.
The trial started at 9:30 a.m. July 8. It ended at about 2 p.m. July 9. The jury returned the guilty verdict after deliberating about 20 minutes.
Endangering the welfare of a child is a Class A misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail.
According to District Attorney Marsha King Purdue, who prosecuted the case, Tillson intentionally 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 went to the camp with Tillson to help him install a new cook stove.
She testified that she felt comfortable traveling to and staying alone with Tillson at his camp because he had been her coach, her employer and a trusted friend of the family and was like a father figure to her.
Her parents also testified that they trusted Tillson.
The victim testified that after installing the stove Tillson took her by the hand and led her to his bedroom. He then pulled down the covers on his bed, took off his shirt, turned off the lights and pulled her shirt up.
The victim immediately stopped the defendant and 15 minutes later demanded he take her home to her parents. "The victim's testimony was heart-wrenching. Some of the jurors were visibly disturbed by what they heard," Purdue said in a press release.
After an interview with a State Police trooper Tillson signed a written statement, which the court ruled was admissible as evidence.
In it Tillson indicated, "I turned off the lights and we were holding hands, and I admit that there may have been a improperly made statement, I brought her to her room and I took off my shirt, it was hot and sweaty, I was still wearing my shorts, I tugged on her shirt, were just fooling around...."
Thereafter the defendant spoke to an investigator and told him, "I did say she can sleep with me. We were holding hands prior to getting to the room with one bed in it..."
When asked what his intentions were Tillson responded, "My intentions were to get her to take her shirt off and cuddle with her through the night."
When the investigator asked what happened Tillson responded, "I raised her shirt up, hoping to see her breast and get her as far nude without a shirt like me."
When the investigator asked who made the sleeping arrangements Tillson said, "When I asked her if she wanted to sleep with me, and she said I don't care, I took that as it's okay. I reached over and pulled her shirt up."
When asked why he would pull the victim's shirt up, Tillson said, "I felt comfortable with pulling [her] shirt up to see where it would lead to."
Tillson told the investigator, "I am certainly glad looking back, that nothing happened. I think the biggest loss at the moment was, is, her trust."
DENIED AT TRIAL
When Tillson testified at his trial he refuted much of what the statement he signed says.
However, Purdue said, "He admitted that he did pull the victim's shirt up. He also admitted he was joking with the victim when he asked her if she wanted to go to bed with him."
Tillson was remanded to Hamilton County Jail immediately after the trial.
Purdue is pleased with the outcome and credits the jury, saying, "I would like to thank the jury for their hard work."
Under New York State Penal Law a person is guilty of endangering the welfare of a child when he knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less than 17 years old or directs or authorizes such child to engage in an occupation involving a substantial risk of danger to his or her life or health.