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Sault man pleads guilty to three felony counts

Among the charges was criminal sexual conduct in the 3rd degree
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Following five years of litigation that spanned all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court and back, Seth Vincent Horton, age 23 from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. pled guilty to three felony counts: criminal sexual conduct in the 3rd degree; bribing, intimidating or interfering with a witness; and using a computer to commit a crime for the 2019 crimes he committed against Katie Robinson, a local woman who was tragically killed while the case was pending in June of 2021.

As the pandemic delayed the trial again and again, Katie maintained contact with the prosecutor’s office and remained committed to the case. Katie was particularly upset that Mr. Horton had publicly denied what he had done to her to their shared friends - she wanted people to know that she was telling the truth all along, and that he committed the crime alleged. While discussing what she wanted to see happen with the case, Katie showed tremendous strength and compassion when she indicated that holding Mr. Horton responsible to the fullest extent of the law by sending him to prison was not her intention. She recognized that Mr. Horton’s unique family ties to the Michigan Department of Corrections would put an unfair target on his back, and she didn’t want to see him hurt, despite the fact that he made her suffer both physically and emotionally. Therefore, with Katie’s blessing, Mr. Horton was offered a plea that would result in his incarceration locally in the Chippewa County Correctional Facility for a period of two years.

While the case was pending, Katie was killed in a traffic crash. Evidence of Katie’s earlier testimony was going to be introduced at trial, and the issue went to the Michigan Court of Appeals where it was determined that the previous videotaped testimony would be admitted at trial (341 Mich App 397). That decision was reviewed by the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Court decided to leave the Court of Appeals published opinion undisturbed. This was an enormous victory for all victims across the state who should know that in the event something happens, their preserved testimony means that a case can continue on and a jury can actually watch their testimony as opposed to it being read from a transcript. Which in a credibility contest between a victim and their perpetrator, is huge.

Following the appellate decisions, the case returned to the 50th Circuit Court, and Seth Horton ultimately pled guilty to the three felonies listed above.

At the time of sentencing, the Honorable Brian Rahilly heard from both of Katie’s parents who provided a victim impact statement on her behalf. Both told the Judge about the lasting emotional impact that Katie endured from not only the sexual assault itself, but also the emotional torment and public ridicule that Mr. Horton had lodged against her in attempts to scare her from going forward with the charges and to undercut her credibility.

They emphasized that it was only because of Katie’s grace that Mr. Horton was not heading to prison, and that they were proud of their daughter for standing up to her rapist, when others were not that strong. Ultimately, Mr. Horton was ordered to ser\'e two years in the Chippewa County Correctional facility with three years of probation to follow.

When rendering his sentence, Judge Rahilly noted that he felt that Mr. Horton’s apology was self-serving and insincere, remarking that he hoped he spent the next two years thinking about his actions and reflecting on how much worse the sentence could have been had it not been for Katie’s clemency.

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) two out three sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement. Approximately five to seven percent of those reported actually lead to an arrest. From there, seven percent lead to a felony conviction and only six percent of that lead to a perpetrator’s incarceration (see attachment below). This case was complex and could not have been successful without the diligent work from several local agencies. The investigation was completed by Trooper Cody Mayer of the Michigan State Police with assistance from the Chippewa County Sheriffs Office Detective/Sgt. Jeffrey Erickson, and Sault Ste. Marie Police Department Detective Philip Donnay and Officer Scott Hazewinkel. It was the thorough investigation by these three collaborating agencies that amplified Katie’s voice and ultimately brought the defendant to justice.

Our office would also like to thank and acknowledge the Diane Peppier Resource Center, who spent considerable time assisting the family during the pendency of this case, and were able to coordinate with the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Organization to submit a brief in support of Katie at the Michigan Supreme Court.

On that March night in 2019, Mr. Florton took away Katie’s choices. He threw away years of friendship and respect as he assaulted his childhood friend. Fie added insult to injury as he denied the allegations and called her “crazy” and a “liar.” Five years later Katie has been vindicated. All she wanted throughout the entire case was for Mr. Horton, her childhood friend, to admit what he did and to apologize to her. It took five years, but she finally got it. While she was not with us to hear the words, Mr. Horton swore under oath that he did indeed sexually assault her on that night. Her final wishes were honored by showing mercy to the defendant - regardless of whether he deserved it.