A jury deliberated about three hours Thursday before convicting Michael Burgund in his retrial on charges of child molestation, rejecting his argument that he was brainwashed into confessing.
"We are here for these two little girls," prosecutor Crystal Uhe told jurors during closing arguments. "The defendant took every opportunity to violate this 1-year-old child in ways most of us cannot even imagine."
Uhe said she was pleased with the verdict. "The defendant has now had two opportunities to stand trial and offer his defense, and two juries have now signed a guilty verdict form," Uhe said. "I hope his victims can now find peace and closure."
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said it was a tough case and "a very sad set of circumstances," but a victory for justice.
"There is no happiness today, " he said. "This is really only a victory for the kids and for justice, but no one is happy because this is such a terrible thing that happened and never should have happened."
In April 2011, Burgund walked into the Alton Police Department and confessed to molesting two toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3. Until that point, there had been no investigation or allegations against Burgund. Charges were filed quickly, but Burgund later recanted, alleging that he never abused the girls and was coerced into his confession by their mother, who he said had brainwashed him and tricked him into believing he had abused the children.
But Uhe said his impromptu confession shouldn't be considered unusual — he was going to be reported shortly anyway, because the older girl "finally became old enough to tell what was going on, and to figure out that this was even wrong." Uhe said they talked to their pastor and their doctor, who both informed them they would notify police.
"He literally ran out of time," Uhe said. "He was going to turn himself in before the police came to his work, because Michael Burgund does what's best for Michael Burgund."
Much of Uhe's closing argument centered on similarities between Burgund's videotaped confession and the older child's interview at the Madison County Child Advocacy Center, specifically on the details of the alleged molestation.
"He admitted all the acts alleged in the charges," Uhe said. "In order to believe that he made up his confession, you have to believe that (the girl) also made it up."
Uhe said Burgund's allegations of "brainwashing" don't hold up, because "brainwashing doesn't even exist," she said — it isn't recognized in psychological texts. "People like to get out of trouble, so much so that they have a name for it in that book," Uhe said.
But defense attorney Curtis Dawson painted a very different picture: of a man who was abused emotionally and physically, cut off from his family and constantly accused of lusting after women.
"People have done unthinkable things in the control of other people," Dawson said. "Michael Burgund was living in a cult-like atmosphere."
Dawson pointed out that one of the experts testifying on behalf of the defense is usually a witness for the prosecution: Dr. Daniel Cuneo, who testified on Burgund's behalf earlier in the trial.
But Uhe disagreed, playing multiple clips from Burgund's confession as he explained in detail how he sexually abused the girls, then ages 1 and 3. "He can portray Michael Burgund as a battered (man), but that doesn't make it true," she said.
Madison County Circuit Judge Kyle Napp revoked Burgund's bond after the verdict, ordering him to be taken into custody. Burgund had been free since August 2017 on $100,000 cash bond posted by his mother against a $1 million bail.
His original sentence was natural life in prison. Although a presentencing investigation is underway, the sentence is basically a formality; Uhe said the multiple counts of predatory sexual abuse with multiple child victims carries an automatic life sentence.
Burgund's first trial took place in 2013 before then-Circuit Judge Ann Callis, and the older child testified against him. Burgund was convicted of five counts of predatory sexual assault and sentenced to life in prison. But the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon overturned the conviction and granted him a new trial. In its decision, the appellate court said that the girl’s testimony was vague and medical evidence was inconclusive, and that Callis should have permitted expert testimony that, according to the defense, would have shown Burgund was highly suggestible.
Gibbons said Napp was very careful to address the concerns of the appellate court, and gave "a broad latitude" for the defense.
"This is also a victory for our community as we will now be free from having such a dangerous perpetrator walking among us," Gibbons said. "What was done here can never be totally erased, but by securing this verdict we will be able to send this monster to prison for the rest of his life. I pray for the young victims that through this process and with the support of their loving family, they will find peace and healing and a hope for a safe and secure future.”
The second trial began last week, with two days necessary just to pick the jury.