Crime

He confessed to molesting children. He wants out of jail until his new trial.

Fresno Bee Staff Photo

A man convicted of raping two toddlers has a chance to get out of prison after his conviction was overturned.

In December 2012, a jury found 33-year-old Michael Burgund, of Alton, guilty of five counts of predatory sexual assault. He was accused of sexual penetration and molestation of two toddler girls between the ages of 1 and 3 years old. In early 2013, he was sentenced to life in prison.

But in November, the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon overturned his conviction, and Burgund will get a new trial.

On Thursday, Burgund appeared before Madison County Circuit Judge Kyle Napp, who set bail at $1 million. Burgund will have to post at least $100,000 cash for bond in order to be released. It was not immediately known if Burgund will be able to post the bond.

According to testimony offered at the original trial, law enforcement was unaware of the situation until Burgund walked into the Alton Police Department in April 2011 and confessed to molesting the girls. He was described by the officers as “nervous but cooperative.”

The trial took place in 2012 under then-Circuit Judge Ann Callis, and the older girl — then 5 years old — testified against him. Burgund’s videotaped confession and the children’s statements to their mother and interviewers at the Child Advocacy Center were part of the trial. However, the appellate court ruled that the child’s testimony was “vague and inconclusive,” as was medical evidence.

Burgund testified that he never actually abused the girls, and gave a false confession because their mother had manipulated him into believing he had done so and into confessing.

Callis had excluded testimony from a psychological expert who would have testified that Burgund was highly suggestible and easily manipulated. The appellate decision said Callis should have allowed the testimony and let the jury decide whether the confession was real or false, as well as other excluded testimony about the girls’ mother’s state of mind and personal history.

Prosecutor Crystal Uhe had argued for no bail, stating that while the conviction was overturned, Burgund was originally convicted and thus has little incentive to comply with court appearances. She said there has been a lot of fundraising by Burgund’s family and friends, and the money put up for him would not be his own. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say he has unlimited financial means,” she said.

Uhe also said she believes the outcome will not be any different at the second trial. “Not only did he simply admit to violating these very small children, he described in distinct detail how he did so,” Uhe said. Burgund had confessed first to his pastor, who told him to turn himself in, Uhe said.

She also argued that Burgund would present a real and present danger to the children’s safety.

Defense attorney Curtis Dawson, who successfully argued the appeal, said Burgund is a lifelong resident of Madison County and should be presumed innocent, since the first case was thrown out and he has no other criminal history. “I don’t think there’s any evidence that he presents a real and present danger to anyone,” he said.

Napp said she agreed that he cannot be considered to have a prior criminal history, and does not believe he is a flight risk. However, she said she intended to set a bond similar to those she has set for the same charges on other defendants: specifically, about $200,000 per charge. With five charges, she set bail at $1 million, of which he must post 10 percent or $100,000.

Napp also ordered that Burgund is to have no contact with the children or their mother, and may not be alone with any minor children without another adult present.

The trial is set tentatively for Dec. 4, pending further pretrial motions.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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