Seth Horton Pleads Guilty to Crimes; A letter from the Prosecutor

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, Michigan plead guilty to
three felony counts: Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 3rd Degree; Bribing, Intimidating or
Interfering with a Witness; and Using a Computer to a 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 (see Court of
Appeals opinion linked below). 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 50^’’ 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 serve 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. He 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.

EUP News Staff

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