Michael Jacob Altherr-Miller faces at least 18 years in prison after being found guilty in one of the two sexual abuse cases he stood trial for last week.
Altherr-Miller, 33, La Grande, was immediately taken into custody after the 12-person jury found him guilty of all counts in the first case regarding a middle school student who lived with him for a period of time and said he sexually abused her. The charges in that case were three counts of first-degree sexual abuse and three counts of third-degree sexual abuse. The jury, composed of nine men and three women, found the defendant not guilty of all the charges in the second case, which happened in 2012. The charges in that case was one count each of first-degree rape, third-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, third-degree sodomy, first-degree sexual abuse and third-degree sexual abuse.
Each first-degree sexual abuse count equals a mandatory minimum sentence of 75 months in prison, according to Union County District Attorney Kelsie McDaniel.
The guilty verdicts were in the case regarding Victim No. 1, who came forward with sexual abuse allegations in January 2017. Victim No. 2’s case came later, when she heard about Victim No. 1’s case and felt compelled to tell her story after six years, she said during the trial.
The jury deliberated for approximately four hours Friday night.
After the verdict was given, Altherr-Miller’s attorney, Wes Williams, requested the defendant have one last night with his young son.
“He’s been on release for a year and a half now and has been a model citizen,” Williams said. “There hasn’t been a single issue.”
McDaniel disagreed, saying that Altherr-Miller had been making rude and threatening hand motions and staring down the victims outside the courtroom during the past week alone.
“He’s been ideal in the courtroom, but not outside,” McDaniel said, stating she witnessed his threatening behavior when he was leaving the courthouse.
“I’m concerned for both the victims’ safety,” she said.
Union County Circuit Court Judge Thomas B. Powers said Altherr-Miller was released on bail a year and a half ago because he was given the presumption of being innocent. Now that the jury had found him guilty, that has been taken away.
“I understand, as a father myself, the want to see your son, but that should’ve been planned ahead,” Powers said.
Both of the victims cried as they left the courtroom, following the sheriff’s office deputies who took Altherr-Miller into custody. The victims’ families gathered around the door to watch the defendant be handcuffed.
Williams told The Observer he was grateful his client was found not guilty of the more serious crimes, since that would have equaled a life sentence.
He commended Judge Thomas and the jury on their handling of the case.
Williams said there are items he plans to appeal in Altherr-Miller’s case including motions in the pretrial and that he will argue for a merger of the sentencing in court when they hold the sentencing trial.
McDaniel was more solemn about the jury’s decision.
“I have mixed emotions,” she told The Observer. “I’m happy the jury made the right decision (in Victim No. 1’s case), but disappointed for (Victim No. 2).”
McDaniel said the two victims have been “incredibly brave” throughout this entire process.
“The courage they displayed was incredible,” she said. “I’m proud of the girls. To sit in front of a jury, tell (their) story (and) have them judge it, takes so much courage.”
Altherr-Miller’s sentencing will likely take place at the end of this week.
Contact Cherise Kaechele at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow Cherise on Twitter @lgoKaechele.