Michael Goering, a former Washington County Commissioner, Solid Waste District Manager and brainchild behind one of the largest maple syrup festivals in Indiana was sentenced Wednesday afternoon to 15 years in prison for each of his six felony charges and was ordered to serve them concurrently. However, five of those years on each count was suspended.
With the five years suspended, he would serve only 10 years in prison and with good-time credit, he could be out in five years, according to Jim Strange, the Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy that investigated and arrested Goering in 2013.
Goering will also spend five years on probation, likely to be served in Washington County, unless he moves to another area after being released from prison, said Strange.
The sentencing was handed down Wednesday afternoon after a five-hour hearing in Washington Circuit Court in front of Special Judge John Evans from Harrison County.
A jury on April 10 found Goering guilty of five counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of attempted sexual misconduct with a minor. The charges are all Class B felonies.The misconduct took place in February 2013 with a 14-year-old girl who was both employed by Goering and a friend of the family.
According to the Indiana Code, the maximum charge for a Class B Felony is 20 years. When there are multiple counts involved, a judge can order a person to serve the terms concurrently or in sequence. In this case, Judge Evans ordered a lesser charge served concurrently.
Defense attorney Mark Dove called six witnesses during the hearing, including Goering, a psychologist, therapist, friends of the family and a Harrison County probation officer assigned to provide a presentencing investigation for the hearing.
Dove asked for a sentence that included a combination of home detention and probation. During Goering’s testimony, he said he had a contract for employment at an oil field in Huntingburg, IN.
During the questioning by Dove, Judge Evans stopped him several times and asked him to ask relevant questions of the witnesses, requested him to stop leading the witnesses and a few times, asked Dove to speed the questioning along.
Goering, 60, appeared in court dressed in an orange and cream jumpsuit, with his hands and feet shackled. He shuffled into the courtroom before 1p and took a place at the defense table with Dove and a paralegal.
During his testimony to the judge, Goering outlined his plan for life after the trial and indicated he wanted to continue to be a productive member of society and “carry his own weight” in the world by working and not being a burden on society in jail.
In fact, Goering said he had a contract to manage an oil field in Huntingburg, IN should he be released. He provided a copy of the contract as evidence.
Goering responded to questions from Dove, outlining his life in college at Rose Hulman, an all-male engineering school.
Goering said he was interested in the Peace Corps during college and wanted to serve his country. “I didn’t want to follow the traditional path of an engineering graduate. I wanted to do something non-traditional.”
Much of the testimony in the afternoon centered on Dove’s questioning of the presentencing investigation which included what he characterized as opinions of Erin Shelton, an Adult Parole Officer from Harrison County. Her opinions about Goering were based on her conversations with him and evaluations.
For instance, in Shelton’s report, she noted that Goering was stationed in Thailand during the Peace Corps and that it was a place where sexual deviant’s frequented and was where a lot of prostitution occurred.
Dove asked if she was trying to imply that Goering was in Thailand because of his desire to be around these lifestyles. Goering noted that he was placed there by the Peace Corps and it was not his choice. However, because of his desire to succeed in his work with the Corps, he tried to adapt to life there.
Dove asked if Shelton ever asked Goering if he participated in these “deviant” lifestyles and she said no. However, when Dove asked Goering, he answered no, he had not.
Goering said his two years in Thailand was intense. “I slept on a wooden floor with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling,” he said. “My first assignment was to build a large irrigation system on a large river. We mixed concrete by hand and I stepped on piece of rebar and it went through my foot. But we completed the project and I was a kind of celebrity with the Peace Corps. ABC News came and filmed the project for a story.”
Goering also outlined what he did after the incident with the victim in 2013.
He said he immediately sought the care of his physician in Scottsburg, then went to the ER at Scott Memorial Hospital and was treated for being in a critical mental condition. After he was released, he voluntarily checked himself into Wellspring, a mental health facility, where he stayed about a week.
Goering said he continued to be under the care of Dr. Teodoro E. Bordador and sought therapy with Therisa Kreilein LCSW, ACSW after he was arrested on March 22. In fact, Kreilein said she had spent 19 hours with Goering over the past year.
“I wanted to understand this with all my heart,” said Goering. “The person that did this wasn’t me. It was a period I deeply regret. And it won’t happen again.”
At one point, Goering addressed the family, who was present at the hearing.
“[She] did testify that she loved me,” said Goering about the victim. “I had similar feelings towards her. I do take full responsibility for what I did. As the adult, it was my responsibility to take control of the situation. I didn’t and I failed you. I did tell [her] several times that my number one priority was her happiness. I would never do anything to hurt [her].
“I know I’ve caused great pain to the people that I love – my family, my friends and to [the victim’s family]. I’ve prayed about this and I know that God forgives me. Over time, for the problems that I’ve caused [the victim and her family] I do pray that you will find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Dove tried to show this was an isolated incident and that Goering was receiving ongoing treatment to make sure this never happened again.
However, the prosecutor and the presentencing report both attempted to show a possible pattern by bringing up a relationship Goering had with another young woman.
They highlighted the fact that Goering had purchased a house and sold it to Katie Brumback on contract. Goering said the Brumback family had been friends of the family for years.
Dove produced a contract that showed the home had been sold to Brumback on contract. There was also testimony in which Brumback, now 25, had admitted there had never been any kind of sexual relationship with Goering. In fact, Evan Brumback, Katie’s brother, testified in Goering’s favor yesterday in the hearing.
When Goering had bonded out of jail in October 2013, he set up residence in New Albany, near to where Katie Brumback was living.
Dove said Brumback had been working for Goering when she was 16-17 years old and that he never had any inappropriate contact with her.
In fact, Dove brought in Mike Nichols, a man who had known Goering since he was 8 years old and was one of the first campers at his Christian camp in Brown County.
“He was quiet and kind of shy,” said Nichols. “He was at camp each year and it was his first experience being outdoors and he liked it.” Nichols said Goering came back to camp when he was older and served as a counselor.
Earlier Goering had said he enjoyed being outside and would miss being around the trees, who he considered his friends, in the Sugar Bush.
“He was around young men and women as a counselor and nothing inappropriate ever happened,” said Nichols.
Dr. Leonard Miller, a 69-year-old psychologist from Madison, IN, had performed tests on Goering last year, including a depression test and tests to evaluate criminal thinking.
Miller said there was no previous history of criminal activity with Goering and had indicated that this was, in his opinion, an isolated incident.
The prosecution argued that although there was no previous criminal record, Goering had admitted to using drugs while in college.
She also questioned the dates of the tests, which were noted as June 21 and July 1 2013. She said Goering was not in jail at the time those tests were administered by Miller.
Miller continued for a short time to conclude that he met with Goering in a jail setting. At one time, Miller added to the story to say he met with Goering in a jail in North Vernon.
Dove reminded Miller that in fact he had met with Goering at his offices. Dove asked Miller if he was confusing Goering with another client and he said, no.
Miller also said he didn’t feel there was any indication of childhood abuse that would have affected Goering.
The prosecutor said Goering had admitted in other evidence that he had been traumatized by being sexually abused by his mother as a child.
Miller said, “He didn’t go into a whole lot of detail on that.”
Dove explained Miller’s possible confusion of details on the fact that he had had several surgeries and was being treated for health ailments over the past 6-8 months.
The parents of the victim also testified on behalf of the prosecution before the judge and said they had given the matter to God and were praying for God to handle the situation.
Goering was returned to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department where he will await processing into an Indiana Department of Corrections facility.