Home invasion burglar sent to prison for 10 years in emotional hearing
Michael J. Hilton is lucky to be alive, one of his crime victims told him in Genesee County Court this morning.
Hilton admitted to second-degree burglary on March 14 and was in court today for sentencing. He received the maximum available under his plea deal: 10 years in state prison.
The 20-year-old Batavia and Le Roy resident broke into a home on Swan Street with accomplice Kurt Hawkins in September and the owner awoke to find Hilton in his room standing next to his gun cabinet.
"He didn't realize how close he came to dying that night," the local resident told Judge Robert C. Noonan. "I had a shotgun shell in my hand. I realized I couldn't get to my gun. I thought I would choke him, but I couldn't catch him. I'm glad I didn't because I would have had to live with that."
The resident said his daughter still has trouble sleeping at night because of the trauma of the break-in.
When Hilton was asked if he had anything to say, he turned and faced the victim and said, "I'm sorry."
As Hilton spoke, he began to tear up, and was sobbing as he addressed the victim's family.
"I sincerely apologize for what I put you and your family through," Hilton said. "I'm honestly sorry. I should have known better than to make the choice I made. I'm sorry.
"I'd also like to say to my family, I'm sorry," Hilton added. "I'm sorry for all the things I put you through. I know you don't need to be here now wasting your time for me because I'm nothing. I thank you for supporting me, for being here even though I don't deserve it."
Typically, defendants who apologize in court become indignant after receiving a harsh sentence from Noonan, but not Hilton. He continued to hang his head and wipe away tears.
After the hearing, the victim said he believed Hilton was sincere.
"I felt he was very remorseful," the resident said. "I almost felt bad for him just for a split second. That went away fast.
"I wish my wife had been here to see how he felt," the resident added. "She's just getting to where she can sleep at night. She didn't want to see him because when he ran out of the bedroom, he was this close to her, like you and I are right now. I wish she could have been here to see for herself."
Noonan agreed with the victim that HIlton is lucky to be alive.
"(The victim) said you came close to being killed and you know what, the law would protect (him) for doing that," Noonan said. "There's been lots of publicity about this case in Florida, but that is not your case. This is not a stand-your-ground case, because New York has allowed people to protect themselves in their own home forever. It has always been the right of a victim to kill an intruder."
Both Jerry Ader, Hilton's attorney, and Noonan noted that Hilton had a rough childhood.
"I don't know if you know this or not, but before I sentence anyone for any crime, including serious crimes like the one you're convicted of, I receive lots and lots of information about the person's background and history," Noonan said.
"It starts at birth and includes school records and medical records. Your story is a very sad story. You've had some horrible things happen in your life and I don't want you to think it's gone unnoticed."
But, Noonan said, considering the crimes Hilton committed, if not for that background, Noonan never would have allowed the plea deal Hitlon received. He would have required Hilton to face a jury and if convicted of the three possible burglary charges he could have been tried on, faced a much longer prison term than 10 years.
Before he left the courtroom, Hilton looked at his family members one more time and then hung his head and walked toward the door and out of the courtroom.