Former chief sentenced for child porn

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This story contains explicit details that may not be suitable for younger readers.

Former Allegan fire chief Matthew Donald Gillies was sentenced to six years in prison for his admitted production of child pornography and criminal sexual conduct.

Gillies, 35, was sentenced Monday, July 31, to 85 months to 20 years in prison for child sexually abusive activity and 71 months to 15 years for second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child.

In sentencing him, Judge Margaret Zuzich Bakker said, “Here’s what the court struggles with, Mr. Gillies—you knew you had a problem before you got caught.

“You knew this was wrong and you had the resources and the intellectual ability and the financial ability to do something and get treatment.

“But you kept engaging in this behavior for years.”

At a plea hearing in June, Gillies admitted to making a video of himself with a sleeping child whose buttocks he’d exposed and touched with his erect penis. He then uploaded the video to a website.

Gillies had been chief of the Allegan Fire District for just over a month before being suspended in October. He was fired Nov. 16 after his Nov. 1 arraignment on the charges.

During the sentencing hearing, Allegan County assistant prosecutor Myrene Koch recommended a long sentence for Gillies.

“The only reason he was able to give about why he did this was that he was stressed in his life,” Koch said. “We submit that many people are stressed and don’t jump right to child pornography and criminal sexual conduct.”

Koch said Gillies had violated the community’s trust, by using his work computer to access child pornography, as well as the trust of the four-year-old victim and her family, who’d trusted him to have the child stay at his house.

“The people ask the court to look at the nature of the crime he committed,” Koch said.

Anastase Markou, Gillies’ attorney, asked Bakker to sentence his client toward the lower end of the guidelines.

“He was a loyal son, he had honorably served in the military, served his community as fire chief and had no prior criminal history at all,” Markou said. “That makes him very unique in the criminal justice system.”

He argued that, contrary to popular belief, the recidivism rate for people who commit crimes around child pornography was actually low, around 10 percent.

He pointed to several assessments Gillies had undergone from counselors that showed his progress in treatment for what Markou said was an addiction.

“We like as a society to believe that human beings, even those who commit the most abhorrent offenses, have the capacity to change,” Markou said. “We recognize that when someone really makes an effort to change, the court can depart downward (from the sentencing guidelines).”

Markou said Gillies had been forthright and open—unlike a lot of defendants—in admitting what he’d done. The number of supporters Gillies had in the courtroom and the number of letters written to the court seeking mercy for him, Markou said, showed that people saw he was going to change.

“They know exactly what he did and they’re still there,” Markou said. “It’s not because they’re naive, it’s because of the way Matt has handled (this situation).”

Gillies spoke, saying he was reading from a letter he’d written.

“I have taken responsibility and not minimized my actions,” he said. “I’m very remorseful about what I’ve done and I’ll always be.

He said he’d been seeking the reasons he’d done these things with pastors and counselors.

“I allowed myself to go down a sinful path, but I have been forgiven through God’s grace.”

Gillies asked people to remember he was a person and said been portrayed as only a fire chief and a monster in media reports.

“I was also a victim of child sexual abuse by someone I trusted,” Gillies said. “They said it was okay and it wasn’t.”

Gillies said he’d keep trying to rehabilitate himself.

“I am determined to never stop fighting for rehabilitation,” he said. “I will not give up and I will continue seeking rehabilitation through family, treatment and faith.”

Before explaining her sentence, Bakker said she’d heard arguments from both prosecutors and the defense in favor of a longer and a shorter sentence.

The judge said, “I don’t doubt you’ve had trauma in your life, but the court is aware that many people suffer trauma...and the number people who suffer sexual abuse and then go on to commit it isn’t what the public thinks. It’s actually very low.

The fact that Gillies created child pornography and shared it, as well as consuming it made his crimes worse.

“You were part of an industry that defiles children.

“You were a user and the industry exists because people like you use it. It’s a supply and demand situation.”

Bakker said she thought of the children who were victims of child pornography who hadn’t been identified in this case.

She said that Gillies should continue trying to rehabilitate himself during a prison sentence.

“I don’t believe that your program of rehabilitation can’t continue because the court determines that your sentence should consist of incarceration.”

Gillies must also pay $500 court costs as part of his sentence and be subject to lifetime monitoring as a sex offender.

As part of a plea agreement, three counts of using a computer to commit a crime were dismissed at the sentencing hearing.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com.

.

Kaechele Publications, Inc.
241 Hubbard St.
P.O. Box 189
Allegan, MI 49010
Phone: 269-673-5534
Fax: 269-673-5535

Meet the staff

The Union Enterprise
P.O. Box 483
Plainwell, MI 49080
269-673-5534

The Commercial Record
3217 Blue Star Hwy.
P.O. Box 246
Saugatuck, MI 49453
269-857-8187 or 269-857-4637

Comment Here