HOUGHTON - A Hancock man could spend up to four years in prison after being convicted of stealing a Hancock woman's purse from her home at the end of a two-day trial in Houghton County Circuit Court Friday.
A jury took 3 hours, 20 minutes to find Michael Hylton, 19, guilty of larceny in a building. He was acquitted of the more serious crime of first-degree home invasion, a 20-year felony.
Hylton reacted angrily at the guilty verdict, turning to look at the jury before burying his head in his hands.
Daily Mining Gazette/Garrett Neese
Michael Hylton of Hancock, far right, reacts as verdicts are read in his Houghton County Circuit Court trial Friday. Hylton was found guilty of larceny in a building for a November theft in Hancock, but was acquitted of first-degree home invasion.
Jurors were instructed to deliberate first on the home invasion charge. Only after not being able to reach a guilty verdict could they begin deliberation on the count of larceny.
After half an hour, the jurors asked to rehear two 911 calls Helen Kotila made on the day of the theft. The call included Kotila's statement that "two little boys" had come to her door.
The jury also sought clarification on whether or not the sheltered front porch counted as the home. Judge Charles Goodman read the legal definition of a "dwelling" to the jury; whether or not the porch met that standard was a factual decision the jurors would have to decide for themselves, he said.
"We're pleased with the verdict," said Prosecuting Attorney Michael Makinen. "There was a significant issue on the question of permission to enter. And there were difficulties in the proofs because of Helen Kotila's age and her ability to recall. She was clearly wronged, and the jury found that, and we're pleased with the result."
Hylton's attorney, David Gemignani, declined to comment.
Hylton was charged with stealing a purse from Kotila's home on Nov. 11. The court heard testimony from Corey Hansen, who is serving a one-year sentence for home invasion at the same house. On that day, he testified, he and Hylton went to Kotila's home. When he found Kotila awake, he asked for a drink of water; as he was standing at the door, he said, Hylton walked in and took the purse.
In a police statement, Hylton said the closest he had come to entering the home was coming to knock on the front door to see what was taking Hansen so long. While he took $7 Hansen had taken from Kotila, he hadn't known where the money came from at the time and never spent it, he said.
"Michael Hylton's innocence requires you to find that walking the trail, Corey Hansen manages to get the purse out of wherever he's hidden it, dig through it, find money, give it to Mr. Hylton, and Mr. Hylton doesn't know it's stolen from Helen (Kotila)," Makinen asked in his closing statement.
Gemignani pointed to inconsistencies in statements Hansen had given to police, as well as statements he had allegedly made to fellow inmates saying he wanted to get Hylton into trouble as payback for incriminating him in another crime.
The only fully credible witness the prosecution had was Kotila, he said, and her testimony wasn't conclusive.
"There was never an identification from her, or a description of Mr. Hylton given by her," she said. "The 911 tape was 'two little boys.' When she testified, it was one boy."
After the verdict, Hylton was remanded to the custody of the Houghton County Sheriff's Department. He is expected to be sentenced later this month.