CLEARFIELD – Emotions were high Tuesday during a sentencing hearing for a Karthaus man accused of having sex with a student in his office at the West Branch School last year.
Michael William Narehood, 24, signed a plea agreement to charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, school intercourse/sex with student, corruption of minors and indecent assault in connection to the incident that occurred May 10, 2019 while he was employed as a technology coordinator.
In reviewing the open plea in court Tuesday, Senior Deputy Attorney General Simquita Bridges, stated that it was not what she would have done with this case, but she had to go along with it.
The plea agreement was reached before Narehood’s trial in October with former District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr.
The case was later transferred to the Attorney General’s office because of a conflict with current DA Ryan Sayers, who previously defended Narehood.
Prior to sentencing, several people from the packed courtroom spoke on Narehood’s behalf.
His cousin said he is very helpful to his family who “all adore him,” adding that he helped set up everyone’s computer so that they could have a virtual Easter visit.
His aunt stated that he has never been in trouble in his life prior to this and commented that he “made a wrong choice,” but this was an isolated incident.
She also mentioned how helpful his technology skills were in setting up her home so she could work there and he made it possible for a church to have virtual services.
In a twist from most hearings, both the victim and her mother spoke in support of Narehood.
The victim, who was often harassed at school due to an alleged prior case of molestation, explained she found encouragement and a friend in Narehood when no one else would help her.
“He isn’t a threat,” she said. “He is a good, kind, caring person.”
She admitted that while Narehood was incarcerated on this case, she decided to take her own life. She sent a message to him that was received by his family who sent the authorities to her house.
“Without them I would not be standing here today.”
One of Narehood’s defense attorneys, Steven Trialonas, told Judge Paul Cherry that not many defendants “have such a strong show of support” from their families, friends and colleagues who were willing to stake their reputations on him.
He pointed to Narehood’s lack of a criminal record and referred to the crime as a “profound lapse in judgment.”
Trialonas stated that Narehood was taking responsibility; open to rehabilitation and according to an expert’s report, his chances of committing a similar crime was “very, very low.”
Encouraging Cherry to sentence Narehood on the statutory sexual assault charge because it best summed up “what happened here,” he said the open plea gave the judge “broad discretion,” as he was free to impose sentence on any of the charges.
Narehood himself spoke apologizing to the victim and his own family, saying he takes full responsibility for his actions. “My intentions were to help her, never to harm her.”
Before announcing the sentence, Cherry commented that this was “a very difficult decision” but noted that Narehood had violated his trust with the girl.
“You were not thinking of anyone that day except yourself.”
He went on to say that Narehood “let your family down.”
Cherry then responded to Trialonas’ comments on the charges.
When you enter an open plea, it is in the discretion of the court on the charges you pleaded guilty to and it is not for the court to “pick and choose,” he said because he has sentencing guidelines to consider.
Cherry then admitted he was expecting to give Narehood a “considerable sentence” but changed his mind based on all the letters he received in support of Narehood and the people who spoke for him.
Cherry then sentenced Narehood to a total of three to six years in state prison with three years consecutive probation.
He is not able to work in any position overseeing children and he is to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18 or the victim. He must also register his address with authorities under Megan’s Law.
As the sentence was read, a few family members and the victim broke into tears, at times sobbing loudly while the sentencing rights were read. The families comforted each other.
After Narehood was taken out, the victim collapsed onto the floor for a short time before the courtroom was cleared.