CADILLAC — A 29-year-old Cadillac man already in prison took a plea Friday in Wexford County's 28th Circuit Court for his connection with a criminal sexual conduct incident involving a minor.
James Thomas Houghton pleaded no contest to two added counts of third-degree CSC, force, or coercion for his connection with an incident on March 15 in Haring Township. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as one at sentencing. It also permits the court to determine guilt from the review of the police report. He also pleaded guilty to a habitual offender second offense notice which carries a penalty of 1.5 times the maximum sentence.
Houghton faces up to 22.5 years in prison when he is sentenced.
He was originally charged with two counts of first-degree CSC, a person under 13 and defendant 17 or older, which will be dismissed at sentencing as part of the plea. A habitual offender fourth offense notice also will be dismissed as part of the plea.
Houghton was in court via teleconference from Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center where he was taken after it was alleged earlier this year he violated his parole from his part in the March incident.
Wexford County Prosecutor Jason Elmore said a pretrial agreement was reached with the support of the victim's family, but his office was prepared for trial once the court reopens.
"Due to COVID, cases are piling up for trial. A trial could have been six months or more away," he said. "These cases can be very difficult on victims, especially young victims who have to come into court and testify."
The Victims’ Rights Act requires prosecutors to consider the desires of the victim in how to resolve the case, according to Elmore. While it is easy to say all cases should go to trial, Elmore said that is not always possible or the right thing for the victim.
In securing the plea, Elmore said there is a guaranteed conviction, a likely prison sentence, sex offender registration, and a parole violation while at the same time saving the victim and family the hardship of a trial.
Before Friday's plea, Houghton was most recently convicted of operating while intoxicated third offense on Oct. 26, 2018. He was sentenced in December 2018 to 16 months-5 years in prison with credit for time served. Houghton was paroled on Oct. 22, 2019, and was scheduled to be off of parole on April 22, 2021, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections Offender Tracking Information System.