Malm convicted on all 3 counts of sexual abuse
Malm, 53, of Cleveland Township, will be sentenced on Aug. 27. If 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Power follows sentencing guidelines, Malm would get a minimum of at least 9 years to a maximum of life in prison for each count, which will be served concurrently, said Douglas J. Donaldson, chief assistant prosecutor for Leelanau County, who tried the case.
“I’m pleased for the young lady that she was vindicated,” Donaldson said. “I hope for the best for her in her future. I think the jury carefully considered the facts and reached the right decision.”
William Burdette, Malm’s court-appointed attorney did not return calls to the Enterprise.
Layton Korson, 19, was a juror in the trial. A civil engineering student at Northwestern Michigan College, Korson took several pages of notes during the trial.
“There was lots of information and lots of witnesses,” Korson said. “It’s just a lot to take in.”
During deliberation every juror had a lot to say, Korson said. It was a job that none of them took lightly.
“Just the severity of it, we wanted to be sure that we made the right decision,” he said.
With no physical evidence, jurors had to rely on testimony, Korson said. Both Malm and the victim, as well as several others involved in the case, testified during the trial. Korson said he had a unique perspective, being just a few years older than the 15-year-old victim.
“Most of the other jurors were looking at her as an adult or as a parent,” he said. “I was able to look at her as more of a peer. Being a teenager myself I could see that it was the truth and that she was sincere.”
Donaldson declined to comment on Malm’s testimony, but said the victim did a very good job.
“She was brave, she was honest, she was sincere and the jury obviously was able to perceive that,” Donaldson said.
Malm turned down a plea agreement that would have allowed him to plead guilty to one count of CSC, third degree, which has a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, Donaldson said. Charges were filed against Malm in May, after allegations of sexual abuse were made by the victim, who had been living with Malm. He has been in custody since then.
The victim was removed from the home in February, and has been living in a foster home.
The victim had been living with Malm on and off since she was 2 years old. When she was 4 or 5, the victim had reported to an adult that Malm touched her, Donaldson said. An abuse and neglect petition was filed at that time and she was removed from the home, he said. That petition was eventually dismissed and the prosecutor’s office agreed not to pursue charges if Malm would agree to give up custody, he said. Malm had supervised visitation rights, but supervision details were never clarified and Malm had more and more contact with the child, including overnight and weekend stays, Donaldson said. He again got full custody when the victim was 14, he said.
Brooke Nettz, executive director of the Traverse Bay Child Advocacy Center, said conviction of a child sex offender is the culmination of hard work by an entire team of people, including police, child protective services workers, prosecutors, foster care agencies and medical and mental health professionals — as well as the people who care for the child. Nettz said she’d like to see more offenders brought to justice.
“We would like to see the offender be held responsible for their own actions and prevent them from being able to harm other children,” she said. “It’s important to balance the prosecution with supporting the victim without causing further harm and trauma to the child.”
Nettz said it takes a great deal of courage and perseverance for a young person to come forward and testify.
“We can’t emphasize enough how diffi cult it is for a child to make a disclosure and go through the court process,” she said. “These children are truly heroic and that needs to be recognized, as well the important role that the non-offending caregivers play in supporting the child throughout the court and healing process.”
Dave Taghon, of Empire, took on the role of jury foreman during deliberations.
“It was a gut-wrenching case,” Taghon said. “You know the consequences of your decision and I think we all respected that responsibility we were given. It’s just one of the things you’re obligated to do in life.”
Though there was more discussion afterward, Taghon said that an initial vote in the deliberation room had all 12 jurors finding Malm guilty.
“I was amazed, “ Taghon said. “I thought it would be a long process because it was his word against hers.”
Taghon said all of jurors thought the victim was well-spoken and that the witnesses who testified were very credible.
In contrast, Malm’s testimony was difficult to hear and punctuated with answers such as “I guess so” and shoulder shrugs.
“His general defense was that everyone else was lying,” Taghon said. “It was just a general consensus that we didn’t see anything other than guilt.”