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Earth Treks Instructor Faces Four Years in Child Sex Abuse Case

Michael J. Lyons will serve four years of a 15-year sentence.

With credit for time already served, former Earth Treks climbing instructor Michael J. Lyons, convicted of sexual abuse of a 14-year-old student, will serve a total of four years in prison.

Lyons, 31 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to one count of child sexual abuse on Nov. 30 after he was accused of having sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl who was a member of a competitive rock climbing team he coached.

Howard County Circuit Judge Louis Becker Friday sentenced Lyons to 15 years with all but four years suspended. He is credited with serving 221 days and will serve an additional three-plus years.

Lyons was charged with one count of the sex abuse of a minor, three counts of third-degree sex offense and one count of the sexual solicitation of a minor, according to court documents.

Daniel Lloyd Montague, 20, a second Earth Treks instructor charged with having sexual contact with the same girl, pleaded guilty at a December trial and was given an 18-month suspended sentence.

The two instructors had sexual contact with the girl from March to June 2011, according to court documents and testimony.

While Montague will not have to register as a sex offender, Lyons will, Becker ruled Friday.

In an emotional statement, the victim's mother told the court that she believes the actions of Lyons stripped her daughter of her innocence.

"I feel like I have let her down," the woman said.

Patch's policy is that it will not name the minor nor her mother to protect the victim's identity.

The distraught mother said she was appalled at graphic details of the case published by media outlets and said she was proud of her daughter for speaking up.

"My daughter is not to blame," she said.

Prosecutor Susan Weinstein called the victim a "young and impressionable girl."

"She is a victim here — a true victim of a horrible crime that Mr. Lyons has inflicted here," she told the court.

Lyons exploited the girl's desire to have people like her, Weinstein said.

The state had asked for a 15-year sentence with all but eight years suspended.

Defense attorney Mary Pizzo suggested in her comments to the court that perhaps the judge would entertain a probation-before-judgment ruling, which would allow Lyons to avoid the sex offender registry.

She categorized her client as a young man who, previous to this crime, was a "straight arrow" without so much as a traffic ticket.

Pizzo emphasized that there was no force, violence or coercion in this case.

"He knows that he failed in his responsibility to (the victim)," Pizzo said.

In delivering his sentence, Becker talked of the many "troubling circumstances" of the case.

The case was not a "simple, easy" one as far as sentencing, and he told the courtroom that it was his responsibility to weigh all of the many aspects of the case.

He said he believes there is nothing in Lyons' background to suggest he's a sexual predator but that he also had to weigh what Lyons did to a minor whose parents entrusted her care and custody to him.

"I'm here to fulfill legal obligations," Becker said.

In addition to the four years of incarceration, Lyons will face a five-year supervised probation period upon his release. He will also face other conditions, including an order to have no contact with the victim.

State sentencing guidelines, which take into consideration a variety of factors such as whether the victim sustained injuries and whether a weapon was present, called for four to nine years in this case, according to Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the Howard County State's Attorney's Office.

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