Winfield could avoid jail on accosting charge
ALPENA — Former Alpena Public Schools teacher Heather Winfield, last month convicted by a jury of accosting a child for immoral purposes, faces up to 17 months’ incarceration — or no jail time at all, according to Michigan sentencing guidelines.
She will have to register as a sex offender for 25 years.
Winfield returns to court for sentencing on Nov. 12.
A jury found Winfield guilty of accosting, enticing, or soliciting the child to commit an immoral, indecent, or depraved act after one of her former students said he and the teacher had a sexual relationship when he was between 11 and 13 years old. The jury acquitted her on charges of first-degree sexual assault.
The offense of accosting a child for immoral purposes carries a possible sentence of up to four years, but, with no prior high-severity felony convictions, state guidelines call for Judge Roy Hayes to sentence Winfield to zero to 17 months.
Michigan judges do not have to adhere to sentencing guidelines.
A sentence on the upper end of the guidelines would mean Winfield would spend time in state prison, as convicts typically remain in county jail no more than 12 months.
Winfield’s attorneys, Alan Curtis and Matt Wojda, believe Winfield will fall within the zero- to six-month sentencing range. Should she be sentenced to jail time, they see no reason she would not serve that time in the Alpena County Jail, they said on Tuesday.
Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski would not comment on a potential sentence in Winfield’s case.
Jurors issued their verdict on Sept. 23 after 17 hours of deliberation at the close of a nearly three-week trial.
Police first arrested Winfield in January 2019. Her trial was repeatedly delayed while attorneys sought more time to review evidence and because of the coronavirus pandemic.