Riley County Courthouse May 2016
32 months is the sentence for Manhattan businessman and former Riley County assistant boys’ basketball coach and substitute teacher Zachary Burton.

As previously announced by KMAN, Burton entered a guilty plea to unlawful sexual relations with a female high school student in late September.  Following emotional testimony from both the victim and Burton himself, Riley County District Court Judge Meryl Wilson took five minutes before beginning to explain his reasoning for the nearly three year sentence, with audible sighs at times. Judge Wilson talked about rehabilitation, deterrence, and punishment–and while he saw no evident danger from Burton to the community, he talked about his selfish actions that will have a permanent effect on so many people. The lesson and message he wanted his sentence to portray is that actions have consequences.

The Judge denied probation, telling Burton and his attorney they had a right to appeal. He also told the story of a young child who touches a hot stove and gets burned and said it doesn’t matter if a person is young or old, rich or poor, has good family support or comes from a broken home when determining whether prison is warranted. He also talked about the importance of teachers and coaches and their special place in our society as they protect our most vulnerable asset–children. He also referred to the media’s role in a case with this kind of attention, adding when it comes to general deterrence if what those hear about what he did today makes a difference in even one case, it’s good.

Sr. Deputy Attorney for Riley County Barry Disney and defense attorney Barry Clark had had little to say following the sentencing, with Disney only saying the judge said it all–and Clark saying he respects the judicial system.

(more details to follow)

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