For more than 20 years Michael Huber had been an example of high Christian morals and devotion to community and children. He was sentenced last week in a Pasadena courtroom to four years and eight months in prison for child pornography.
Before being arrested, the La Crescenta resident spoke to church groups and PTA audiences, impressing them with his compassion and his understanding of today's youth. He spoke and everyone listened. That was not the case Monday, when he sat and listened to former friends ask him why he had taken their trust and victimized their children.
Huber, 50, a former church youth leader and volunteer coach for the water polo team at Crescenta Valley High School, was arrested late last year and charged with six felony counts of using a minor under the age of 14 for creating obscene material, two misdemeanor counts of possession of child pornography, and two misdemeanor counts of annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18. He was released after posting 10 percent of his $140,000 bail and was being electronically monitored at a Crescenta Valley house. On April 13, Huber accepted a plea bargain agreement by pleading no contest to the charges and surrenderingto authorities. It was also a time for victims and their families to confront him.
Huber entered the courtroom and never looked at any of the victims or their families.
"I trusted you," one of the victim's mother said during the victim impact statement session. "You show no sign of repentance…. You used us, used so many people all for self-serving gratification."
For many of the families Huber had offered hope for their sons. A friend and business partner of Huber's, who asked to remain anonymous for legal reasons, said Huber helped many of the boys plan for college and the future. He said part of Huber's life was in the shadows.
"He liked the swimmer's body," said the friend, who added that Huber hid this from him and from many who knew him.
"You and I go back a lot of years," the stepfather of one of the victims said. "It was easy for you to look at me when I was buying you lunch or giving you a check. You always looked me right in the eye … You were part of our family but you really should have been a professional actor ? you fooled the police department, the schools and the church."
He then added that Huber was performing even in court. "Once you entered the courthouse, you walked through the metal detectors, your shoulders slumped and you became the victim," the man said.
Many victims commented on how Huber still blamed others for his behavior, not admitting to his acts.
Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station Detective Richard Lutz said Huber took photographs of his victims in very suggestive poses. "He essentially paid some minors to take pictures," Lutz said. "Some of them thought it was for a legitimate purpose."
Joanna Troy had made charges similar to the ones Huber pleaded no contest to this week this against Huber almost 20 years ago as the mother of a 7-year-old boy. Huber had been a Big Brother of Los Angeles. Her son had mentioned inappropriate behavior, but Troy, like many who knew Huber, could not believe Huber was capable of such crimes. She soon believed her son and started a long and lonely journey to convince others of his guilt.
"I went to the church, with a doctor and other friends and told them of my suspicions," Troy said. "Mike told everyone that I was crazy and just out to get him," Troy said.
The church, First Baptist Church of La Crescenta, reported the charges to the Glendale Police Department. "We followed church policy," church spokesman Ron Moen said.
The police took a report and conducted an investigation but did not find enough evidence to warrant a charge, Moen said. The church was satisfied with the investigation. Troy said she reported an incident involving the discharge of a handgun in Huber's possession and her son's presence The investigation was closed due to lack of evidence, Troy said.
"What was he doing with a gun in his home? He was a youth leader," she said.
Troy said she continued to call attention to Huber's case to no avail. She contacted the Big Brothers of Los Angeles, who informed her that the records were not kept past 1999.
"They told me they had no record of my son even being involved with Big Brother," Troy said.
Big Brothers, who are now known as Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Los Angeles, researched the incident and said Huber was "in all probability" a Big Brother and was assigned to Troy's son, Big Brother President John Kobara said. Kobara was a Big Brother at the time. He said he does not remember Troy's son but has talked to some who do.
The reports and the incident were forgotten by all but Troy. Huber was made a youth leader at the First Baptist Church and assistant coach of the CVHS water polo team. CVHS officials say they were unaware of any prior incident or charges.
Troy said Huber's conviction brings her no peace. She said these victims could have been saved had someone believed her and her son. Her sister, Jeanne Neary, was allowed to confront Huber in court. She told of her sister and nephew's years of pain as Troy wept in the courtroom. She spoke of the victims who could have been saved.
"I am so sorry," Neary said to the victim's families.
Troy is trying to move past the pain and has started a non-profit organization called, Restoring Youthful Hearts Inc. She wants it to be a safe haven for children who have been abused and need help. Anyone who is interested in contributing or anyone who needs help can call (866) 309-0019.