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Investigation: Sex Offenders Getting Light Sentences

   |  Posted Feb 15th, 2007 @ 10:19pm



 

Debbie Dujanovic Reporting
Produced by Kelly Just

Sex crimes in Utah -- the statistics are shocking. There are 10,000 new sex victims in our state during the last three years. Legislators have passed laws providing harsh punishment for sex-offenders, but Investigative Reporter Debbie Dujanovic found evidence that even the more severe offenders are not always being punished.

During another investigation on sex offenders, we noticed a disturbing pattern, so we pulled 100 cases from all over Utah and found a significant percentage were getting sentences that might be considered very little punishment at all.

Carrie Parker, Victim: "It killed my childhood. He took advantage of me as a child, innocent, believing he was someone I should trust."

The offender was her fourth-grade teacher, James E. Wind. He could have spent a year and a half behind bars. His actual sentence consisted of apology letters to his victims, treatment, and 90 days in jail.

Carrie Parker: "I have to live with this the rest of my life."

Carrie's story is just one example of a pattern we uncovered of unspeakable acts against children and offenders getting a lot less punishment than what you might expect. For sodomizing a child, William Crandall could have spent three decades in prison, but he got no prison, no jail, probation. He re-offended four years later.

Richard Wayne Williams handcuffed two girls, sexually abused them and also faced 30 years in prison. He got five months in jail.

There was a possible five-year prison term for Howard Johnson, who had sex with a boy he met online. He got 90 days in jail.

Janie Sorenson had sex with a high school student and faced five years inside a cell. Instead, probation with zero time served.

Then there's Joseph Record. In 1998 he was convicted of fondling two young girls. He faced five years in prison and got 63 days in jail. On probation he racked up a list of violations: he exposes himself in public, contacts his victim, drives a busload of Utah kids around, was labeled a serial pedophile by his therapist. Straight to prison? No, six months in jail.

It took eight years, but Record is finally in prison, busted in November on federal kiddie porn charges.

Are these criminals getting breaks? Not necessarily. Prosecutors say they're sometimes forced to make deals because of evidence problems, victims who won't testify, things beyond their control. But we dug deeper and found a report no one seems to know about. It suggests there's something else swaying sentences.

Bob Yeates: "The number of beds shouldn't control a sentence."

Bob Yeates spent years on the bench. Before he and other judges hand out punishments, the prison gets to evaluate the criminal, the crime and recommend a sentence. But that study we showed him takes aim at those recommendations.

Bob Yeates: "Concerning? It is concerning." Concerning because prosecutors say they've been told by corrections employees the prison "is going to recommend probation, regardless of what the person did, because there's no room at the prison."

Bob Yeates: "They need to provide beds for offenders who need to be in prison."

Tom Patterson: "If true, it would concern me greatly."

Tom Patterson is the new head of the state prison system. That study is news to him.

Tom Patterson: "If, in fact, I were to find out that somebody was factoring in bed space as part of those evaluations, it would need to be addressed."

Patterson reviewed our sex offender cases; he was satisfied with how his department handled most of them, but he did have questions about some of the lighter sentences we showed him.

We shared the results of our investigation with several law enforcement officials who agreed the matter needs to be studied. Mr. Patterson at the prison promised he would look into it. We'll keep you updated.

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