Former police officer takes plea deal in sexual assault case

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PROVO -- A former Provo police officer will be put on the sex offender registry and could face prison time after admitting to groping a woman after a traffic accident last July. Jeffery Westerman took a plea deal in court Thursday where he pleaded guilty to third-degree felony attempted forcible sexual abuse and obstruction of justice.

A 29-year-old woman from California was visiting Utah on vacation when she was involved in a small traffic accident on July 22. She later filed a complaint, saying Westerman wouldn't let her leave for an hour and threatened to take her to jail unless she lifted her shirt. He then groped her. Former officer Westerman denied the allegations, but video surveillance later backed up her claim as to what happened.

Provo police then fired Westerman, who has since been working on a plea deal with prosecutors.

Wednesday, Westerman told the judge he was guilty of groping the woman after he threatened to arrest her for DUI if she didn't give in to his demands.

Prosecutor Craig Johnson said, "You can imagine the fright and fear of being in that situation, your car being taken by an officer and you being asked to perform sexual acts. That's what happened here, he admitted to that today, even though at the time he lied about it."

The plea deal includes a lesser charge, but there is no agreement as to what sentence Westerman could receive.

Johnson calls what happened an extreme abuse of authority, saying they went after Westerman aggressively to get him off the streets. He also says the victim will now be able to start healing.

"Her mental health is going to be a lot better. It's been quite stressful, as you can imagine, going up against a former police officer in kind of a he-said-she-said thing," said Johnson.

Defense attorney Rebecca H. Skordas asked the judge to give Westerman time to have a mental and psychosexual evaluation before he's sentenced in February to give them a better idea of why he acted the way he did.

"To go from being a respected and recognized police officer to this, it's just tragic," said Skordas.

Skordas says Westerman had no previous criminal history and had an excellent record with the police department and had been recognized for his service to the community.

She believes a mental breakdown, was a factor in the assault, but his actions disgraced Provo Police and violated the public's trust.

Westerman remains free, but will face up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 3. He will also be on the state's sex offender registry for the next 10 years, and his career as a law enforcement officer is permanently over.

Prosecutors say the victim may travel to Utah to speak at Westerman's sentencing.


Story compiled with contributions from Sam Penrod and Randall Jeppesen.

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