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Steve Griffin, KSL

Rape charge dropped against Latino activist Tony Yapias

By Annie Knox, KSL | Posted - Aug 31st, 2018 @ 4:13pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Prosecutors on Friday dropped a rape charge against a well-known Latino activist, saying they now believe they could not prove the allegation after he provided them with additional evidence.

The alleged victim in the case maintains that sex with Tony Yapias in March 2016 was not consensual, said Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, but ultimately approved a plea bargain for him.

"She would have testified and she would not have changed her story" if the case had gone to trial, Rawlings said Friday in 3rd District Court. "It truly is a 'he said versus she said' case."

Yapias, 52, admitted to reduced charges of keeping the woman in her house for too long and deleting text messages containing evidence from her phone.

Outside the courtroom, he expressed relief.

"I'm glad this whole episode is over," he said.

Rawlings recounted Friday that Yapias went to the home of the woman, even though she had told him not to. After the sexual encounter, they got in his car to go to lunch and Yapias deleted messages between them, Rawlings said.

Yapias on Friday appeared in a black blazer and replied "yes," when Judge Randall Skanchy asked him if Rawlings' description of the events was correct. He has maintained the sex was consensual since he was charged roughly two years ago.

After the hearing, Yapias said he apologizes to the woman, acknowledging the case has been difficult for her and her family, as well as for his own family members and the community he represents. He also expressed gratitude for the support he received from community members, his family and friends.

The longtime activist pleaded guilty to evidence tampering, a class A misdemeanor, and unlawful detention, a class B misdemeanor, on Friday, moments after Rawlings reduced the charges against him. He was originally charged in September 2016 with rape, a first-degree felony, involving a woman he had been dating but who recently broken off their relationship, as well as the evidence tampering charge.

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A longtime voice of Utah's Latino community who has advocated for immigrants' rights, Yapias said he has learned to exercise restraint and stay under the radar over the past two years. It has been a difficult undertaking in the charged national political climate, he said.

"The nice thing about our community here is they always will give us a second chance," said Yapias, whose full name is Adolfo Tony Yapias-Delgado.

Rawlings declined to provide details on the new information that altered his confidence of a rape conviction, saying the case could still go to trial if Yapias withdraws the guilty pleas ahead of his sentencing Oct. 30.

"I believe what he pled to is what we can actually prove," Rawlings said, adding the woman approved of the plea negotiation. "It's not like we did this deal to cave, to roll over."

Rawlings prosecuted the case because Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has close ties to Yapias.

The misdemeanors together carry a possible combined jail sentence of up to a year and a half, but Yapias' attorney Sean Young said he will likely seek probation for his client.

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