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Josh Szymanik, KSL TV, File

Utah teen in high school sexual assault case accepts plea deal

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Updated - Jan 15th, 2019 @ 10:26pm | Posted - Jan 15th, 2019 @ 5:14pm



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SALT LAKE CITY — The case of a 16-year-old Gunnison Valley High School sophomore accused of sexually assaulting multiple students — a case that created turmoil among residents and divided the small southern Utah community — ended in a settlement on Tuesday.

The boy, whom KSL has chosen not to name, was originally charged in Sanpete County's 6th District Juvenile Court with six counts of object rape, a first-degree felony, and five counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.

On Tuesday, as part of the plea deal, the boy admitted to eight counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.

"I feel the resolution was fair. It was a juggling act. In a position like this, you're trying to obtain justice for the victims, but you're also trying to extend mercy to the juvenile suspect," said deputy Sanpete County attorney Wesley Mangum, the lead prosecutor in the case.

The investigation began in September when Gunnison Valley Police Department detective Carl Wimmer began looking into an alleged hazing at Gunnison Valley High School. Police soon discovered, however, that the incident was more than a hazing. And as the investigation continued, more than a dozen students came forward claiming they had also been assaulted by the teen as far back as two years ago, according to prosecutors.

Two other teens accused of participating in the Sept. 17 incident, ages 14 and 15, were each charged with one count of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. Their cases have since been resolved, according to police. All three boys were on the high school football team.

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In October, the 14-year-old boy who says he was the victim of the September sexual assault filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against the South Sanpete School District, the district superintendent, the Gunnison Valley High principal and vice principal, and the school's athletic director, contending they had not done enough to stop ongoing abuse at the high school over the years, dismissing it as high school hazing and with a "boys being boys" attitude.

The case has been emotional on both sides, Mangum said.

"It really caused a division between a lot of members of the community," he admitted.

Mangum, however, praised the work done by Wimmer in bringing justice to the victims.

"He took a lot of flack, a lot of harassment, a lot of persecution in this case doing his job, but I think he did it very well. He did it despite the pressure he was under," Mangum said.

Tuesday afternoon, Gunnison police also posted a statement on social media expressing hope that the community can finally start moving on.

"With the truth having prevailed and justice being served, it is the sincere hope of the Gunnison Valley Police Department that healing can begin. There are lessons to be learned and hurts that need mending and we look forward to continuing to provide the most professional and honorable service possible."

The 16-year-old boy who resolved his case on Tuesday will be sentenced in about eight weeks, Mangum said. Until then, both sides will collect information and prepare reports with sentencing recommendations.

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