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FARMINGTON — A Bountiful gynecologist who sexually abused a 13-year-old girl and streamed video of her as he removed her clothing was ordered Tuesday to what could amount to life in prison.
“I don’t think there can be anything more grave" than Dr. Nathan Ward's actions, 2nd District Judge Thomas Kay said Tuesday, adding he views the 57-year-old doctor's crime as worse than taking a life.
Before sentencing Ward to at least 15 years and up to life in prison, Kay said he believes pornography is the reason for Ward's behavior and an increase in sex crime cases over his more than 20 years on the bench.
"The abundance, the access through the internet and everything else, has had more people looking at pornography in our society and acting it out in a later time," Kay said. "Our society has gotten so much coarser and meaner and worse than it was 20 years ago.”
When Ward first admitted to the charge last year, he had a similar explanation. "Unfortunately, I dabbled with pornography a long time ago and it's something that I've tried to kick, and it has led me down a slippery slope to hell," he said in August.
Ward's time in the Utah State Prison will begin after a different federal sentence of about 22 years he is serving after he admitted to a federal charge of streaming video of the girl as he removed her clothing. In the Utah case, he pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual abuse of the same child, a first-degree felony.
When Ward touched the girl inappropriately in 2012, she had been preparing to graduate eighth grade and turn 14 — a time that should have been carefree, prosecutors argued. Instead, she endured the abuse because she was afraid and didn't know what to do.
"The day you were arrested was the day I finally knew it was over, that I could finally breathe," the victim, now a college student, said Tuesday as she addressed Ward in court, her voice thick with emotion. "That day the weight was lifted from my shoulders and I hope it came crashing down on you. You took too much from me."
The day you were arrested was the day I finally knew it was over, that I could finally breathe. That day the weight was lifted from my shoulders and I hope it came crashing down on you. You took too much from me.
–sex assault victim
Ward had a relationship "of special trust" to the girl. KSL generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
In August, Ward rejected the same sentence, withdrawing his guilty plea when he learned the judge planned to stack the new prison term on top of his time in the federal system in Colorado. But he re-entered the plea in January with the understanding he would again face the original penalty.
Ward, who appeared shackled and in a gray-striped jumpsuit, did not speak during the hearing except to reply "No, your honor," when the judge asked if he wanted to speak. As part of an agreement with prosecutors, four other felonies he faced were dismissed and he agreed to drop his appeal of the federal case.
The mother of the girl he abused said Ward's actions have fractured her family, telling him he "will be the object of horror because of what you’ve done to her," but her daughter is a warrior who will fight to recover.
"We are finally free from your control," she said.
Ward's attorney, Ed Brass, argued the sentence is essentially life without parole, which doesn't fit his client's crimes.
There is no question Ward did "terrible things," Brass said, but he is not a monster. Ward has raised a family who loves him and did so as a single parent, Brass said. What's more, hundreds of patients, if not thousands, loved the care he provided.
The judge acknowledged Ward's contributions but noted his crimes devastated his victim and those close to him. Kay noted Ward may turn 85 or even 93 before he is released, depending on the determinations of parole authorities.
"It would be a life sentence and it should be," said deputy Davis County Attorney Nathan Lyon, "because they’re living with a life sentence.”