Ex-bishop sent to jail for sexual misconduct, lewdness with teens

Ex-bishop sent to jail for sexual misconduct, lewdness with teens

(Salt Lake County Jail)

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WEST JORDAN — After his Latter-day Saint bishop inappropriately touched him in 2016, it took a Draper teenager two years to tell his parents what had happened.

“Keep in mind, I thought he was my friend,” his mother remembers her son saying when he finally came forward.

The words are seared in her memory, she told a judge in a West Jordan courtroom on Tuesday, saying her son kept the secret for so long "because he just didn’t know what to do.”

Moments later, 3rd District Judge Katherine Bernards-Goodman sentenced Jeffrey Byron Head, 54, to four months in jail and four years of probation in the case that has divided his Draper community. He was given credit for the 45 days he has already served.

Ahead of the sentencing hearing, more than a dozen of his friends and family members sent letters in support of Head, including former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, his brother-in-law.

In April, a jury found Head guilty of attempted forcible sexual abuse, a third-degree felony, and sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, after prosecutors said Head went to the boy's house and asked to see a recent surgery to his genitals before the teen pulled his pants down and Head inappropriately touched him.

The same teen reported Head also rubbed his shoulders and placed the boy's hand on Head's thigh during an outing to buy milkshakes in 2016, court documents show.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it removed Head from his position, notified police after the allegations surfaced and emphasized that abuse of any kind cannot be tolerated.

In the weeks since the jury returned its verdicts, the Draper teenager and his family have been preparing to move away from the neighborhood in order to distance themselves from him.

But the young man, now 19, believes his family shouldn't have to find a new home.

"He has stated over and over that Jeff should have to move, not us," his mother said.

The judge agreed. She asked whether there is a for-sale sign outside Head's home, "because they are correct. He should be the one to move.”


Head was also convicted in April of two counts of lewdness, a class B misdemeanor, after a different boy told police that Head would discuss sex "all the time" and drove him home from a church activity in August 2017, but locked the doors and insisted they discuss masturbation, court documents state. Their discussion continued about a week later when Head came to that boy's house unannounced and the two sat on the teen's bed.

That boy declined to attend Tuesday's hearing, where his mother told the judge he has been "shunned, ignored and gossiped about by many so-called friends and even church leaders in our area." Once a star athlete and a young leader in their church, he has withdrawn from sports, let his grades tank and has lost conviction in his faith, she said.

Both teens are battling anxiety and seeing counselors, according to their mothers, who called them courageous and said their families had trusted Head. The Deseret News typically does not identify victims of sexual crimes and is withholding the names of the boys' mothers for that reason.

The judge told the parents the abuse was not their fault and emphasized that a jury believed their sons.

A religious post like Head's requires extra care to be appropriate, and the type of behavior he engaged in is "highly offensive when it's someone in a position of special trust," Bernards-Goodman said.

A third boy had told investigators that Head was "really touchy feely" but did not report being victimized, a statement the judge seemed to reference Tuesday.

"I don't care if presidents are touchy-feely," Bernards-Goodman said. "It’s not OK."

A shackled Head apologized "for the pain and suffering I’ve caused" and said he'd had a higher obligation as an ecclesiastical leader.

Prosecutor Brett Keeler had argued for prison time, in part because Head could get better sex offender treatment there than in jail.

“These boys should have been completely safe with the defendant, and they were not," Keeler said. "He has not recognized the reality of what he did.”

I don't care if presidents are touchy-feely. It’s not OK.

–3rd District Judge Katherine Bernards-Goodman

Head's attorney, Scott Williams, argued in court filings that Utah's sentencing guidelines recommend just 60 days of jail, followed by probation. He said his client has no criminal history, has not minimized his crimes and had no role in backlash against his victims.

Hughes, who plans to enter the 2020 race for governor in coming months, attended the Tuesday hearing but would not comment except to say "he's family" before getting in an elevator.

In a letter to the judge, Hughes said he met Head 28 years ago when both men were dating two sisters who later became their wives. He called Head “someone I respect and love. I have never once felt concerned for the welfare of my three children when in the company of Jeff.”

In addition to his ecclesiastical post, Head dedicated his time to public service as Draper’s planning commissioner, Hughes added.

“He has always been a hard worker and engaged in efforts that were bigger than himself or his self-interests,” Hughes wrote. “While I do not recognize or understand the circumstances that have brought Jeff and our family to this moment in time, I write to you as part of the same process to express my appreciation and respect for Jeff Head."


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