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Utah Olympic gold medalist takes plea deal in sexual battery case

Olympic gold medalist Jimmy Shea, pictured in this February 2012 photo, pleaded guilty in Utah on Thursday to two counts of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, involving a child.

Olympic gold medalist Jimmy Shea, pictured in this February 2012 photo, pleaded guilty in Utah on Thursday to two counts of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, involving a child. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)



PARK CITY — A Utah resident and Olympic gold medal winner accused of sexually abusing a child has admitted to lesser charges as part of a plea deal that spares him jail time.

James "Jimmy" Edmond Shea, 52, pleaded guilty Thursday in Summit County's 3rd District Court to two counts of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, court records show. In exchange for his guilty pleas and as part of a plea bargain, prosecutors agreed to recommend two years of probation instead of jail time.

Judge Richard Mrazik agreed to follow that recommendation and sentenced Shea immediately after he pleaded guilty last week. Mrazik also ordered an evaluation that will determine Shea's risk of reoffending and issued a no-contact order barring him from getting in touch with the victim.

He admitted he either knew or should have known his behavior toward a preteen girl would "likely cause affront or alarm," court records say. He was originally charged with smacking or hitting the girl's buttocks, in addition to other sorts of inappropriate touching, according to court documents.

Shea originally faced an additional charge that carries the potential of prison time. Prosecutors agreed to drop the count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, in exchange for his guilty pleas.

In a letter submitted to the court, the girl wrote she was confused the first time it happened and later became terrified as the touching progressed.

"I feel like this experience will scar me for the rest of my life," she wrote in a victim impact statement. She said the experience made her scared to speak with boys or male teachers, leaving her depressed and not wanting to go to school or participate in sports.

The girl's mother said she hopes her daughter can find closure and begin to heal, and that Shea gets the help he needs.

"I am just so proud of my brave girl for having whatever it is inside her be strong enough to stand up for herself and not let this keep happening to her," the mother wrote.

The girl's mother praised the Children's Justice Center that supports Utah's child victims.

"I didn't really understand how this amazing entity existed for our community and I wanted to say how grateful I am to them," she said.

Defense attorney Rudy Bautista reiterated Tuesday that nothing his client did was for sexual gratification and that he patted the girl to hurry her along.

He said the outcome is favorable for his client, allowing Shea to avoid the possibility of an unfavorable jury verdict, although Bautista said he believes a jury would have ruled in Shea's favor. His client didn't try to lie about his behavior, he said.

"It was simply that it wasn't anything done for sexual gratification. And looking back, he decided to take the plea deal because it avoids the risk of trial and uncertainties of it, but it also lets him acknowledge that he should have known that it would cause alarm," Bautista said. "And with that, he learned his lesson from this and is looking forward to moving forward in his life, and hoping that everyone can as well."

Bautista said his client is serving court probation, which is less stringent than formal supervision requiring constant check-ins with probation officers.

Shea won a gold medal in skeleton racing at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

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