Victim of abuse says guard's sentence brought 'no closure'

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SALT LAKE CITY — Several victims were outraged Tuesday over the sentence for a former Utah jail guard, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting female inmates.

Former Wasatch County Deputy and jail guard, Christopher Epperson, will no longer be able to work in law enforcement. His attorney said he has two kids and a baby on the way. However, one of the victims, Deb Hatch, said when the sentencing came down she received no closure.

"They might as well just have kept us both in jail or in prison because that's what this is like," Hatch said. "I'm a prisoner in my own home."

Hatch has been out of jail since January 2011, but she said she feels she can't get away.

"I'm awake most nights," Hatch said. "When I'm awake, I have nightmares. I wake up and my whole body hurts."

Hatch said the day she entered the Wasatch County jail in March 2010, the sexual abuse by Epperson began. She said it started with inappropriate comments and then she said it escalated.

"How many times do you think he touched you?"

"I have no idea," Hatch said.

Epperson faced five counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. He pleaded guilty to two counts.

"Most certainly he feels badly that he didn't act more prudently," said Epperson's attorney, Steven Killpack.

Killpack claims unsupported allegations were made by the victims. Epperson received no jail time but was sentenced to three years probation and 8 months of house arrest — a punishment Killpack believes is fair.

"He had requested a transfer out of there," Killpack said. "He was trying to be a good officer, a new officer, a young man and trying to do it right, but felt like he wasn't given the proper tools and as a result made some mistakes."

However, state prosecutors disagree and said Epperson used his position of trust to coerce and control the victims. But in court, the judge questioned Hatch's credibility.

Sam said, "This case is fraught with 'she said, he said.' It's fraught with the possibility of conduct that was lured, encouraged and invited."

"I think he deserves to go through half of what me and Julie have and what my family has gone through," Hatch said. "We're taught to go to police officers and everything will be ok. If anyone hurts you, if anybody touches you go to a police officer and everything will be ok."

The executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault said it matters even more to the case that the victims were inmates because they're more vulnerable, and they can't legally give consent.


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