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Rolly: Wasatch prosecutor warns Utah senators he’s coming after them for sex-offender vote

First Published      Last Updated Mar 31 2017 01:01 pm

The Utah Legislature approved a bill this past session giving judges more sentencing discretion in cases in which a defendant had consensual sex with a minor under age 14 if that defendant is under 21.

The measure passed the House 42-31 and the Senate 15-11. Gov. Gary Herbert signed it into law.

It changes slightly the mandatory-minimum requirement of 25 years to life and a lifetime listing on the sex-offender registry for having sex with a minor.

But it now has a deputy in the Wasatch County attorney's office gunning for two senators who voted for the bill and whose districts include parts of his county.

"It appears that you both voted to lower the punishment for child rapists and to allow them to go unregistered on Utah's streets," Deputy Wasatch County Attorney Mckay King wrote in an email to Sens. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, and David Hinkins, R-Orangeville.

"I will make sure that everyone in Wasatch County is aware that you did this. I will make sure that no one forgets that you did this," he warned. "This was bad law, and everyone that I have spoken to agrees. I will make sure they remember to vote accordingly."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, calls it a sensible change that allows a judge some discretion when an 18-year-old "does something stupid" with someone five years younger.

The perpetrator still goes to prison, but a judge can decide to sentence the defendant to 15, 10 or six years to life, depending on the circumstances. And the defendant still would be listed on the sex-offender registry, but not necessarily for life.

Handy noted the bill won endorsements from a victims group, the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice and the Utah attorney general's office. The Statewide Association of Prosecutors remained neutral.

But King has decided Bramble and Hinkins should have a political bounty on their heads. In essence, to paraphrase a line from old Westerns, he's telling the senators that "this county ain't big enough for the three of us."

A constituent who became aware of the email has complained to the Utah elections office because King's email came from a Wasatch County attorney's office account. State law bars the use of government resources for political purposes or to influence the outcome of an election.

King told me (in an email from his personal account), that he sent the email just to the two senators, not to the public. It went out after the election, he noted, so there was no attempt to sway an outcome. Even so, he said, he regrets sending it on a government email account.

Wasatch County Attorney Scott Sweat said the email was not authorized by his office and does not reflect the county attorney's position. Sweat did, however, formally oppose the bill.

"We want the best outcome we can for victims of crime and for the people of Utah," he said. "We want to work with legislators to get the best law we can."

Bridge to nowhere • In all its bureaucratic beauty, the Utah Department of Transportation figured out its own way to build a bridge for no particular reason, spending just under $1 million on a structure that no longer exists.

As UDOT made plans to widen the South Jordan Parkway about 15 years ago, it entered into an agreement with South Jordan to build a pedestrian bridge over 10600 South for students at South Jordan Elementary School, which was near 10600 South and 1300 West.

After all the environmental assessments were completed and the budget approved, the city advised UDOT that the school was about to be closed and a new one was being built several blocks away on 1300 West, so the bridge was unnecessary, according to City Engineer Brad Klavano.

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