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Paralyzed neighborhood watchman gets prison in sex case

Published June 23, 2012 10:15 pm

Court • Victim says she is "still troubled and dealing with the pain he caused me."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A man paralyzed in a Bluffdale neighborhood watch shooting has been sentenced to prison for up to 10 years for having a sexual relationship with an underage neighbor.

David Serbeck, 39, sat silently in his wheelchair Friday as 3rd District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills handed down the sentence, admonishing the man for never taking responsibility for his crime.

Prosecutors say Serbeck groomed a 17-year-old neighbor in the summer of 2007, exploiting her trouble with depression and having sex with her three times in his Magna home.

"I am still troubled and dealing with the pain he caused me," the victim, now 22, said in court. "I would feel comforted to know that he is not able to hurt me or anyone else. He may look powerless now, but I know he still could be a threat to me or others."

Defense attorney D. Scott Berrett asked for Friday's sentencing to be postponed because of concerns he had about Serbeck's mental health. Serbeck was lucid on the witness stand in March when he proclaimed his innocence and characterized the case against him as a crush gone bad. But in recent weeks, Berrett said Serbeck had been unable to assist in his own defense.

"When I go to see him at the jail, he doesn't remember our prior conversation," Berrett said. "The last time I saw him, he didn't know who I was."

Berrett said he would look at the judge's decision to proceed with the sentencing anyway as possible grounds for an appeal.

Hruby-Mills sentenced Serbeck to up to five years on each of three third-degree felony counts of unlawful sex with a minor. Two of those counts will run back to back for a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The victim's mother took her daughter's trembling hand in her own and patted it gently. As Berrett helped push Serbeck back into a holding cell, the mother told the young woman, "He did this to himself."

"It's sad," the daughter said after the hearing. "How can you not feel sorry for someone who's going through what he's going through? I'm just glad it's all done and over with. Now everyone can move on."

Serbeck was shot and paralyzed in July 2009 by fellow neighborhood-watch advocate Reginald Campos. Serbeck was patrolling the neighborhood and had apparently frightened Campos' daughter when he followed her car, which matched the description of a suspicious vehicle. At trial in 2010, Campos claimed he fired in self-defense, but a jury convicted him. He was sentenced to up to life in prison.

Neither Serbeck nor Campos — who did not know each other — was part of any organized, sanctioned neighborhood-watch group, but both had expressed an interest in stopping crime in the area.

Serbeck's victim said she came forward with her story after seeing news reports of the shooting because she believed Serbeck had been stalking Campos' daughter.

afalk@sltrib.com