Utah Senate votes to close loophole that allowed for early release of brothers involved in the death of a Utah police officer

The bill’s Senate sponsor says it would ensure young people are held ‘accountable’ for their crimes

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) A photo of West Valley City Officer Cody Brotherson was displayed during a memorial ceremony at Fairbourne Station Plaza in West Valley City, Nov. 6, 2017.

The Utah Senate voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a bill that would close a loophole in the state’s juvenile sentencing process that allowed two brothers who were involved in the death of a Utah police officer to be released from prison early.

When the teens were sentenced in July 2017 — after pleading guilty to striking West Valley Police Officer Cody Brotherson with a stolen car as he laid down a set of spike strips — the juvenile court judge recommended they be held for “as long as possible,” until they turned 21.

But a gap in state law led to their premature release after they committed additional offenses in juvenile custody.

They were transferred to the adult correctional system after being charged with assault by a prisoner, and “once they were in the adult system, the original sentence kind of went away and they received the sentence for the second assault that they committed while they were in the juvenile system,” Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City and the bill’s House sponsor, explained in a previous interview.

They were then eligible for parole, which led to their early release.

Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City and the bill’s Senate sponsor, noted that the brothers would have otherwise stayed in juvenile custody until they were 21.

“But because they committed additional offenses, these offenses ironically led to a shorter sentence,” she said.

Christopher Boggs was released last March, while Lawrence Boggs was released in May.

HB67, which passed without debate through the Senate on Wednesday, would ensure “that youth will be held accountable,” Mayne said, by prohibiting a judge from terminating a juvenile disposition if the defendant was convicted of a separate offense. Instead, the judiciary would be allowed to determine whether the additional sentence should be served concurrently or consecutively.

The bill has received the support of the Utah Sentencing Commission and the Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services and previously passed unanimously through the House.

It requires one final procedural vote in the Senate before moving to the governor for his signature or veto.