Southern Utah Man Turns Himself In For Sexual Crimes Against Children

A southern Utah man has been sentenced for his sexual crimes against children after he turned himself him nearly two years ago.

Years of guilt

Hartwig HKD

In October of 2018, Aaron Carthal Schafer of St. George Utah came forward to police to admit he had committed sexual crimes against children. At the time, it does not appear Schafer was a suspect or even remotely on law enforcement’s rader. The reason he came forward was due to years of guilt and a desire to be held accountable for his actions so he could receive the mental help he needed.

Sexual crimes against children

Schafer, who is the father of five children according to social media posts by family members was sentenced this month to multiple sexual crimes against children. He was originally charged with three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and one count of sodomy of a child but the later charged was dropped as he pled guilty to the other three charges.

Sexual abuse of a child

Schafer was sentenced for three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. According to Utah Code 76-5-404.1, “An individual commits sexual abuse of a child if, under circumstances not amounting to rape of a child, object rape of a child, sodomy on a child, or an attempt to commit any of these offenses, the actor touches the anus, buttocks, pubic area, or genitalia of any child, the breast of a female child, or otherwise takes indecent liberties with a child, with intent to cause substantial emotional or bodily pain to any individual or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any individual regardless of the sex of any participant.”

Enhanced aggravated charges

Photo by: Connor Tarter

That section goes on to note that “An individual commits aggravated sexual abuse of a child when . . . any of the following circumstances have been charged and admitted or found true in the action for the offense [along with the above]:
The offense was committed by the use of a dangerous weapon . . . or by force, duress, violence, intimidation, coercion, menace, or threat of harm, or was committed during the course of a kidnapping;

  1. The accused caused bodily injury or severe psychological injury to the victim during or as a result of the offense;
  2. The accused was a stranger to the victim or made friends with the victim for the purpose of committing the offense;
  3. The accused used, showed, or displayed pornography or cause the victim to be photographed in a lewd condition during the course of the offense;
  4. The accused . . . was previously convicted of any sexual offense;
  5. The accused committed the same or similar sexual act upon two or more victims at the same time or during the same course of conduct;
  6. The accused committed . . . more than five separate acts . . . at the same time, or during the same course of conduct, or before or after the instant offense;
  7. The offense was committed by an individual who occupied a position of special trust in relation to the victim;
  8. The accused encouraged, aided, allowed, or benefited from acts of prostitution or sexual acts by the victim with any other individual, or sexual performance by the victim before any other individual, human trafficking, or human smuggling; or
  9. The accused cause the penetration, however slight, or the genital or anal opening of the child by any part or parts of the human body other than the genitals or mouth.”

Public documents do not state who the victims are, however they do note that Schafer abused at least one of the children while showering with them which may indicate it was one of his children. If this is true, this could mean Schaffer was a parent of the victim, or a subsection ‘h’ states “. . .a person of special trust in relation to the victim”. It is unknown exactly which subsection applies specifically to Schafer’s case or if more than one is applicable.

At least 6 years behind bars

While sexual abuse of a child is a second degree felony, punishable by one to 15 years in prison, aggravated sexual abuse is a first degree felony punishable by six years to as long as life in prison. The shorter sentence of six to ten years is applicable as long as the victim did not suffer any serious bodily injuries and the accused is not guilty of any previous“grievous sexual offense. Schafer was sentenced to six years with at least nine months served. While the judge was appalled at his behavior toward the young children, he did credit him with his honestly in coming forward on his own.

Charges for Sneaking Drugs into Jail

When someone is arrested in Utah, they may attempt sneaking drugs into jail with them which could end in serious criminal charges.

Reasons for hiding drugs on a person

Photo by: Craig Dietrich

There are multiple reasons why someone would decide to bring drugs with them upon an arrest. The offender may be an addict who is afraid or feels incapable of going any amount of time without a fix. Another reason is when an arrestee wants to limit the amount of criminal charges by not offering up evidence that could be used against them in court. When this occurs and someone is in possession of illegal drugs in the presence of a police officer, they may attempt to ditch the evidence or even hide it on their person to avoid it being found by law enforcement.

Failure or success at concealment of drugs

If someone is found to be attempting to conceal, destroy or otherwise get rid of drug evidence during an arrest, they could face obstruction of justice, which would then accompany the possession charge. If police to not discover the drugs and the offender is transported to the county jail still in possession of illegal contraband, once discovered they may face charges greater than if the drugs were found prior to transport.

Photo by: Brandon Evershed

One degree higher than possession charge

Utah law does not permit offenders or visitors to bring illegal contraband anywhere inside or on the property of any jail, prison, or other correctional facility in Utah. Utah Code 58-37-8 states if a person is found to be “for the purpose of facilitating, arranging, or causing the transport, delivery, or distribution of [an illegal] substance . . . to an inmate or on the ground of any correctional facility . . . [they are] guilty of one degree more than the maximum penalty prescribed for that offense.” Whether hiding drugs to use while at jail or hiding them to keep criminal charges down, sneaking drugs into jail is never worth it. For more information on these charges or those leading to an arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Reduce the Risk of Additional Charges Following an Arrest

When someone is placed under arrest, they are booked under specific charges pertaining to that arrest. Just as the individuals arrested can fight to have charges reduced or dropped, there is also the chance that extra charges can be added following the arrest.

Failure to comply with arrest and booking

Photo by: Campaign Against Arms Trade

One main cause of added charges following an arrest is due to the behavior of the alleged offender during the time of being arrested and placed behind bars. Being handcuffed and whisked off to jail is a stressful moment that can unfortunately bring out the worst in people. Some individuals make a bad situation worse by:

• Resisting arrest or as Utah Code 76-8-305 states “refusing to perform any act required by lawful order necessary to effect the arrest or detention (…) made by a peace officer”, a class B misdemeanor;
• Attempting to flee police, a class A misdemeanor;
Spitting, urinating, or propelling any bodily fluid at an officer, potentially adding a third degree felony onto the list of charges;
• Physically assaulting an officer while in the custody of law enforcement, a third degree felony defined by section 76-5-102.5. If the charges are enhanced to aggravated assault by a prisoner, then the defendant may face an additional second or first degree felony as stated in 76-5-103.5; or
• Once at the local jail, kicking, punching, or otherwise damaging jail property, resulting in an added third degree felony.

Regardless of whether or not the arrestee feels they should be taken into police custody, they are encouraged to be respectful and cooperative during and after being read their Miranda rights. This does not mean they have to converse with officers regarding details of the arrest however, as that in itself can lead to added charges.

Spilling all the beans

Photo by: Emilio Küffer

While there are some who react vehemently to being placed under arrest, there are others who go too far the other direction by trying to be overly compliant to officers on the scene. In an effort to possibly smooth things over, some arrestees decide to share every single detail related to the charges. Not only can their over-the-top candor cement the charges against that individual, it can help investigators who may already be trying to tie other charges to the defendant. It is best to politely decline any discussion with officers until an attorney is present.

Accumulating charges prior to trial

Another way charges can be added is if more evidence comes to light or if the prosecution attempts to add or enhance charges. For example, if a person is arrested for possession of marijuana, the prosecution could look at the amount of marijuana in question, and attempt to call it enough to charge the defendant with intent to distribute, even if it was initially determined to be only for personal use. If the person drove through a school zone with the marijuana in their car, the prosecution could also add enhanced possession in a school zone charges. Maybe they had kids in the home or car, so by all means throw in some child abuse or child neglect charges on top. Also known as stacking charges, this is a common occurrence and a reason so many individuals get scared into accepting plea deals (a.k.a. pleading guilty to lesser charges) without first obtaining proper counsel for themselves.

Have an attorney ready

Photo by: Kevin Johnston

With so many variables working against someone following an arrest, the best plan to avoid additional charges is to:

• remain calm;
• be prepared with the name of a reputable attorney;
• give the defense attorney’s name to authorities during the arrest;
• Stay quiet until advised otherwise by counsel; and finally
• Trust that a knowledgeable attorney will be able to see through charge stacking to decide the best option possible for each defendant depending on their specific case.