Sexual Assault on College Campus

A former Utah State University frat brother pleaded guilty yesterday to two cases of sexual assault that took place on and near the college campus.

Stealing bases

Photo by: Valeria C★Preisler

Photo by: Valeria C★Preisler

27 year old Jason Brian Relopez was arrested after two women came forward stating that on separate incidents Relopez had sexually forced himself on them. Both women made out with Relopez voluntarily, however he was the only one tolerable with taking things to the next level. One incident happened in 2014 during a private study night while the other happened in 2015 at a frat party at the Sigma Chi House.

Marked for life

Relopez, a former student at Utah State University, pleaded guilty to a plea deal that reduced his charges from aggravated rape and sexual assault to attempted rape and forcible sexual abuse. Although the settled charges don’t save him from a first degree felony, there is a chance he may get probation instead. Either way, he will be on the sex offender registry for the remainder of his life.

No means “no”

When engaging in sexual relations with another person, it is always advised to get verbal consent first. The victim from the 2014 incident did state that she told Relopez she did not want to have sex with him. Regarding the sexual assault that took place at the frat house in 2015 however, the victim never told Relopez “no” but she also did not give him consent to make sexual advances on her. Both instances can be considered sexual assault because in both cases, consent was not given. While a verbal “no” is a clear dispute to consent, not saying anything which could happen due to fear or alcohol or drug abuse, should be considered a negative as well.

Sexual assault at college

Photo by: Miles Gehm

Photo by: Miles Gehm

Sexual assault is a serious issue and college campuses are not immune to the problem. There have been recent statistics that state over 20 percent of young college students have been victims of sexual assault. Although a high number of those sexual assaults on campus are noted to be from serial rapists with malicious intent, there are occasional instances when there could be grave miscommunications that end in charges. College parties where young adults mingle with excess amounts of alcohol are times when things could get out of hand unintentionally. Some ways to avoid such horrific errors are:

• Both parties should be clear on their intentions and observe the other person for hints of hesitation.

• Reduce the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed. When people overdrink, they are less likely to read situations correctly.

• If alcohol is on the menu, have a designated sober friend to attend parties with. The person not drinking can help distinguish if things are getting out of control.

• Keep a drug free party zone. Date rape drugs are given such a nickname due to the fact that it makes the other party unable to give consent, even if they voluntarily take the pill to begin with. On a related note, discard unattended drinks.

• Always get consent. Always.

Sexual offenses without consent

Utah code 76-5-406 states that sexual offenses are “without consent of the victim [if] the victim expresses lack of consent through words or conduct; the actor overcomes the victim through ( . . . ) physical force or violence; the actor is able to overcome the victim through concealment or by the element of surprise; the actor coerces the victim to submit by threatening to retaliate ( . . . ); the actor knows the victim is unconscious, unaware that the act is occurring, or physically unable to resist; ( . . .) the actor intentionally impaired the power of the victim to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering any substance without the victim’s knowledge; ( . . . )”

Time of your life, or away for life

College is supposed to be the time of your life. Sexual assault charges such as rape or forcible sexual abuse can bring mean the rest of your life in jail. For legal aid regarding sexual offense charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Strict Probation for Utah Sex Offenders

Sex offenders in Utah are required to abide by a strict probationary program until their name is removed from the sex offender registry.

Ten years to life

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Regardless of the severity of the offense, those who make the registry of sex offenders can expect to stay on that list for at least ten years. The Utah Department of Corrections states that those persons who are convicted of the following crimes will be on the registry of sex offenders for ten years after they are done with their jail or prison time:

“1. Kidnapping
2. Voyeurism
3. Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Minor
4. Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a 16 or 17 Year Old
5. Forcible Sexual Abuse
6. Incest
7. Lewdness (4 convictions required for registration)
8. Sexual Battery (4 convictions required for registration)
9. Lewdness Involving a Child
10. Aggravated Human Trafficking
11. Custodial Sexual Relations (if victim was under 18 years of age)
12. Sexual Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult
13. Sexual abuse of a minor
14. Attempting, soliciting, or conspiring to commit any felony offense listed above (or in the “life” list below)”

Those found guilty of any crimes on this subsequent list, or those convicted more than once for any crimes on the above list, will be on the registry for sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

“1. Child Kidnapping
2. Aggravated Kidnapping
3. Enticing a Minor over the Internet
4. Rape
5. Rape of a Child
6. Object Rape
7. Object Rape of a Child
8. Forcible Sodomy
9. Sodomy on a Child
10. Sexual Abuse of a Child or Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child
11. Aggravated Sexual Assault
12. Sexual Exploitation of a Minor [child pornography]
13. Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution”

According to this second list, after their sentencing is over, a person who was caught with child pornography is treated the same as someone convicted of rape of a child. While these two crimes seem hardly comparable to many, why does it matter if their name is registered? What does being on the sex offender registry entail?

More than a list of names

Photo by: micadew

Photo by: micadew

When someone is on the registry of sex offenders in Utah, not only is their name exposed for anyone looking through public records, they also have strict laws that they must follow as long as their name is on the registry, even for a lifetime. These laws include restricting:

Where they live. If sex offenders which to move, they must first get permission. This includes moving residences within the same city.
Where they work. Their choice of employment must also be approved by a parole officer.
Public places they frequent. Those convicted of offenses against minors may not be in any area where children meet. This can include: schools, parks, public pools, and even family get togethers.
Who they have contact with. The most obvious restriction regarding who sex offenders have contact with is the victims and their families. Additionally, those convicted of sexual offenses against children may not have contact with minors under the age of 18. This can include children of significant others.
Even how late at night they are allowed out in public. According to the UDC, when required, “[they] must enter into and successfully complete established progressive curfews, or electronic monitoring where available.”

Some of these restrictions can be altered slightly but only after a parole officer has given written permission.

Life changing

Being registered as a sex offender can dramatically change the way a person lives for the rest of their lives. Just as someone is on probation or parole, everything that sex offenders do and everywhere they go is restricted and documented. In fact, according to the UDC, “sex offenders are supervised even more closely and held to higher standards [than those facing probation and parole for other charges].” For those individuals who are facing charges of sexual offenses that could place them on the registry of sex offenders, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Hostages of Domestic Violence in Utah

Two different cases of domestic violence in Utah within the last couple weeks have escalated to involve taking hostages and discharging firearms.

Breaking up is hard to do

Photo by: Kiran Foster

Photo by: Kiran Foster

On Saturday August 22nd, 42 year old Jenny Andrus, an English professor at the University of Utah, went to her home in Millcreek Utah to collect some of her personal belongings while her estranged husband was away. Unfortunately, her alienated hubby, 37 year old Valentin Dulla Santarromana, was there and a domestic violence incident occurred. Andrus’ friend Joi Hogue who was waiting outside the home tried to enter when she heard the commotion and was shot by Santarromana several times, even as she tried to flee. Police who were called to the house after receiving calls of domestic violence and shots fired tried for three hours to get Santarromana to release Andrus. Santarromana shot Andrus four times, including once in the eye before police were able to detain him and rescue Andrus. Andrus has made a miraculous recovery while her friend Hogue remains in critical condition.

Her daddy wasn’t the one packing heat this time

Another domestic violence incident intensified into a hostage situation early Monday morning in West Valley Utah. 23 year old Oscar Alcantara was having an argument with his girlfriend when her dad offered to drive Alcantara to his home. Apparently something happened during the commute, as it ended with shots being fired. Alcantara then took his girlfriend’s father hostage for 5 hours until police were able to negotiate with him to surrender his hostage. Fortunately in this case, no one was hurt.

Weapons not included

Photo by: Jeffrey

Photo by: Jeffrey

Not all domestic violence incidents in Utah involve taking hostages, discharging a firearm or using a weapon or any kind. Furthermore, not all domestic violence cases involve actual physical violence. The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “[…] a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” Domestic violence can include:

Assault. This can include inflicting any kind of physical injury on another being such as hitting, kicking, slapping, pulling hair, or harming with a weapon such as a knife or gun. Assault can also include not allowing someone to get medical care if needed or forcing them to consume drugs or alcohol.
Sexual abuse. Having intimate relations of any kind without the consent of the other individual is sexual abuse. Even if the two parties are married, there still needs to be consent for sexual relations.
Kidnapping. Taking a domestic partner, children, or other household member against their will.
Unlawful detention. Not allowing the other party to leave the residence, tying them up, locking them in a room, or in any way stopping them from leaving the presence of the abusing party by keeping them hostage.
Emotional abuse. This can include verbal abuse, destroying another co-inhabitant’s self-esteem with hurtful, belittling comments, making the other individual seem worthless, and anything else that harms the victim’s emotional state.
Mental abuse. Threatening to do harm, intimidating, gas lighting (making the other party feel as though they are going crazy), or isolating the victim from family, friends or places of employment.
Harassment. Harassment is any unwanted contact and can be done in person, over the phone, or by way of electronic means such as texting, emailing, and instant messaging.
Stalking. Keeping constant tabs on the whereabouts of the other party and on their activities online and on their electronic devices such as phones by installing illegal tracking software.
Economic Abuse. Causing the other person to lose their job, making them completely dependent on the abuser’s income, and/or withholding finances.

Domestic violence penalties

The penalties for domestic violence depend on the type of abuse. Domestic violence charges can range from a class C misdemeanor if all that is observed is disorderly conduct to a 1st degree felony if the domestic violence ends in premeditated homicide. Repeat offenses of domestic violence will increase the severity of the charges. While those who live together under one roof are known to quarrel from time to time, it is important to not let things escalate to the point of doing any physical, mental, or emotional harm to one another. For anyone facing charges of domestic violence, contact a criminal defense attorney.