Child Pornography in Utah

Photo courtesy of Washington County Bookings Report

Photo courtesy of Washington County Bookings Report

A marine living in St. George, Utah was arrested Monday for possession of child pornography.  24 year old Richard Anthony Vidal turned himself in on Monday after returning from overseas to his home in St. George, Utah. A search of his home and electronics conducted earlier this year revealed numerous pictures and videos of sexually explicit acts being done to young children.  According to the Washington County Bookings report, he was charged with 5 counts of exploitation of a minor, each one a 2nd degree felony sexual offense.

Child pornography use on the rise

With the computer boom in the last 2 decades, there has also been a surge in child pornography viewing.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “the main sex exploitation offense referred to U.S. attorneys shifted from sex abuse (73%) in 1994 to child pornography (69%) in 2006.”  This jump in statistics over a 12 year period is explainable by the not hard to find or create illegal photos and videos being easily accessed and shared from personal computers, laptops, and smart phones.

Addictive as a drug, an online website dedicated to educate and cease the widespread use of pornography states “On the surface, cocaine and porn don’t seem to have a lot in common but studies are showing that viewing pornography tricks your brain into releasing the same pleasure chemicals that drugs do.” Just like any drug, pornography of any kind including child pornography can be highly addicting. What makes people choose to view child pornography originally isn’t always known. What is crystal clear is that once they view child pornography, it is very difficult for them to not view it again.

No one is immune

Photo by: andronicusmax

Photo by: andronicusmax

Those guilty in viewing and sharing child pornography don’t always fit the mold that society has created. Sure there may be jobless, friendless, sorry looking middle age guys living in their parent’s basement that dabble with child pornography, but child pornography addictions affect people from every walk of life.

  • As previously stated, there was the young United States Marine Richard Anthony Vidal. Vidal’s military lifestyle was probably not lacking on discipline and his free time was undoubtedly limited. Vidal will most likely be court marshaled and be given an unhonorable discharge from the Marine Corps.
  •  Grant D. Smith, a Utah college engineering professor was arrested a few years ago after a fellow passenger on a plane saw Smith viewing explicit images of young girls while in route to Boston from Salt Lake City. Not only did Smith lose his job at the University of Utah, he was put on 5 years of probation where he was not to be in contact with any children under 16 including his own, and he had to register as a sex offender.
  • 34 year old pediatrician Taylor Steven Jerman of Clearfield Utah was found to be in possession of child pornography on his home computers. If convicted of the 8 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor during his next hearing in August, he will likely lose his employment and possibly his medical license.
  •  Steven Powell, 65, grandfather to Charlie and Braden Powell who were killed in a murder suicide by their father Josh Powell, and father in law of Susan Powell who has been missing since 2009, was arrested on Monday for child pornography charges…again. Not only has he already lost 4 members of his family, he may serve half a decade of what’s left of his elderly life in prison.
  •  32 year old mother Monique Ruiz of Utah was arrested in January for taking nude pictures of her a 9 year old special needs daughter and sending them to man in Taylorsville, who she met online. The mother is facing several felony charges along with her parental rights.
  •  Average Joe, 20 year old Miguel Gonzalez-Rivera of Saratoga Springs was arrested earlier this month after he unknowingly shared child pornography with an undercover agent online. Gonzalez-Rivera stated that he was accidentally exposed to pornography, yet continued viewing it afterwards willingly. His charges are not set at this time.
Photo by: David Goehring

Photo by: David Goehring

Pornography kills

The ad “porn kills” is very accurate. It kills the lives of those affected. Besides the damage that it does to people psychologically, child pornography viewing destroys the guilty individual’s family, employment, criminal record, and reputation. For those who have been caught up in viewing or sharing child pornography and are facing charges for sexual exploitation of a minor, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Utah School Bus Driver Facing Molestation Charges

The trial commenced today for a Sandy, Utah school bus driver who is facing molestation charges for inappropriately touching young girls on his bus last year. 61 year old John Martin Carrell faces over 30 counts of molestation charges for allegedly touching two 5 year old girls while he buckled them into their seats.

Sexual Abuse

Molestation is known by law as sexual abuse. According to Utah Code 96-5-404 “A person 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, or genitalia of any child, the breast of a female child, or otherwise takes indecent liberties with a child, or causes a child to take indecent liberties with the actor or another with intent to cause substantial emotional or bodily pain to any person or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person regardless of the sex of any participant. Sexual abuse of a child is a second degree felony.” In cases such as Carrell’s, because he was in a position of trust as a school district bus driver, if convicted he could face aggravated sexual abuse which is a first degree felony.

Photo by: Shinichi Sugiyama

Photo by: Shinichi Sugiyama

Evidence or lack thereof

While video surveillance showing Carrell spending an excessive amount of time buckling the victims in could possibly seal his fate, often there is no video to incriminate or exonerate the suspect. Besides testimony from the victim, the only evidence usually available in molestation cases is evidence apparent to a physician. Even then, it doesn’t always pinpoint the right suspect. With evidence typically being based solely on testimony, it makes one wonder how many charges are false.

Molestation charges often fabricated

Molestation cases against various people such as bus drivers are frequently showing up in the news and occasionally are found to be fabricated stories. This is extremely unfortunate for those falsely accused of the charges, as it may negatively impact their current and future employment. This may be the case for 44 year old Enrique Napoles of Miami. Napoles was charged with molestation in late February when a student on his private bus claimed he had molested her while they were alone on the bus. After no evidence or witness testimony was found to support the charges, the prosecution dropped the charges. Nothing is known as to whether or not Napoles remained employed with the company; nevertheless many assume they wouldn’t continue to employ someone who had been charged with molestation of a child.

Who makes up the stories?

When someone is found to be innocent of molestation charges, a typical thought after the initial skepticism is: the victim needed attention or was mad at the suspect. While this may be true in a few cases, there are other reasons why people are falsely accused of molestation.
• A child who was in fact molested, but chooses to blame another for reasons such as fear or shame.
• Parents and/or caretakers who notice the child behaving abnormally and proceed to make assumptions.
• Teachers & counselors seeing or hearing about questionable behavior at school, and follow up with a call to law enforcement.
• Someone besides the victim who is angry or otherwise upset with the accused. They may try to punish or hurt the accused by making false allegations.
Besides those strictly out for attention or revenge, these are frequently honest mistakes of an adult seeing “red flags” and making the phone calls that they feel are necessary.

Permanent damage to criminal record

Even if someone is not convicted of molestation or sexual abuse their criminal record may still list the fact that they were arrested for it. Employers are privy to this information before hiring and they don’t always distinguish between convicted and arrested. This can make it difficult for falsely accused individuals to work in employment where children are located such as schools. For information on how you can protect or clean your record or for help in defending yourself against fabricated or factual molestation charges, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Wasatch Front Prostitution Ring

Changfeng Lin, the organizer behind the large Wasatch Front prostitution ring busted last month failed to show up in court Tuesday. Changfeng Lin was arrested in early June 2015 for establishing and managing a prostitution ring which was being run at eight massage parlors owned by Lin throughout the Wasatch Front. The illegal business exploited at least 9 women of Chinese descent, including Lin’s own wife.

Photo by: Weber County Jail

Photo by: Weber County Jail

Investigation and arrest

Lin’s massage parlors were advertised with online sites which are known for listing  “happy endings” massage companies. This ad seeking both patrons and workers was a red flag for Utah authorities to keep an eye on Lin. Thus began the ten month investigation of his business endeavors in the Wasatch Front. During the investigation, Lin was seen traveling between the different massage parlors and residences multiple times a day, transporting female passengers from one place to another. Business licenses for each parlor were checked, female workers at the massage parlors were interview, and Lin was later arrested.

Prostitution a statewide problem

Lin’s prostitution ring was not the only illegal business of its kind in Utah. Over the last several years, prostitution has become a growing problem all over the state. There are areas that are known for street prostitution such as North Temple and State Street in Salt Lake City; however online sex solicitation and the use of business or home massage parlors as cover ups for brothels can be anywhere.

Photo by: Pedro Figueiredo

Photo by: Pedro Figueiredo

Prostitution crimes and punishments

Unlike Nevada, there are no areas in Utah where prostitution is legal. The charges and penalties for being involved depend on the suspect’s role in the prostitution ring.

Prostitution. Utah Code 76-10-1302 states “An individual is guilty of prostitution when the individual: engages in any sexual activity with another individual for a fee […]” Prostitution is considered a class B misdemeanor unless is it a repeat conviction, then it’s a class A misdemeanor.

Patronizing a prostitute. 76-10-1303, “A person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute when the person: pays or offers or agrees to pay another person a fee […] for the purpose of engaging in an act of sexual activity […]” Patronizing a prostitute is a class B misdemeanor for a first offense, and a class A misdemeanor for repeat offenses. If the person being patronized is a child, it is a 3rd degree felony.

Aiding a prostitute. Otherwise known as pimping, aiding a prostitute has the same penalties as prostitution and patronizing a prostitute: A class B misdemeanor for first offense and class A misdemeanor for any recurrent offenses.

Exploiting prostitution is a 3rd degree felony and those found guilty of this offense are the ones running prostitution businesses such as Changfeng Lin with his 8 massage parlors.

Aggravated exploitation of prostitution. Stated by Utah Code 76-10-1305, exploiting prostitution becomes an aggravated charge if the person threatens or forces someone to prostitute, or if the prostitute is a child or a spouse. This crime is a 2nd degree felony or a 1st degree felony if a child is involved. Because Lin involved his wife with his illegal business, he is facing aggravated exploitation of prostitution charges.

Photo by: Gabriel S. Delgado C.

Photo by: Gabriel S. Delgado C.

Hopeless with limited options

Why do many choose prostitution as a career choice? For those such as Lin who are running the show, money is usually a big motivator. For those performing the acts, is it their need for physical interaction or the thrill of breaking the law? While there may be a few that choose this path for those reasons, many turn to prostitution because they don’t know what else to do. Perhaps they lack the education or skills needed to get a regular job. Possibly they were victims of sex trafficking at an early age and don’t know a way out.

Support and legal counsel

There are community and online resources available to help those trying to leave the life of prostitution. For those who are facing charges related to a prostitution ring, a criminal defense attorney can help you sift through the legal ramifications of your charges and help repair your criminal record and your life after prostitution.