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Board considers parole for Neola man convicted of assaulting autistic teen

Published: Thursday, Nov. 25 2010 12:32 a.m. MST

Taggart John Anderton

Utah Department of Corrections

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UTAH STATE PRISON — A Duchesne County man said Tuesday his addiction to methamphetamine caused him to sexually assault an autistic teenager at a recreation center in Vernal.

During his first parole hearing, Taggart John Anderton of Neola testified that he'd used meth heavily for at least two years leading up to the March 19, 2009, attack on the teen at the Uintah Community Center.

"As you may know, methamphetamine makes a person act out sexually — it doesn't matter who he acts out sexually to," Anderton told Dick Sullivan, a hearing officer for the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

Anderton, who served four years in the Navy and worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 20 years, said he had sold his home and was living in a garage in March 2009. He admitted he was high on meth when he went to the rec center to shower on the night he was arrested. He had no intention of preying on anyone, he said, but "when the situation presented itself, I thought about it and I acted out on it."

Anderton, 52, was in the men's locker room when he twice exposed himself to a 15-year-old boy who has Asperger's syndrome. He initially tried to get the teen to leave the center with him, then pulled him into a toilet stall. Anderton was performing a sex act on the teen when the boy's father returned to the locker room and stopped the attack.

Uintah County prosecutors charged Anderton with aggravated kidnapping, forcible sodomy, forcible sex abuse, attempted forcible sex abuse, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He later pleaded guilty to reduced charges of kidnapping, attempted forcible sex abuse, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was sentenced to serve at least 15 years in prison.

The victim's father told Sullivan the assault had a devastating effect on his son because of the characteristics of his disability. Individuals with Asperger's syndrome have difficulty interpreting social cues and interacting with others. The man said his son now believes the abuse he endured is a normal way to interact with adults.

"He does not comprehend what really happened and is now propositioning others," the teen's father said.

The family was forced to place the boy in a treatment facility to ensure his safety and the safety of others, the man said. The facility is several hours from the family's home.

"We are being responsible — probably for the rest of our lives — and mitigating the damage (Anderton) has caused by seeking help for our son in order to stop more lives from being victimized," the father told Sullivan. "This circle needs to be broken."

Sullivan said he will recommend that Anderton be given another parole hearing in March 2014, noting that there is no guarantee he will be given a release date at that time. He told Anderton to use the next four years to complete prison-based drug and sex offender treatment.

"Clearly, your meth use facilitated your decision to sexually assault that young boy," Sullivan said.

The parole board is expected to make a decision on whether to follow Sullivan's recommendation in about a month.

e-mail: geoff@ubstandard.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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