SALT LAKE CITY — If David Serbeck had admitted to what a jury convicted him of doing, he might not have been ordered to prison Friday.
But he didn't. And so 3rd District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills ordered him to serve up to 10 years in prison — two consecutive terms of zero to five years and one identical concurrent term for three counts of unlawful sexual activity with a 16- or 17-year-old, a third-degree felony.
"I was troubled by the comments the defendant made in the interview for the pre-sentence report," Hruby-Mills said, adding that Serbeck has failed to own up to what he did. "He remains without appreciation for (the impact of) his conduct."
Defense attorney Scott Berrett contended that Serbeck has long maintained his innocence in the case and shouldn't have to tell interviewers what they want to hear in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence. He pointed to Serbeck's lack of criminal history and said the perceived shortage of remorse was the only aggravating factor in the report, making probation or jail more appropriate.
"They're wanting him to say he's guilty," Berrett said of those who prepared his client's pre-sentence report, "to ask him to change his story when he doesn't believe it is disingenuous."
During Serbeck's trial, his victim testified she had sex with Serbeck — who was her neighbor — three separate times in the summer of 2007. The woman knew Serbeck and his children and came by their home to look at snakes they kept there.
The relationship ended after a friend discovered nude pictures on her phone and told her parents.
Serbeck insisted there was nothing sexual between them. Yet a jury convicted the man on all three counts in March.
Serbeck's victim stood before the judge Friday and asked her to impose the maximum possible sentence. She told the judge that Serbeck's wheelchair didn't render him powerless.
"I am still troubled and dealing with the pain he has caused me," she said. "I would feel comforted to know that he is not able to hurt me or anyone else."
Serbeck was paralyzed in a high-profile Bluffdale shooting in 2009. Reginald Campos was convicted of attempted murder for shooting Serbeck. Serbeck and another man were patrolling their neighborhood in an SUV when they came across two teenage girls walking — one of whom was Campos' daughter. The daughter said the same SUV later aggressively followed her, prompting her to tell her father. The father then grabbed his gun and drove around looking for the vehicle.
Serbeck said he had merely stopped to check on the girls and later followed the vehicle they were in because it matched the description of a vehicle suspected in a rash of burglaries.
Campos confronted the men and fired two shots at Serbeck, severing his spine and paralyzing him from the waist down. Serbeck's victim said Friday that she felt Serbeck was using the neighborhood watch program for his own purposes.
"I feel that David violated my family's and the public's trust by using neighborhood watch and other programs to make him look like an upstanding person," she said. "When in reality he was using that to look for victims."
Serbeck's attorney was adamant, though, that his client is not a threat to the community. In addition to the man's paralysis and various mental and physical health problems, he had only one alleged victim, Berrett said.
Prosecutor Alicia Cook disagreed, calling Serbeck "risky" and "dangerous" and someone with a sexual deviance who refuses to acknowledge what he did. She said more prison time would allow Serbeck to get the treatment he needs.
"The 15 years is critical," she said. "Not because I think he's going to be there 15 years … because I think they need time to truly work with (Serbeck)."
Cook said Serbeck was "remarkable for his manipulativeness" and has "added insult to injury" when it came to his victim by putting her through trial and still not admitting his guilt.
Serbeck did not address the judge or speak at the hearing. Berrett sought to have the hearing continued altogether, citing questions about Serbeck's competency.Comment on this story
Hruby-Mills considered this during a brief recess, but ultimately found that she never had reason to question Serbeck's competency and pointed to his capable testimony at trial.
"My observations have been that he's acted appropriately and understood everything that's going on," the judge said.
After the hearing, Serbeck's victim said his unwillingness to acknowledge the crime make the process "more frustrating." What matters, she said, is that prosecutors and jurors believed her.
"I'm just glad it's all done and over with," she said. "We can all finally move on."