Victims fight to keep a Utah man in prison

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9 2013 7:20 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Her friend was lying next to her on the living room floor in front of the TV. It was a typical summertime girls’ sleepover back in 1998, with blankets and pillows spread on the floor as makeshift beds.

Until her friend's father came into the room.

“He laid by me and started,” said Azure Wakefield Davis, now 32. She said she reached out to her friend, but "she didn’t move."

Only the flick of the light switch, casting a ray of light in the hallway, made her tormentor, Michael Doporto, stop the abuse that night, Davis said. Doporto's wife was in the hall, and he didn't want to be caught.

“I can remember every detail of what happened to me,” said Davis, who was 7 years old at the time. “It makes me feel like a little girl. Scared.”

When she told her best friend on the bus to school what the girl's father did to her that weekend, she told her never to talk about it or she wouldn’t be her friend anymore.

But Davis will be talking Thursday as she once again confronts the man who abused her, spent 20 years in prison and is scheduled for release Nov. 26. She will speak before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole and ask that it reconsider the decision it made in August to grant his release.

And she will not be alone.

Doporto's crimes

“At 7 years old, losing a friend is tragic as well,” said Davis, explaining why it took years for her to come forward about the abuse suffered in 1988.

She told her mother when she was 11 years old, and only because she first told a cousin and her mother learned of it.

Davis testified in court in June 1993, naming Doporto as her abuser, court documents show, and a jury conviction followed in December for sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony. The Utah Supreme Court later overturned the conviction, citing prosecutors improperly used witness testimony.

But as other accusers came forward, Doporto struck a plea bargain that brought a guilty plea to the sodomy on a child charge, which carried a 10-years-to-life sentence. He also pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a child on another victim, a second-degree felony with a 15-year maximum sentence. He was given 3 ½ years credit for time served.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will convene at 3 p.m. He was previously awarded a November release date after the board claimed it attempted to notify the victim of record, but the notification letter was returned to its office. A subsequent hearing in August won victims the right to appear Thursday for a new hearing to reconsider the release date.

A victim

Betty Adams testified in 1993 and claimed Doporto raped her. But her case was not used to press charges because it was beyond the statute of limitations and brought about the court reversal.

Court documents show Adams testified that she went to visit her friend, Doporto’s daughter in 1986, when she was 11 years old. Adams said Doporto offered to teach her how to drive.

“This man was someone that I had trusted and looked up to,” said Adams, now 38.

She said he took her to a remote location and raped her, according to court records.

“I went home and never said a word,” she said. “I was scared to death of him.”

After that, Adams said her behavior spiraled out of control.

"I started running away, getting into drugs and alcohol, cutting myself and attempted suicide numerous times,” she said. “Eventually, my parents couldn’t control me and the state took custody of me.”

Adams said after a few years in therapy, she finally told her social worker about the abuse.

New hearing

Both Davis and Adams said with Doporto’s impending prison release in November, they’re reliving their trauma. That’s what they plan to tell the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on Thursday.

“I have not been able to face what he’s done to me mentally, but I’m going through therapy right now to help me,” Davis said. “The anxiety is outrageous."

Other victims have written statements they plan to present to the board, offering accounts of abuse. The board has agreed to hear the impact statements from these women who say Doporto abused them, though they are not victims of record, according to Greg Johnson, administrative coordinator for the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

Johnson said the board has no comment on why it's allowing the statements at Thursday’s hearing. But the board's administrative rules allow for testimony from victims, even if they're not directly related to the conviction, he said.

Support for continued incarceration will also come from 14 members of the Southeast Utah Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse. They plan to rally with those who will attend the hearing in Draper and escort them into the Utah State Prison.

“With our physical presence, we will be there just as an empowerment,” said a member who identifies himself as "Little T." He said the bikers will "give victims who need to speak that day the strength to say what they need to say and not be afraid of the world in which they live.”

Keith Hamilton, a BYU adjunct law professor and former chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, said Utah is considered an “indeterminate” sentencing state, meaning the board, operating within the sentencing terms of Doporto’s 10-years-to-life sentence, will determine how long Doporto should stay in prison.

“The board could use whatever factors it deems appropriate to reach a decision on whether Doporto should be released from prison prior to the end of his life,” Hamilton said.

In a statement accompanying notice of Doporto's pending release, the Board of Pardons and Parole wrote:

"Michael Doporto will be released from prison on Nov. 26, 2013, after 20 years of incarceration. He was convicted of one count of sexual abuse of a child which has now expired. He also committed sodomy on a child which carries a sentence of 10 years to life. His sentencing guideline recommended he serve 14.5 years, so he will remain in prison 5.5 years longer than his guideline."

After all of the testimonies are heard and read, Doporto has the right and the opportunity to respond to those impact statements.

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