Judge questions whether sex abuse was 'invited,' orders probation for jailer

Victim, advocate say such comments are why women don't always report sex crimes

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 9:35 p.m. MST

Hatch said she had a hard time grasping what she was hearing.

"Those were innocent women and we weren't because we were inmates," she said. "The judge was putting it out there and I was just shocked. I kind of just sat there numb and didn't realize what had gone on until I got out of the courtroom."

Mullen said the judge's statement speaks to a mindset that delineates some victims as innocent and others who bring abuse upon themselves. She said it's a mindset that can't be tolerated and is changing.

"Victims and potential victims see those stories and say, 'Why am I going to put myself through this?" Mullen said. "If we're going to start parsing out who's innocent and who deserves to be perpetrated on that, to me, is very slippery territory for a judge to wade into."

Killpack asked for "minimum sentence necessary to accomplish the goals in the sentencing guidelines." He said the plea meant his client took responsibility for what he had done, but reminded the judge that Epperson didn't ever admit to anything other than simple assault.

He said Tuesday that the assaults were out of character for Epperson. The man is now married with two children and one on the way and wants to put this behind him.

"He admitted originally that he had acted improperly and had requested training which he did not receive, then he asked to be transferred out of the jail, which did not happen. But most certainly he feels badly that he didn't act more prudently and that's the reason he pled guilty to the charges that he pled to," Killpack said. "They're very serious charges even as they are and he will of course now have on his record a non-expungable federal felony and will be prohibited from working in law enforcement ever again."

Killpack asked for probation and that any commitment be served in home confinement. Sam sentenced Epperson to three years' probation and GPS monitoring for eight months but did not order any fines, restitution or any time behind bars.

"I want to just say to this defendant that there was conduct that certainly I view as inappropriate and not becoming, and certainly I warn you that if there is any conduct during your period of probation, that you may be brought back and that matter addressed and there could be further consequences," Sam said.

Hatch said the sentence was far from the justice she was seeking. The experience has left her feeling as though she's in a no-win situation.

Her family has already endured harassment, comments on Facebook and bullying at her daughters' school.

"It just feels like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't," Hatch said.

She said her mother cries on the phone because of what happened. She said her father died three days after learning she had been sexually assaulted in jail and it hurts her to think that it was one of the last things he knew.

"I just want my daughters to be OK and for me to be OK — for my family to be OK," Hatch said. "I just want people to know. I want people to be aware and I don't want it to happen again."

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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