The children of convicted child molester Allan B. Hadfield did not suffer severe psychological harm and would be better off if their father were not sent to prison, a defense attorney said Tuesday.
Bradley P. Rich, attorney for Hadfield, said the onus of knowing they sent their father to prison for an extended period would be devastating to the children."If the kids send their father to prison for the rest of his life, it will lay so heavily on their shoulders that it serves no valid purpose," he said.
Rich filed a response with the Utah Supreme Court claiming the court should not review Hadfield's sentence. The Utah attorney general's office, which prosecuted the case, claims 4th District Judge Cullen Y. Christensen should be forced to resentence Hadfield to a prison term instead of giving him 10 years probation.
Hadfield, 37, was convicted in December of sexually abusing and sodomizing his 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. Although Hadfield was the only one charged, media reports of a supposed child sex abuse ring in Hadfield's Lehi neighborhood created a sensational atmosphere before, during and after the trial. The attorney general has not ruled out further charges.
Despite the severity of the crime, Hadfield was given 10 years probation under an exception in Utah law for cases of incest. The judge found Hadfield met 12 criteria necessary to qualify for the incest exception, but Assistant Utah Attorney General Robert N. Parrish argues that he fails to meet at least five of them.
The prosecutor's appeal, called a writ of mandamus, is unusual, and the Supreme Court must decide whether or not it will even agree to review the sentence. Arguments on that question are scheduled for Monday.
Rich will argue, first of all, that the prosecutors can't use the writ to appeal a sentence they simply don't like. He believes the writ is appropriate only when the sentence is "totally beyond the point where reasonable minds could differ over what the sentence should have been." The Hadfield sentence does not fit that description, he said.
Rich also argues that evidence presented in the trial supports Christensen's sentence. One criterion has to do with whether the sentence is in the best interests of the children. Rich acknowledges that a reconciliation between Hadfield and his wife, Gay, is unlikely and that the family probably won't be reunited.
But he points out that Hadfield has been paying child support as ordered by the judge. "It would be craziness to put him in prison and reduce the family to welfare," he said. "The statute is meant to minimize the impact on the various family members."
Rich also said the testimony of expert witnesses indicates the children did not suffer severe psychological or physical harm, which is another of the criteria that must be met before Utah's minimum mandatory sentences are triggered.
"There were several experts who testified about the children's condition, none of whom testified about serious psychological damage," Rich said. He said the prosecution's claim that the children were psychologically harmed was based on the testimony of a single witness who saw the children for only 35 minutes.
Rich also attacks the prosecution's claim that the children suffered physical harm, which is also part of the criteria. Rich said the children testified that people other than Hadfield were responsible for the injuries.
Another criterion requires that the defendant has been accepted into a recognized program designed to treat the specific kind of sexual abuse that occurred. Prosecutors argue that Hadfield can't be treated because he hasn't admitted he's done anything wrong. But Rich maintains that Hadfield has met the requirements of the statute because he has been admitted to a program to treat incest by an expert in the field.