A formerCenterville police officer implicated in more than a dozen thefts and burglaries will serve at least 30 months in prison, the state Board of Pardons ruled Friday.
Ronald A. Peterson, 32, a Centerville police officer for eight years, is serving concurrent prison terms for second- and third-degree felony thefts. He was sentenced in November in 2nd District Court and came up for his initial parole hearing Friday.Parole guidelines call for Peterson to serve at least 15 months before being eligible for parole, board member Paul Boyden said. But because Peterson violated a public trust the board added an additional 15 months onto his minimum term, making him eligible for a May 1990 parole date.
Peterson and three other men, including a former Hurricane, Washington County, policeman and Centerville reserve officer, pleaded guilty to a series of burglaries and thefts in Davis County from 1982 to 1984.
Peterson was charged with two counts of theft and one attempted theft of a firearm charge. In a plea negotiation, he pleaded guilty to the theft charges in return for having the firearm charge dismissed and for not having any further charges filed against him in connection with other theft and burglary incidents in Centerville and nearby communities during that time period.
In one incident, Peterson diverted the attention of a clerk in a Centerville Radio Shack store while one of the other men stole two police radio scanners, valued at $600. When the theft was reported, Peterson investigated it.
In the other incident, Peterson and a fellow defendant broke into a van belonging to a fire sprinkler installation firm, stealing tools worth $4,000.
Peterson admitted involvement in numerous other incidents, including several storage shed burglaries involving ski equipment and, in one case, the theft of a trailer with four motorcycles.
As part of the plea bargain, Peterson has agreed to pay $7,200 in restitution, confirmed at his parole hearing.
At Friday's hearing, Boyden said the pardons board has received a lot of letters, both pro and con, concerning Peterson. He said the Centerville Police Department submitted a letter saying Peterson disgraced the department, which continues to suffer from an image problem in the community.
But several other police and fire agencies in Davis County submitted letters saying Peterson was an exemplary officer and contributed many hours of unpaid, volunteer service to the community.
"I find it ironic that you spent time going around to elementary schools as Officer McGruff, teaching the children about crime prevention, then went back that night and ripped off the school's snow blower," said Boyden.
Peterson admitted he "made a very stupid mistake." He told the board that financial and personal problems are partly to blame.
"How did you live with yourself, driving around in a patrol car and in uniform, stealing from the community?" asked board member Gary Judkin.
"It was very hard," Peterson said. "I'm very ashamed of my actions. I still have a lot of respect for law enforcement."
Under a new state law, crime victims are given an opportunity to testify about how they have been hurt by a prisoner's actions. A former Centerville couple appeared at Peterson's hearing to testify that although they did not have anything stolen, they feel betrayed by Peterson's actions.
Boyden ruled that since the couple was not affected directly and had already submitted a letter to the board outlining their feelings, they would not be allowed to present testimony.
Peterson is being rotated among various county jails in Utah out of fear for his safety because of his police background.