Ravell Call, Deseret News
Newton Taylor walks to the front of the courtroom for arraignment on multiple felony charges on Dec. 14.

AMERICAN FORK — Sitting in prison, it would be impossible for Newton Taylor to pay back the close to $300,000 he had taken from three victims.

So prosecutor Chad Grunander made the difficult and slightly unusual decision to agree to recommend a lesser punishment if Taylor would pay up.

"We've conceded some in regard to the penalty portion of this in an effort to try and make whole the victims," Grunander said.

Taylor, 64, pleaded guilty Friday in American Fork's 4th District Court to six felony counts including theft, communications fraud, unregistered securities agent and sale of unregistered security, a total of four second-degree felonies and two third-degree felonies.

He also presented a cashier's check to the court for $45,000 — the first time he's made an attempt to financially heal his three victims.

With that $45,000, Grunander agreed that he would not recommend more than nine months in the Utah County Jail, with 48 months probation and subsequent restitution payments.

However, if Taylor could pay back all the restitution — a non-finalized amount between $215,000 and $290,000 — before sentencing on May 30, the recommendation would only be 30 days in jail.

"I'm excited that we got a guilty plea," said Judy Freeland of Lehi, who invested money with Taylor, lured by promises of great returns to help with mounting medical bills after her husband, Bill, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

"I'm pleased with the way (the prosecutor) handled it ... to think of us, instead of just time," she said. "(Because) if he's in prison, there's no way of collecting anything. They had our best interests in their minds."

Freeland and two other victims invested large amounts of money with Taylor, but either received small token payments, or empty, unfulfilled promises that returns were coming.

Taylor's attorney, John Easton, said they are also pleased with the plea deal.

"We're happy that we were able to reach a resolution with the state," Easton said. "Mr. Taylor has recognized all along that he owes money to these people. He was happy that he could relieve some of their financial burden today."

Another part of the provision requires that Taylor allow the Utah County Attorney's Office to review the restitution money to ensure it's not "dirty money" being taken from someone else, Grunander said.

During his 48-month probation, monitored by Adult Probation and Parole, Taylor also agreed he would not take any money from people under the guise of investing.

For the Freelands, any restitution is better than waiting, impoverished, while Taylor serves a lengthy jail or prison sentence.

"A little in the hand is better than nothing," Freeland said. "I want full (restitution) ... but reality is reality. I will take what I can get, knowing how he functions."

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com