AMERICAN FORK — Spending time in jail is harsh punishment, but for two former athletes, the loss of lifelong dreams is even worse.
"Seth's life has basically been focused on getting into BYU, being a swimmer," attorney Tara Isaacson said Tuesday in 4th District Court. "During his teenage years, his whole world revolved around school and swimming."
But Christopher Seth Parker, 19, and swim teammate Matthew Rados, 18, were dismissed from Brigham Young University and the swim team in late 2008 after being arrested for numerous thefts and burglaries over a two-month period. Friend Jacob Jones, 18, was also involved and dismissed from BYU, said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.
Prosecutor Curtis Larson said the two-month crime spree began in September and included stealing from the BYU Bookstore, joy riding in other students' cars, shoplifting and even stealing a car from a store parking lot after finding a lost set of keys.
The group used the credit cards inside the car, then drove it around for two weeks before they ditched it in Nephi.
On Tuesday, the trio — who had each pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including second- and third-degree felonies of theft, burglary and tampering with a witness — were sentenced to 60, 30 and 45 days in jail respectively, plus 240 hours each of community service and three years of probation.
They also owe restitution when an amount is decided.
A fourth co-defendant and female swimmer, Madison Gray, 19, played a lesser role but still benefitted from the crimes, Larson said.
She was suspended from BYU in December 2008, Jenkins said, then sentenced in mid-March on three class A misdemeanors. She received community service hours.
Isaacson said she still doesn't know why Parker, with his flawless past and kind, respectful nature, "went off the rails" and began making "terrible decisions."
Jones' attorney, Jim Bradshaw, called it the "perfect storm."
"It was the coming together of a lot of factors," Bradshaw said. "They had never been out of the house, they lived these perfect lives — discipline, achievement-oriented lives. What started out as pranks (grew)."
However, Larson disagreed and asked the judge to impose the recommended 150 days in jail, referencing the boys' efforts to cover up their crimes, and even threatening fellow teammates to keep quiet. However, the teammates eventually went to BYU police and the group was arrested.
"There's something more here than meets the eye in these guys," Larson said. "A normal individual doesn't just all of a sudden 'fall off the rails' and go this deep."
Parents wept as they listened to their boys apologize.
"Your honor, I'm very sorry for all the shame I've brought upon my parents, my family, BYU, the swim team, the church," Rados said, his voice breaking. "I know I can't go back and change what I've done, but I am taking steps to fix (things)."
Rados was given until June 17 to report to the Utah County Jail because he is finishing classes at a community college in California. The other boys had to report to the jail by the end of Tuesday.
"I'm really sorry and ashamed for what I've done," Jones said. "It's not my nature to go and do those things. For the first time in my life I had freedom, and I just got carried away and did the wrong things."
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