SALT LAKE CITY — A man convicted of grabbing a young girl at a Salt Lake park was ordered to prison Monday.
Brandon Elder, 27, was sentenced to three years to life in prison for attempted aggravated burglary of a child, a first-degree felony, by 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy in connection with the Aug. 22 incident.
A witness told police she saw a man in a blue T-shirt, black cut-off jeans and black dress shoes sitting in the bushes near the water feature at Liberty Park that day. The witness observed the man grab a 5-year-old girl and pull her head toward his crotch.
The witness yelled for someone to call the police, at which point the man fled the scene on a silver BMX bike, charging documents state.
Elder's mother heard the incident reported in the media and contacted police after observing her son riding his silver BMX bicycle while wearing black dress shoes and black cut-offs with no shirt, according to prosecutors.
Elder told police he had been at Liberty Park and had waited near the water feature for two hours looking for a girl. He said when the girl walked by, he had a "sexual urge" to grab her, the charges state.
"Most troubling to this court is the impulsive behavior and the inability to control that impulsive behavior," Skanchy said before handing down the sentence.
Defense attorney Josie Brumfield had asked for a jail sentence coupled with sex offender treatment and placement in a group home. She said her client has a history of mental health issues and functions at a third-grade level.
"Mr. Elder cannot read," she said. "He cannot write. He has been involved with special education his entire life. … He needs help. He knows what he did was wrong."
She said that while the impulse can be to lock people such as her client away in prison, it would not offer him necessary treatment. "Getting him the sex offender treatment he needs protects the public in the long run," Brumfield said.
But prosecutor Thad May said prison was appropriate, stating that sometimes it's better to close the door on one person rather than endanger others. He added that Elder has exposed himself to young girls in the past.
"These are the kinds of cases that scare those in our community and rightfully so," he said. "These are the kinds of offenses we have to protect the public against."
Skanchy said he believes the rehabilitation process is best under the supervision of the Utah Department of Corrections.
Brumfield said sentencing guidelines estimate a five-year prison commitment for Elder, but the length of his term will be decided by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.