Richard Wagner Jones is running for a seat on the Granite Board of Education. He is a registered sex offender, which would not prevent him from fulfilling the responsibilities of a board member. But registered sex offenders are barred from visiting elementary and secondary schools, except under specific circumstances.
Whatever happened, it was over two decades ago. —Richard Wagner Jones

SALT LAKE CITY - Richard Wagner Jones, 67, served five years in prison for sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl 23 years ago. He will now embark in a five-month campaign for election to the Granite School Board.

Jones' probation ended in 2005, but he must register as a sex offender until 2015. But that won't stop him from seeking a seat on the school board and Tuesday he spoke publicly for the first time about his decision. 

"Whatever happened, it was over two decades ago," Jones said Tuesday at a press conference called to address concerns about his past. "And I was convicted for a serious crime. And those who are sex offenders are not mentally ill, they are people with serious thinking errors."

He said, "It is a five-month campaign, and during those five months perhaps the public's fears and the Christian attitude and the true statistics about recidivism can come together so that family can heal, not only in the victim's side but my family."

He said as a school board member he would not be working with children, but overseeing a budget that includes teachers' salaries and building classrooms.

"I don't expect the parents to give me trust to be with their children," said Jones. "I expect the voters to give me trust with seeing the budget."

Jones pleaded guilty to sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl and was convicted of the crime in 1990. He also said that he was sorry for what he did.

"How can anyone not be?" he asked. He added, however, "I should not be retried for something I did 23 years ago. I have paid my debt to society."

He said he is running to provide an alternative to current board member Dan Lofgren, who has served as chairman or vice chairman ot the Utah Housing Corp., and Salt Lake County Housing Authority.