SALT LAKE CITY — A former corrections officer who spent almost a decade on the run after being convicted of sex abuse says the opportunity to raise a family and a fear of prison caused him to flee.
William Lawrence, 41, pleaded guilty to forcible sex abuse, a third-degree felony, on Dec. 6, 2007. According to charging documents, Lawrence, while still employed with the Utah Department of Corrections, handcuffed a woman in his apartment near 9300 S. Redwood Road and demanded sex acts.
In exchange for his guilty plea, a charge of forcible sodomy was dismissed.
But when it came time for sentencing on April 7, 2008, Lawrence didn't show up for court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
In November, after nearly 10 years on the run while living under a fake identity, Lawrence was arrested by U.S. marshals at a McDonald's restaurant in Hawaii.
During a court hearing in February, Lawrence indicated that he may try to withdraw his guilty plea.
But during his latest court hearing on Thursday, a sentencing date was scheduled for Monday.
Since his previous hearing in February, Lawrence sent a letter to Judge Heather Brereton attempting to explain why he stayed on the run for a decade. In his letter, which is a little over five pages long, Lawrence apologizes several times to the court and his victim, and writes that he was talked into running away to Kauai by his girlfriend so they could raise her young daughter together.
"When I told her about this charge and the potential consequences I was facing, she asked me to move with her and (her daughter) to the small, rural island of Kauai to start a new life together," the letter states.
While Lawrence claims his decision to run wasn't easy, "I truly believed I would be sent to prison for five years and that I would not survive, that I would be murdered by other inmates who knew me when I worked there," he wrote. "Confronted with this reality and with a partner and young daughter who relied on me for their needs, I made the incredibly difficult choice to flee with them."
In the letter, Lawrence calls his decision "shortsighted and wrong."
"I'm not a bad person. I am a good man that made a grave mistake," according to the letter.
He further tells the judge that when he contacted his victim through an escort ad, "I had no intention or desire to cause any harm. My actions were impulsive. Knowing that it caused her trauma has been devastating to me. Living with this guilt has haunted me ever since and I am filled with remorse."
While living in Hawaii, Lawrence worked for a construction business and volunteered with a couple of charity and nonprofit organizations, he wrote. He has had no other arrests during that time.
Lawrence also told the judge in his letter that he and his girlfriend separated in 2015 and he now has full custody of her daughter, who is almost 13.
Lawrence spends much of the letter repeatedly apologizing for his actions and pleading to be sentenced to time served and placed on parole.
"I'm ashamed of the choices I made which brought me to this point in life. I would give anything to take that day back but I can't," the letter states.9 comments on this story
Several other letters were also submitted to the court in support of Lawrence, including one from his former girlfriend and her daughter.
"My dad is a very loving and caring person, constantly considering the people around him," she wrote. "Now that he's gone, my life is much smaller. … My dad is a really good person. He likes animals and helping people. He makes me feel safe."
Sentencing on Monday is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The forcible sex abuse charge carries a potential sentence of zero to five years in prison.