Sexual Assault Charges for Utah Teen Who Took Hazing Too Far

A Gunnison, Utah teen was charged with multiple charges of sexual assault after a hazing incident was taken too far.

Sexual assault by team member

Photo by: Mike Dupris

Many youth that join high school sports teams will experience a little bit of hazing. While some incidents are innocently done as a fun way to welcome new members to the team, others cross a line and can result in criminal charges for those responsible. Mid-September, a 15 year old freshmen student at Gunnison High School alerted the high school resource officer to a hazing incident that involved the male juvenile being held down and sexually assaulted by a sophomore following football practice. After the boy came forward to authorities, other victims soon followed suit and the 16 year old sophomore was arrested for six first degree felonies as well as five second degree felonies related to the sexual abuse.

Harmful hazing

While the student charged with sexual abuse obviously crossed the line from innocent hazing to criminal activity, other hazing rituals may also be against the law as well. Utah Code 76-5-107.5 states “A person is guilty of hazing if that person [knowing the activity is for those to be or remain a member of any organization] intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly commits an act or causes another to commit an act that:

(a) i. endangers the mental or physical health or safety of another;

ii. involves any brutality of a physical nature such as whipping, beating, branding, calisthenics, bruising, electric shocking, placing of a harmful substance on the body, or exposure to the elements;

iii. involves consumption of any food, alcoholic product, drug, or other substance or any other physical activity that endangers the mental or physical health and safety of an individual; or

iv. Involves any activity that would subject the individual to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, extended isolation from social contact, or conduct that subjects another to extreme embarrassment, shame or humiliation”.

Criminal Penalties

Depending on the severity of the hazing and what weapons of illicit materials are used, hazing may be punished ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony. Any teens facing charges for their involvement of criminal hazing are encouraged to seek the legal counsel of a reputable juvenile defense attorney.

19 Year old Utah Teen Arrested for Receiving Stolen Property

A 19 year old Utah teen was arrested for receiving stolen property after accompanying a friend to sell thousands of dollars of stolen sports memorabilia.

150k of stolen sports memorabilia

Photo by: Ryan Hyde

An avid sports memorabilia collector in West Jordan, Utah called police in late July claiming his trailer loaded with $150,000 worth of sports memorabilia had been stolen. A week later, the trailer was found burned, but empty. Investigators began to follow leads on the missing memorabilia, eventually posing as a buyer and arranging a meeting with a suspect who claimed to have the stolen goods. During that meeting two individuals were arrested – 33 year old Michael Brandon Morris and 19 year old Mariah Christine Smith.

Indirect theft

During questioning Morris claimed another man had given him the sports memorabilia. Knowing the items were stolen, Morris did not alert authorities but instead priced the items and listed them for sale. Reports do not indicate whether or not his 19 year old accomplice was directly involved but it is possible she knew the items were obtained illegally. Both are facing charges for receiving stolen property.

Receiving stolen property

Utah Code 76-7-408 states, “A person commits theft if he receives, retains, or disposes of the property of another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it probably has been stolen, or who conceals, sells, withholds or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding the property from the owner, knowing the property to be stolen, intending to deprive the owner of it.” Punishment for receiving stolen property or being an accomplice in said crime can vary from class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending on the value of the property. Any teens who may suspect someone they have been helping is dealing in stolen property are encouraged to alert law enforcement and seek legal counsel from a juvenile defense attorney.

Three Teens Harboring a Runaway Friend Arrested

Three 18 year old teens from St. George Utah were arrested for harboring their friend who was listed as a runaway by law enforcement.

Missing person

Photo by: chriscom

In a Facebook plea from her distraught father, 17 year old McKenzie Scholzen was reported missing Monday after leaving home to go on a walk and never returning. Jeff Scholzen, McKenzie’s father stated concern for his daughter’s well-being due to suicidal tendencies. Local law enforcement was informed and began investigating the case while the community shared the father’s online post more than eight thousand times in an effort to locate the missing teen. Three days later, McKenzie was located safe and three older teens were arrested.

Road trip

McKenzie was found in a LDS church roughly 40 miles north of her home but hadn’t been there the entire time. The teen along with three 18 year olds had in fact travelled over 800 miles away to northern California before returning to southern Utah. McKenzie who left of her own free will was placed temporarily with a crisis center before being released to her parents. The 18 year olds who weren’t much older than McKenzie but legally considered adults by Utah law were arrested – Luis Rockwood for a warrant and Diego (Jasper) Wellhoff along with Lydia Probst for obstruction of justice and harboring a runaway.

Harboring a runaway

Photo by: Francois Marcotte

McKenzie went on the road trip willingly with her friends but because of her age as a minor, anyone helping her now faces criminal charges. Utah Code 62A-4a-501 states “a person . . . is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if the person:

(a) knowingly and intentionally harbors a child;
(b) knows at the time of harboring the child that the child is a runaway;
(c) fails to notify one of the following, by telephone or other reasonable means, of the location of the child:
i. the parent or legal guardian of the child;
ii. the division; or
iii. a youth services center; and
(d) fails to notify [one of the above persons] within eight hours after the later of:
i. the time that the person becomes aware that the child is a runaway; or
ii. the time that the person begins harboring the child.”

A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine on top of any other charges faced.

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Utah

Older teens who are sexually involved with others near their own age may not have to worry about legal repercussions thanks to Utah’s Romeo and Juliet laws.

Romeo and Juliet laws

Photo by: Rob Zand

Romeo and Juliet laws are in place nationwide to protect teens and young adults from criminal charges for engaging in sexual activity with others. These laws vary depending on how old each person involved is along with the differences between the ages of the two parties. The state of Utah’s consensual sex laws may differ from neighboring states, therefore it is essential for teens and young adults to understand the laws of the states where they live or frequent to ensure their sexual activity is not considered a crime.

Consensual sexual activity

In the state of Utah, if two individuals engage in sexual activity where at least one party is a minor, there may be no legal issues as long as the encounter is consensual. There are some instances where regardless of whether or not both parties concede to the activity, it may be against the law.

When one or both parties are too young. Utah Code 76-5-401.3 explains that “unlawful adolescent sexual activity is punishable as a . . . Class C misdemeanor if an adolescent who is 12 or 13 years of age engages in unlawful adolescent sexual activity with an adolescent who is 12 or 13 years of age [or] . . . if an adolescent who is 14 years of age engages in unlawful adolescent sexual activity with an adolescent who is 13 years of age.”

When there is a significant age difference. That same statue warns that older teens who engage in sexual activity with a younger teen will face more severe penalties than teens closer to the same age. For instance, if a 17 year old engages in sexual activity with a 14 year old, they may face a class B misdemeanor. If the younger party is 12 or 13 year old, the older teen may face third degree felony charges.

When one individual involved is an adult. Once a teen is 16 or 17 years old, they are considered more capable of making decisions regarding sexual activity, even if the individual to whom they are engaging in the activity with is an adult. There is an age limit to this law however. Utah Code 76-5-401.2 notes that sexual activity with a 16 or a 17 year old is against the law if the adult involved is “seven or more years older but less than 10 years older than the minor . . . and the individual knew or reasonably should have known the age of the minor; or 10 or more years older than the minor”.

For more information on Romeo and Juliet consensual sex laws in Utah or for legal help regarding charges related to these laws, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Vandalism and Abuse of a flag at Utah High School

The small town of Hurricane, Utah has once again gained national attention after vandalism and signs of abuse of a flag were found at the local high school.

Small town, big news

Photo by: Lin Cheong

The small southern Utah town has made the news again not even a month after two students from Hurricane High School posted a disturbingly racist post on social media, gaining national attention and outrage. Now Hurricane, Utah has made headlines for flying an Isis flag at the local high school?

Legitimate threat or immature prank

Early last Thursday morning, one or more individuals removed the American flag from a flagpole outside the Hurricane High school, desecrating it. They then proceeded to replace the American flag with an Isis flag and continued their humorless prank by spray painting the side of the building. Concerned over the possibility of a terrorist threat, the local police department contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigations who deemed there to be no danger. The possibility of a prank is likely which could have been carried out by local residents or even students.

Abuse of a flag is no joke

Whether or not the shout out to Isis was a prank or not, abuse of a flag is not tolerated. Utah Code 76-9-601 states: “A person is guilty of abuse of a flag if he . . . Knowingly casts contempt upon the flag of the United States or of any state of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning, or trampling upon it. Abuse of a flag is a class B misdemeanor.” Adults or teens who wish to voice their frustration with the government are encouraged to seek legal avenues to make their voices heard.