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.

Utah Teens Charged After Business in the Park Turned Aggravated Robbery

Two southern Utah teens were arrested late last month after their questionable business deal in the park turned into aggravated robbery.

“Business”

Photo by: Andy Thrasher

18 year old Jess P. Bozek and 19 year old Angel Isaiah Vazquez-Mendoza were arrested after an individual came forward stating the duo had met him in a quiet park to conduct a business transaction yet instead had robbed him at gunpoint. The victim stated the two demanded the items he had of value on him such as a wallet and drug items and when he challenged their demands, they physically restrained him while threatening him with a gun and knife. Authorities were able to quickly locate Bozek and Vazquez-Mendoza and both were arrested on multiple charges including aggravated robbery.

Aggravated Robbery

Although the victim wasn’t hurt and the gun was claimed to be a fake, two different weapons were used to threaten bodily harm which therefore constituted aggravated robbery. Standard robbery is defined by Utah Code 76-6-301 as when “[a] person unlawfully and intentionally takes or attempts to take person property in the possession of another from his person, or immediate presence, against his will, by means of force or fear, and with a purpose or intent to deprive the person permanently or temporarily of the person property”. Section 76-6-302 of the Utah State Code adds: “A person commits aggravated robbery if in the course of committing robbery, he:

(a) Uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon . . . ;
(b) Causes serious bodily injury upon another; or
(c) Takes or attempts to take an operable motor vehicle.”

Five to life

Both boys who are legally adults but who appear to be still immensely naive when it comes to common sense are facing serious charges for their business deal gone awry. Standard robbery is a second degree felony while aggravated robbery is a first degree felony. The 18 and 19 year old could be facing five years to life in prison for their mistake. For more information on felony charges as they pertain to juveniles and young adults, contact a criminal defense attorney who has experience working with clients of all ages.

19 Year old From Southern Utah Facing Nine Felonies for Sexual Abuse of Tweens

A 19 year old from southern Utah was arrested on multiple charges including nine felonies after two tweens came forward claiming to be victims of sexual abuse.

Consensual…and not

Photo by: AK Rockefeller

19 year old Kaden Luwayne Barber was arrested in St. George Friday after two 13 year old girls came forward claiming Barber had sexually abused them. One of the tweens told police she and Barber had exchanged inappropriate messages with each other and had engaged in sexual relations. According to reports, that sexual activity did not take place against her will. The other 13 year old told investigators that Barber had sexually abused her while at his home and that he continued after she asked him not to.

Not of consent age

While Barber is facing charges for taking indecent liberties with one of the 13 year old against her will, he is also facing criminal charges for his sexual activity with the other tween with who the sexual activity was “consensual”. The reason for this is that a 13 year old is not considered old enough by Utah law to give consent for sex. Utah considers all minors under the age of 16 to be too young to consent to any sexual activity. Any teen or adult involved in sexual activity with a minor under the age of 16 will face criminal charges. Once a teen is 16, they and the other party will not face charges as long as the age difference isn’t greater than seven to 10 years, depending on the older person’s knowledge of their age.

Sexual abuse felonies

Photo by: Rae Allen

Barber’s sexual abuse of the two tweens is likely to result in him spending several years behind bars. The 19 year old is facing three class B misdemeanors as well as:

• Two counts of dealing in harmful material to a minor, each a third degree felony;
• Two second degree felonies for sexual exploitation of a minor for producing, distributing, possessing child pornography (exchanging nudes);
• Three second degree felonies for sexual abuse of a child or inappropriate touching of a child under the age of 14;
Aggravated sexual abuse of a child for touching and penetration of genitalia (not amounting to rape) “. . . by force, duress, violence, intimidation, coercion, menace, or threat of harm”, a first degree felony;
• One first degree felony for rape of a child for having “sexual intercourse with a child who was under the age of 14 years at the time of the offense” according to Section 76-5-402.1.

For legal counsel related to sex offense charges or for more information on the age of legal consent in Utah, consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney. For minors facing similar charges, consult an attorney that also handles cases in juvenile court.

Skirmish between Groups of Teens in West Jordan Ends in Shooting

A skirmish between two groups of teens in West Jordan ended in a shooting last week and felony charges could be pending for one young juvenile.

Fight escalates

Photo by: Peter Anderson

One teen was shot and another arrested after a fight broke out between two groups of teens in West Jordan last Sunday evening. The incident, which is said to not be gang-related started for unknown reasons but quickly escalated to rocks being thrown and a gun being fired. One teen was shot multiple times and luckily did not have life-threatening injuries. Another teen who was said to be a 14 year old male was arrested and could face serious charges for shooting the other teen.

Aggravated Assault or worse

Authorities have not released what charges the teen is facing however it is possible the teen could face felony charges for either aggravated assault or a more serious offense such as attempted murder. Aggravated assault is defined by Section 76-5-103 as “conduct that is:

i. an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;
ii. a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
iii. an act, committed with unlawful force of violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and

. . .that includes the use of:
i. a dangerous weapon . . . ;
ii. any act that impedes the breathing or the circulation of blood of another person. . . ;
iii. other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.

Aggravated assault is punishable as a third degree felony unless the victim is seriously injured or loses consciousness during the assault at which point the penalty faced would then be a second degree felony.

Increased charges if proven intent

If the teen pulling the trigger had better aim or had the victim been a foot more to one side, the shooting could have been deadly. Some may wonder if the risk of death from the crime would then constitute attempted murder, a first degree felony. Although shooting another individual is likely to cause death, it should not be considered attempted murder unless the shooter pulled the trigger with the intent to kill as stated in section 76-4-101. This pivotal question of intent is likely to arise during legal proceedings however which could dramatically increase the fine and prison term a defendant is facing. Anyone facing aggravated assault charges are encouraged to seek experienced legal representation immediately.

Vehicle Burglary

Vehicle burglaries can occur regardless of how upscale the neighborhood, and many of those car break-ins are done by minors from the same area. Whether done out of boredom or to find loose change, breaking into a car is against the law whether or not anything ends up stolen.

Vehicle Burglary

Photo by: Hey Paul

Unlawful entrance to a vehicle can result in criminal charges even if nothing of value is removed from the vehicle. Utah Code 76-6-204 explains that “any person who unlawfully enters any vehicle with intent to commit a felony or theft is guilty of a burglary of a vehicle.” If a teen opens a car hoping to find loose change or a GPS system and all they find are empty soda bottles and fast food wrappers, they are still entering the vehicle with the intent to commit a theft. Burglary of a vehicle is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a large fine.

Other charges

If upon entering a vehicle illegally the teen finds and removes items of value, they will obviously face charges of theft if caught. The punishment for theft depends on the value of the items stolen. According to Utah Code 76-6-412, the charges for theft can range from a class B misdemeanor for theft of items valued under $500 to a second degree felony is the value of the stolen item exceeds $5,000 or is a firearm. There are other possible charges related to vehicle burglary including:

• Possession of burglary tools, a class A misdemeanor if items were needed to break into vehicles as explain in 76-6-205;

• Criminal mischief if the vehicle or any item inside was damaged as described in 76-6-106 with penalties varying depending on “pecuniary loss” during the vehicle burglary; or even

• Aggravated robbery, a first degree felony if the vehicle broken into was occupied by a driver according to Utah Code 76-6-302.

Teens who may view vehicle burglaries as simple, no-risk crimes should be educated on the potential legal outcome that could result from breaking into a vehicle. Those minors already facing charges should consult with a juvenile defense attorney.