17 Dec 2008

Former FLDS man faces 30 years in jail for sex abuse case

The Spectrum - Utah December 13, 2008

by Nur Kausar

CEDAR CITY - A Southern Utah man was sentenced in 5th District Court on Monday to one to 15 years for each of two second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse of a child.

Wayland Wightman Wyler, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, pleaded guilty to both counts back in June, after being incarcerated for eight months awaiting trial.

Prior to sentencing a 90-day diagnostic evaluation was made of Wyler, 41, and a therapist did a psycho-sexual evaluation. Deputy County Attorney Troy Little said both then made recommendations to the court.

Wyler was originally arrested in March 2006 on charges of sexually molesting a female relative multiple times over three years, beginning when she was 8 years old. After bailing out on the charges, Wyler failed to appear in court last October, Little said.

Wyler had a warrant out for his arrest because of the appearance failures, said Iron County Det. Mike Crouch. He was arrested again after being hospitalized, treated and released for carbon monoxide poisoning, reportedly after being found unconscious in his garage with a vehicle running.

Little said Wyler and Iron County entered into a plea negotiation for sentencing, since he had been charged in both Washington and Iron Counties. Wyler's attorney, Alan Boyack, said the original counts were for two first-degree felonies which carried a mandatory 25-year sentence. With the plea deal, the charges decreased and the Washington County charges were dropped, even though Boyack said he disagreed with the outcome.

"I thought it would hopefully go to probation," Boyack said. "I did not think the evaluation was done well. All the objective things in it pointed to probation, but the judge based his decision on the heinousness of the crime."

Little said the plea deal occurred because the county thought it best for the case, given the evidence collected during an investigation by the Iron County Sheriff's Office.

"To protect (the victim), we let him plea to lesser charges," Little said, noting that initially Wyler had pleaded innocent but changed his plea as a result of the negotiation. "(The victim) was scared to death. We had to protect her mental health."

He added that the victim's mother testified on behalf of the county during sentencing, saying she didn't want him out around children and that he would be a danger to society if not in prison.

"The mother had no problem reporting to us," Crouch said about the case. "She came up with an escape plan for her family."

"She was a pretty courageous woman," he added.

Little also said the state sometimes has a hard time with these cases, because of FLDS church culture which is apprehensive about public officials.

"It's difficult to get that group to take the stand but this family was really good about it," he said.

Crouch said the family had resided in Hilldale but his office took over because Wyler lived in their jurisdiction during the investigation and arrest process.

Little said the court left it up to the department of corrections if Wyler would serve his two sentences concurrently or consecutively.

Boyack said his client was up for parole because he served 455 days in prison before sentencing, but it's not likely he will be given it.

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