The former inspector general for Utah's Corrections Department was ordered Friday morning to go directly to jail.
James Scott McAlister, 34, appeared before 3rd District Judge David Young and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of distribution of pornographic material, a class A misdemeanor.The judge sentenced him to serve seven days in the Salt Lake County Jail. Although he could have imposed a one-year jail sentence and a fine of $2,500, Young followed the recommendation of prosecutors, who asked that McAlister be given the minimum statutory sentence of seven days.
McAlister's attorney, Brad Rich, said his client is pleased with the plea bargain made with the Salt Lake County attorney's office and is anxious to get this matter behind him.
"He's really glad to be out from under this," he said.
McAlister was originally charged with sexual exploitation of a minor after one of his former secretaries, Linda Dreitzler, turned over movies containing child pornography to FBI investigators. The 8mm movies were taken from a criminal case file of a 1977 obscenity trial in Oregon, where McAlister worked as an assistant attorney general before coming to Utah.
McAlister resigned as inspector general after Dreitzler and other women accused him of trying to engage them in group sex. They said he asked them to view pornographic videos in an attempt to persuade them to have sex with him. McAlister denied the accusations, but Dreitzler recently received a $95,000 settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against McAlister, the state of Utah and Department of Corrections Director Gary DeLand.
Rich said he believes McAlister would have been acquitted of the exploitation charge had it gone to trial next week, but he said his client has conceded that he should not have taken the movies to Utah.
"He's always acknowledged he made a mistake in bringing those materials down here (from Oregon) and not returning them to the court," he said. "I view this as a pretty good compromise all around."
Bud Ellett, chief of the justice division of the county attorney's office, said he feels the plea bargain was appropriate but said the felony exploitation charge was not excessive when it was filed.
"When we got the matter - considering the nature of the film - it was not overcharged," he said. "But it would have been a tough case for either one of us to try or to defend."
Salt Lake County Jail Lt. Dan Ipsom said because McAlister is a former corrections official, he will likely be placed in isolation during his sentence because of safety concerns.
"I think they'll take good care of him," Rich said. He added, however, that had McAlister been given any other sentence, his safety might have been more difficult to ensure.
Rich said he does not expect Oregon to prosecute, since his client obtained the films there legally and his only crime was transporting the movies to Utah. He said he hopes the American Bar Association will continue to allow McAlister to practice law, despite the pornography conviction.
"I think this will be the end of the matter today," he said.
Since Young did not sentence McAlister to a probation term following incarceration, Rich said, his client has no ties in Utah and will immediately return home to Arizona.
"Let's let him get on with his life," Ellett said.
James Scott McAlister
Dec. 26, 1989 - McAlister resigns as inspector general after nearly one year in office. Cites "unfounded complaints" of sexual harassment and mismanagement.
Jan. 31, 1990 - FBI agents raid his Murray apartment, seize pornographic films and videos.
May 15 - McAlister charged with one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony, in 3rd Circuit Court.
Aug. 17 - McAlister pleads not guilty to exploitation charge.
Sept. 19 - Former secretary Linda Dreitzler receives $95,000 settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Oct. 12 - McAlister pleads guilty to charge of distribution of pornographic material, a class A misdemeanor and is sentenced to serve seven days in Salt Lake County Jail.