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UINTAH `SANTA' CONVICTED OF LEWDLY TOUCHING GIRLS

A Uintah County man has been found guilty of inappropriately touching young girls while playing Santa Claus last December at a Roosevelt LDS ward Christmas party.

Eighth District Judge Lynn Payne found Richard Perry, 51, Tridell, guilty of one Class A misdemeanor count of gross lewdness and four Class A misdemeanor counts of lewdness involving a child. Perry was acquitted of a sixth count based on the judge's interpretation of the lewdness statute. Payne told prosecuting attorney Herb Gillespie the charge should have been filed as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.All six of the female juveniles involved in the Dec. 6, 1991, incident testified during a non-jury trial that Perry touched them through their clothing in an inappropriate manner while they were sitting on his lap at a Christmas party. They said he continued even after they pushed his hand away.

In issuing his ruling, Payne said that although he believes Perry has a good reputation in the community he can't overlook the witnesses' testimony.

"I think we have intentional, knowing reckless conduct. The victims indicated it was not an affectionate thing."

Perry contended he did not touch the girls inappropriately and was only trying to prevent them from falling off his lap. The victims ranged in age from 11 to 14.

Perry was placed under an order to have no contact with any female under age 18 except family members.

He remains free pending sentencing May 4.