A former Salt Lake County sheriff's sergeant who falsified a report about an inmate's escape has been placed on probation.
William Bills, 55, who resigned last summer after working 28 years for the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, entered a guilty plea to falsification or alteration of a government record, a class B misdemeanor, during a court hearing May 28.Third District Judge Judith Atherton agreed to hold the plea in abeyance and placed Bills on probation for 12 months. At the end of probation, the charge will be dismissed. Atherton also ordered Bills to pay a $100 fine.
According to the charges, Bills worked in the jail transportation unit of the sheriff's office and was taking Sara Jane Padilla back to the Oxbow Jail on Feb. 20, 1998, after she was sentenced to a six-month term. He was driving her in his personal squad car rather than a jail transport van.
In his police report, Bills said that Padilla had "slipped her handcuffs and belly chain and fled from his police car at 500 S. 300 West," the charges state.
But prosecutors said Bills actually removed the restraints so Padilla could go to a friend's house near 600 North and 1100 East to get money for the jail commissary. Bills was to get sexual favors from her in return, but Padilla never returned to his squad car, the charges state.
Instead, she walked out the back door of the friend's house and walked to another house a few blocks away. She got a ride to Price, where she was later arrested.
Bills "further failed to report the purported escape to any police agency for at least one hour after the purported escape," the charges state.
"He admits that he delayed in reporting the escape basically because he didn't want to get her in trouble," said Bills' attorney Kent Snider."He thought he could catch her and he couldn't."
The charges also say Bills and Padilla had been having an affair for about a year. He would allow her to see relatives unsupervised and allegedly gave her soft drinks and food in return for sexual favors.
In July of 1997, Padilla told Bills she wanted to end the arrangement. Bills responded by saying that "he knew where her mother lived and that she was in a wheelchair and that it would be tragic if a house fire were to happen but that it would not happen if she never told about the sexual favors she provided," the charges state.
Bills was never charged with any sexual impropriety, and his attorney denies that the two ever shared a sexual relationship.
"It absolutely never happened, and we had evidence that would prove that it couldn't have ever happened," Snider said.
Sometimes prisoners make false allegations against police officers because "they feel that doing so will reduce their exposure to any criminal liability," Snider said.
"If he'd been doing the things that she alleged, why didn't she immediately run out and contact the police? The only time she made allegations of sexual impropriety is when she was arrested on another charge in central Utah," Snider said.