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'Dr. John' convicted in porn case

Attorneys for John Haltom, known as "Dr. John," say they'll appeal a jury verdict finding Haltom guilty of dealing harmful materials to a minor during a sting arranged by Midvale police.

The third-degree felony conviction could carry a sentence of zero to five years in prison. The six-woman, two-man jury deliberated most of the afternoon Friday.

"We are disappointed in the jury's verdict," said John Fahle, Haltom's defense attorney. "We believe there are appealable issues that the higher courts will grant us relief on."

A dejected Haltom shrugged his shoulders and heaved a sigh outside the courtroom. "I didn't do it," he said.

Prosecutor Langdon Fisher said he thought the verdict was proper but wanted to reserve further comment until Haltom's sentencing on April 29 before 3rd District Judge Dennis Fuchs.

Haltom was arrested in 2000 after Midvale police sent 17-year-old Brittany Pearson, daughter of Assistant Police Chief Dan Pearson, into Haltom's store, Dr. John's Lingerie and Novelty Boutique, 6885 S. State, where she bought an adult video.

Store employee Vadim Sepulgardiev checked her driver's license. He then called for Haltom and asked about the proper way to ensure that an individual was not using a fake license. Haltom looked at the girl's license and asked her to recite her Social Security number and address.

Fahle said Haltom didn't check the birth date on the license because Haltom assumed Sepulgardiev had already done so. Company policy requires employees to card everyone who walks into one of Haltom's stores, and Haltom has fired workers who failed to do so, Fahle said.

"We don't make somebody a felon because of a simple mistake," Fahle said.

But prosecutor Fisher said Haltom's actions showed he wasn't exercising the "reasonable care" that is necessary when such materials are sold. He also said "money was king" for Haltom no matter what company policies existed and that Haltom was using his employee as a fall guy.

"If a person is going to sell this kind of tape we expect them to exercise great caution," Fisher said. "He is trying to blame somebody else for his behavior."

The defense team also alleged this case involved entrapment by Midvale police and that the arrest was part of a "sustained campaign of harassment" by city officials who don't like Haltom's store. Fahle suggested that a disgruntled former employee, Curtis Gorman, enlisted Sepulgardiev to sell the video to the girl so police could arrest Haltom.

Gorman had been fired for allegedly stealing $7,000 from Haltom but later worked out a repayment arrangement and was charged with only a misdemeanor. He testified at a preliminary hearing in this case.

Sepulgardiev, who is from Tajikistan, cannot be located.

But Fisher expressed skepticism at this idea, stating that the entrapment argument was a "red herring" and that he believed Gorman "stumbled all over himself" to testify positively for Haltom during the preliminary hearing.

Fisher also questioned why anyone would try to solicit Sepulgardiev to set up Haltom. "It doesn't make sense that Vadim would be chosen for this task. He's a good friend of the defendant. Vadim had a good future with this company."


E-mail: lindat@desnews.com