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Repeat sex offenders — ‘let them rot’?

House panel backs longer prison terms for predators

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Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, wants to make life a little more unpleasant for those convicted of sexually assaulting children.

Specifically, he's after repeat sex offenders with his bill, HB86. The bill provides a framework for mandatory increased sentences for repeat sex offenders. For some grievous crimes, multiple convictions would draw a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Wimmer had originally wanted to get a death penalty for certain types of habitual sex offenders. He told the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee that he has not abandoned the idea altogether.

"I have every intention, not this year but in future years, to continue to pursue the death penalty for repeat child sex offenders in certain cases."

He said he is looking at how the U.S. Supreme Court handles the impending execution of a convicted sex offender in Louisiana.

Wimmer said his bill is a positive step toward protecting children. He also said that his professional experience as a police officer gives him perspective on law enforcement matters.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff shared Wimmers sentiments.

"We really should call this bill the 'let them rot bill,"' Shurtleff told the committee, drawing applause from the audience, which included a dozen or so leather-clad Bikers Against Child Abuse members.

Paul Boyden, the executive director of the Utah Prosecutors Association, told the committee that increased sentences would keep sex predators in prison longer.

"Frankly, this is going to be sound public policy," Boyden said.

Some victims of sexual abuse were also present to ask for the longer sentences. One woman told the committee that sexual abusers wreak havoc on their victims' lives and seldom serve enough prison time.

"I used drugs and alcohol to drown out the pain," she told the committee.

She said the man who abused her also abused several others, but she said that his longest stint in the corrections system was eight days in jail.

Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, and Rep. Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake, said they supported the bill but didn't want the state to give up on treatment programs for sex offenders

The committee unanimously voted to pass the bill on to the House for further debate.

E-mail: smansell@desnews.com