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Payson man gets at least 65 years for abusing 5 boys

Judge says he ‘poses a threat to safety, welfare of children in community’

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Pedro Hugo Rodriguez, 40, listens to a witness at the 4th District Court in Provo, March 2, 2010.

Pedro Hugo Rodriguez, 40, listens to a witness at the 4th District Court in Provo, March 2, 2010.

T.j. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News

PROVO — Pedro Hugo Rodriguez will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Fourth District Judge Lynn Davis said Rodriguez "poses an extreme danger to the community and is a threat to the safety and welfare of children in the community," and sentenced him to at least 65 years in prison Friday.

"He has wrought devastation," Davis said.

The 40-year-old Payson resident was found guilty on March 5 of 56 felony counts of aggravated sexual assault, forcible sodomy and sodomy on a child involving five boys who were raped at different homes where he lived in Payson, Lehi, Orem and Provo.

"This court has exercised its discretion and given him the absolute maximum in every count in the case," the judge said.

For four of the victims, Rodriguez was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, with the sentence for multiple counts against separate victims running concurrently. For a fifth victim, involving a single charge of forcible sodomy, he was sentenced to five years to life.

Davis then ruled the sentences will run consecutively for each of the five victims.

Prosecutor Donna Kelly explained that the actual time to be served could even be extended by the Board of Pardons, which routinely adds 10 percent to time served for concurrent sentences.

"My opinion is he will be in prison for the rest of his life," she said. "I think justice has been served."

Rodriguez was impassive as the sentence was read for each victim and relayed to him through a translator, but in a statement he made prior to sentencing, he apologized only for sexual acts with a 16-year-old victim.

He had admitted to having committed those acts — 22 counts of unlawful sexual conduct — during his trial but maintained his innocence Friday on the numerous other counts.

"It's not right what I did. I apologize. I know it's wrong," Rodriguez said. "But the jury found me guilty in other cases. I want to have a fair trial where I can appeal my case and show my innocence. I feel like I deserve a better trial with a professional attorney."

Defense attorney Barbara Gonzalez wasn't surprised at the slight.

"I expected him to say that, and that's all I can say about it," she said, indicating it was likely that Rodriguez would appeal Friday's decision.

Because Rodriguez's crimes occurred between 2005 and 2008, he was sentenced under 2005 Utah law, in effect reducing the length of the sentence for each major count. If he were sentenced under today's law, each of the first-degree felony counts would carry a maximum sentence of 25 years to life.

In arguing for the maximum sentence, Kelly pointed to testimony in Rodriguez's trial which showed he would groom his victims, all young teens from troubled families, by befriending them at the Orem Recreation Center, paying them to work with his tiling business or on his friends' mink farm and inviting them for sleepovers.

Then, his victims testified, he would rape them, offering them money or threatening them with weapons. In at least one case, he threatened a victim's family.

"The victims in these cases were very young and very vulnerable," Davis said, explaining the aggravating circumstances that led the harsh sentences.

"Some of them were as young as 9 years old when this attention was drawn to them. These were both physically and emotionally painful experiences for them," Davis said. "I hope there is a healing over time. He has affected numerous families."

Families of two of the victims were in the courtroom Friday, both of which had written letters to Davis. Neither of them chose to speak. Another family has moved out of the area, Kelly said, and the other two chose to not attend the sentencing.

e-mail: mhaddock@desnews.com