Salt Lake City — Good government group Alliance for a Better UTAH recently wrote an open letter to Representative Wayne Harper (R-Taylorsville), chiding him for using his official capacity to intervene in a sentencing hearing of a man convicted of sexual abuse.
Maryann Martindale, executive director of the Alliance for a Better UTAH, called Harper to task for abusing the power of his office and defending convicted felon Eric Ray over the interests of the underage female victim.
“We are concerned that you appear to have crossed an ethical line by using your official capacity as a member of the State Legislature to influence the Court’s sentencing,” said the letter. “While your motives may have been well intentioned, we believe that Eric Ray’s victim, her family, similarly situated victims, your constituents and the citizens of Utah deserve an apology for what appears to be an abuse of the power of your position for the sake of a convicted felon.”
[Full copy of Better UTAH’s letter can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/112717822]
Identifying himself as a member of the Utah Legislature, rather than as an independent citizen, Harper wrote a letter of support in Eric Ray’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday. Signing the letter with his elected title, Harper called Ray “very dependable and reliable.”
“I expect great things from him in the future,” Harper continued.
[Full copy of Harper’s letter can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/112591744]
Martindale wrote to 4th District Judge Lynn Davis earlier this week, asking the judge to evaluate Harper’s letter “solely as coming from him in his personal capacity based on his personal relationship with the defendant, with the assumption that the Court is not being intentionally or inadvertently pressured due to Representative Harper’s political position and the power attendant to it.”
“We believe it inappropriate,” continued the letter, “for Representative Harper to have addressed the Court in this matter in his official capacity as a member of the Utah Legislature.”
[Full copy of Better UTAH’s letter to Judge Davis can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/112590845]
Ray was found guilty in September of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. On Wednesday he was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison, though prosecuting attorney Craig Johnson has told the Daily Herald that he expects Ray will be in prison for at least three years before he is up for parole. Ray is also facing retrial on additional charges related to the crime.
Alliance for a Better Utah | 801.557.1532 | www.betterutah.org
The Alliance for a Better UTAH is a year-round, multi-issue education and advocacy organization providing resources, commentary, and action on important public policy matters.