Rolly: Utah lawmaker criticized for supporting sex offender

Paul Rolly of the Salt Lake Tribune drew attention in his column today to Better UTAH’s criticism of Rep. Wayne Harper for a letter he sent to a judge in defense of a convicted sexual abuser.

Maryann Martindale, executive director of the Alliance for a Better UTAH, recently wrote an open letter to Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, which she shared with the media. It chastised Harper for using his title as a state legislator in a letter of support he wrote for Eric Ray, who was convicted of forcible sex abuse based on his conduct with a then-15-year-old girl.

“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,” wrote Martindale. “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.”

Rolly goes on to point out that Harper isn’t alone in making questionable ethical choices when it comes to acting in his official legislative position. Congressman Rob Bishop and state Sen. Pete Knudson came under fire last year for interfering in the federal trying of a Brigham City doctor who was illegally prescribing medicine. Former state Sen. Chris Buttars also crossed an ethical line, even prompting a new senate rule, when he cussed out a judge over a zoning dispute.

Harper didn’t violate any rules in sending his own letter, according to Rolly, but the ethics of Harper’s behavior remains questionable.

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