SOUTH SALT LAKE (News4Utah) – A South Salt Lake City council member is speaking out after a man in her district pleaded guilty to stalking charges, hoping to encourage other women to speak up against their harassers.
Corey Thomas said she first met her stalker Francis Carney when she was campaigning last year. He got her number off one of her flyers and began calling and texting her.
“I should’ve reported it last year when it started, but I didn’t…because I didn’t think it was serious enough,” said Thomas.
She said Carney’s harassment eventually stopped, but he started contacting her again in June…and this time, the harassment was worse.
“He had a lot of photos of me posted on his Facebook page, which made me very fearful. Just some of his comments were very threatening. I feared for my safety because he lives two blocks away from me,” said Thomas. “He told me we were going to get married in the cathedral and that he didn’t want me to die alone. He sent some very inappropriate photos that were unexpected and traumatizing.”
Probable cause documents said, “Carney repeatedly sent Thomas messages on Facebook messenger. Some of the messages contained threats, obscene photographs, and foul language. One of the messages indicated the defendant had made copies of Thomas’ photograph and put them on his ceiling so he could wake up and see her.”
Thomas said this incident caused her trauma, stress, fear, PTSD, sleeplessness, and weight loss because as a public figure, anyone could easily show up at a city council meeting or city event and find her.
“It was really scary going through that. I didn’t stay at my home during the first week he contacted me,” said Thomas. “I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I’ve never felt so scared.”
Thomas eventually contacted police, which led to Carney’s arrest. Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill said Carney was originally charged with distribution of pornography and stalking. But the pornography charges were dropped as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. Carney pled guilty to stalking charges Monday.
“I was physically shaking, sick to my stomach, and wanted to cry when I had to speak in court. I kept it together knowing how important it was. I needed to be strong for other women. Hoping that they never have to experience but know that it is okay to speak up,” said Thomas. “If one woman decides, after seeing this, to come forward and speak to the police department about her concerns, then everything I’ve gone through is ultimately worth it in the end.”
“No person, no woman of any kind should feel like they deserve to receive that. Don’t wait. Pick up the phone, call your local law enforcement, document everything, there are resources that are available here,” said Gill.
Thomas was granted a permanent stalking injunction from Carney, which requires him to stay at least 1000 feet away from her. If he violates the order, the injunction turns into a felony. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 5th and could face up to another year in jail for the stalking charges.
“This is a really traumatic event for anyone who’s been stalked or has experienced that and so this is something we take very seriously,” said Gill. “The goal is to keep the victim as safe as possible, to try and deter behavior from this person to make sure they leave the victim alone.”