SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – A mother called her a “survivor” and a “hero.”
She doesn’t want her 12-year old daughter called a victim.
Their names are not being released to protect their identities. Last year, the 12-year old was sexually abused by 19-year old Arik Jeppsen.
Thursday, Jeppsen admitted guilt by accepting a plea bargain in which numerous sex related charges including rape and sodomy were dropped. But he agreed to plead guilty to two counts of child sex abuse, both second degree felonies.
The mother and daughter never wanted Jeppsen to go to prison for the crimes.
“I did not know Arik would affect my life the way he did,” the 12-year old said in a statement to the court.
But Jeppsen had a long-lasting affect on her.
It began a year ago when she met Jeppsen on Snapchat, a social media platform. He claimed to be 15-years old.
He eventually convinced her to send pornographic images of herself. Jeppsen also sent images of his private parts to her.
Then according to the charges, Jeppsen picked up the 12-year old and took her to his home. The police investigation alleged he raped and sodomized her while introducing her to pornography.
Her mother later learned of the event after noticing a change in her daughter’s personality.
Despite teaching her daughter about the dangers of the internet, Jeppsen slipped through.
“Unfortunately, we allowed a predator in our home through the internet,” the mother said at Jeppsen’s sentencing. “We take accountability for that. But we don’t take accountability for the rest.”
Thursday, mother and and daughter appeared in a video conference during Jeppsen’s sentencing.
Prior to judgement, Jeppsen offered an apology.
“I know for a fact that none of this was deserved or warranted,” Jeppsen said during the virtual sentencing. “And I believe, again, you’ve shown tremendous strength and courage in affording that. I sincerely hope that things look up for you from here on out. You deserve a nice and prosperous life.”
According to his attorney, Jeppsen showed remorse from the time he was arrested. He had never been involved in a crime before. He spent more than 200-hundred days in the Salt Lake County jail but was released in late January. Both the prosecution and his attorney agreed to the findings of the Adult, Probation and Parole background report which concluded that he was not a risk to the community, was not likely to re-offend, and that prison was not a good fit for him.
The mother and daughter never did seek prison but instead they wanted Jeppsen to get help through services available to sex offenders.
But the mother was not satisfied that the prosecutor did not push for that.
“We have been misrepresented in this courtroom,” said the mother. “We wanted to offer Mr. Jeppson an opportunity to work instead of just prison and do nothing. We wanted to see him to do for example, a year of sexual offender treatment.”
A week earlier, Judge Matthew Bates tried to carry out the sentencing again through a video conference.
But the mother who talked about the impact of the crime also expressed anger towards the prosecutor, Donna Kelly, for the plea deal.
The hearing was under time constraints because it was held remotely. The mother talked at length. Judge Bates interrupted her once attempting to keep the mother focused on the impact it had on her daughter. She was allowed to continue. After twenty plus minutes, the judge stopped her again and updated others who were waiting for their cases. The mother said her daughter felt ignored.
“We’re insulted, we’re done,” the mother said abruptly. “You can do what you want to do with Mr. Jeppson.
She and her daughter attempted to leave and had one parting comment for Jeppsen.
“Mr Jeppsen, don’t put your (expletive) down girls ever again,” the mother said as she was leaving.
Judge Bates had had enough.
“Ms. (name) sit down,” he yelled. “You are in a court of law. You will not leave the room. You understand? I am asking you to be civil. You will not speak like that in my court do you understand?”
Both mother and daughter sat down. Judge Bates said their time was up because the video conference was only scheduled for an hour. He issued the new date for Jeppsen’s sentencing which was held last Thursday.
It was a rare moment where a judge lashed out at the victims of a crime.
But a former judge and now a law professor as well as a victim’s rights advocate said Judge Bates showed patience.
“You can’t have victims going on forever in a courtroom, filibustering, something like that,” said Paul Cassell. “On the other hand, they deserve more than a couple of minutes to have their opportunity to tell their side of the story.
“I think the judge was very patient in this case,” Cassell added.
At last week’s sentencing, the mother still expressed anger over the prosecutor’s plea deal but acted civilly.
The judge did grant them one of their demands. He arranged for both the mother and daughter to meet Jeppsen face to face in the near future.