ST. GEORGE – A former Washington County Sheriff’s deputy pleaded no contest in court Wednesday to charges related to sexual misconduct involving female inmates at the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Steven Garrett Thayer, 29, appeared with attorney Gary Pendleton in 5th District Court in St. George Wednesday to enter “no contest” pleas on three class A misdemeanor charges of custodial sexual misconduct as a part of a plea deal. Though he didn’t plead guilty, Thayer acknowledged through the no-contest plea that the state had sufficient evidence for a potential conviction if taken to trial.
Thayer originally faced seven class A misdemeanors; four were dismissed through the plea deal. Deputy Washington County Attorney Zachary Weiland said those charges were ones the state “could prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A felony charge that was on the original list of offenses was dropped in December while the state and prosecution worked out preliminary details of the eventual plea agreement.
In addition to the dismissal of the four charges, the state recommended Thayer serve no more than 60 days in the Iron County Jail, be placed on probation and submit to a psycho-sexual evaluation in lieu of a fine.
Judge G. Michael Westfall reminded Thayer that he didn’t have to abide by the sentencing recommendation of the state, and that he could impose the maximum penalties attached to the misdemeanors if he felt appropriate. He could also order the sentences for each charge to be served consecutively, which could lead to three years in jail.
A sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 1 at 9:30 a.m.
Since the victims were not incarcerated minors, Pendleton said, Thayer wouldn’t be required by law to register as a sex offender in this case.
Thayer was arrested and charged in October 2013 after accusations arose that he, then serving as a sheriff’s deputy working at the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, had engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with some female inmates.
“He was one of the guards who would routinely check in on the inmates,” Weiland said.
Two female inmates who shared a cell in a block Thayer checked reported multiple incidents involving the ex-deputy. Thayer later admitted to some of the encounters while being interviewed by investigators.
“We want to make sure this this type of behavior never, ever happens again,” Weiland said.
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