ST. GEORGE — During a recent sentencing hearing for a Washington City man who admitted to sexually abusing a minor over whom he held a position of trust, the defense recommended jail time. The prosecution, on the other hand, recommended prison – a recommendation the judge took seriously.
Thomas Grant Larkin, 55, was sentenced Tuesday during a hearing held in 5th District Court after pleading guilty to first-degree felony object rape and second-degree felony forcible sexual July 15.
Larkin was originally charged with four counts each of first-degree felony object rape and second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse when the case was filed June 2 by the Washington County Attorney’s Office. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the remaining charges were dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea.
Prosecutor Eric Gentry addressed the court by saying the recommendations as set forth in the presentence report, which was to send the defendant to prison, should be followed.
He also said there is no question that Larkin has done good things with his life, “but that’s not what we’re here discussing today.”
The court proceeding, he said, is about “one act. One malicious, calculated attack” that has left a vulnerable girl traumatized due to the “special position of trust” the defendant held, in addition to an offense involving a minor the defendant was involved in when he was 21 years old, as noted in the presentence report.
“The defendant disclosed himself that this is not his first crime,” he said. “He has done this before.”
Defense Attorney Larry Meyers addressed the court by saying that his client “is a good man in many ways” and takes the offenses very seriously, adding that Larkin’s health and his age should be taken into considering as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
He also said that Larkin would be working once he is released from jail and would provide child support for his children even though he would be prohibited from having any contact with them. Should he go to prison for a long period of time, Meyers added, the defendant would be unable to support his family.
In lieu of prison, Meyers asked that his client be sentenced to one year in jail and then placed on probation that would include all the sex offender requirements. That would allow him to get the treatment that he needs, including substance abuse and psychosexual treatment, as required under the standard terms of probation.
Meyer also said Larkin has the support of his family, evidenced by the more than 10 witnesses that were ready to testify on the defendant’s behalf, eight of which were present via video feed. during Tuesday’s hearing.
The defense attorney closed by saying that Larkin has suffered from chronic health problems and depression for decades and was taking medication, including opioids, for the chronic pain associated with those conditions. Additionally, the attorney said, his client was suffering from extreme depression when the offenses occurred.
Larkin takes full responsibility for his actions, Meyers said, adding that while those elements do not justify the defendant’s actions, they did reduce his ability to make sound decisions, and Meyers asked that those factors be considered during sentencing as well.
Larkin also addressed the court and gave an emotional plea during the hearing, telling the judge that he betrayed the trust of the victim and apologizing for his actions, saying he’s committed to bettering himself and overcoming the issues so as to “not ever do something like this again.”
The defendant’s wife also provided a statement in court, saying that the victim in the case is in treatment and had “suffered years of abuse” before the incident took place with her husband. She also said the girl is making great progress at the residential treatment center.
She said Larkin’s children want their father home, and regardless of what the defendant has done, he will always have the support of his family, adding that her children are learning how the justice system works as they have gone through the various court appearances, and it is her hope that they learn there is forgiveness within that system.
She closed by saying that the very best thing for the family is for Larkin to get the help he needs so that when he is released from jail or prison, he will be a healthy individual. A long prison term would not further those goals, she said, but treatment would.
In closing, Gentry said the appropriate sentence was already outlined in the presentence report, adding that there is a message to the public in all of this: If an individual sexually abuses a child “then they go to prison. That’s it.”
After commending the efforts of counsel and the statements made during the proceedings, 5th District Judge Jeffrey Wilcox said he found no reason to depart from “a sentence that society requires.”
Wilcox went on to say that Larkin pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree felony object rape while three counts were dismissed and reminded the defendant there were four separate incidents of abuse that were “thought out” and could not be attributed to a lapse in judgement.
To that end, he sentenced Larkin to serve five years to life in Utah State Prison for the object rape charge and 1-15 years on the forcible sex abuse charge, sentences that would run concurrently. He also gave the defendant credit for time served.
Before closing, Wilcox addressed the entire family when he said that in a case such as this, part of the trauma to the child is determined by what happens to that abuser once he is caught and the guilt and turmoil that can follow in the wake. That can be “devastating” to the child, he said, regardless of the fact they did nothing to bring that abuse upon themselves. Those ramifications, he said, often last a lifetime.
Wilcox also mentioned that he has received numerous letters from those close to the defendant that portrayed him in a positive light, “which are important,” he said, adding the support of the defendant’s family was very evident during the proceedings – support Larkin will need while in prison and after he is released, he said.
Larkin was to begin serving his sentence immediately.
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