‘Child molesters and sexual offenders don’t have fangs,’ judge says during sentencing of St. George man

Composite image with background photo of 5th District Court in St. George, Utah. Inset photo of Clinton Douglas Gibson taken during sentencing hearing via video in St. George, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A St. George man who pleaded guilty to forcible sexual abuse charges appeared in 5th District Court for a sentencing hearing, during which the judge showed frustration while delivering the ruling in the case.

Defendant, 44-year-old Clinton Douglas Gibson appeared in court via video for sentencing in St. George, Utah, Oct. 28, 2021 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

On Wednesday, 44-year-old Clinton Douglas Gibson appeared before District Judge G. Michael Westfall for sentencing on two second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse.

Gibson was originally charged with three second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse and two third-degree felony counts of tampering with a witness, but one count of sexual abuse and both counts of tampering with a witness were dismissed under the terms of a plea agreement.

The charges stem from an investigation that began in April when authorities received a report accusing Gibson of sexually abusing an underaged family member, abuse that continued over the course of six months, according to charging documents filed with the courts.

Through the course of the investigation, the initial victim led detectives to a second youth who was also allegedly abused by the suspect that involved similar instances of inappropriate touching and sexual contact, abuse that police say began very recently.

When officers scheduled the interview with Gibson for the following day, April 13, the defendant was ordered to not have any contact with the youths. Within hours of the order, Gibson reportedly went to the juveniles’ home and attempted to pressure them into retracting their statements, and then spoke to them a second time after following the girls to school.

Later that same day, he turned himself into police and was transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility where he has remained since his arrest. He was subsequently charged with two counts of tampering with a witness.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Prosecutor Zachary Weiland said what made this case particularly tragic is that one of the youths was adopted out of the foster care system. After suffering abuse from the adolescent’s family of origin, she was removed from the home and placed in the home of someone who was entrusted to protect her.

The defendant chose not to do that, the prosecutor said.

Instead, Gibson preyed upon the young girl, Weiland said, and then he blamed the child for the abuse – saying it was her fault. Worse still, he said, there was a second victim who came forward and described similar abuse suffered at the hands of the defendant.

“It truly disgusts me,” he added.

File photo of 5th Judicial District Courthouse, St. George, Utah, date unspecified | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George Newsws

The prosecutor closed by saying that as a society, the message is that no child should be preyed upon, and if it happens, then society demands a lengthy jail sentence. He then asked the court to sentence Gibson to two years in jail – one year for each child abused, to be served consecutively.

Gibson’s defense attorney, Edward Flint, also spoke during the hearing, and opened by referring to the two victim impact letters filed with the court prior to the hearing. He described the letters as being very helpful and instructive to the court, both in showing the progress of the victims as well as the defendant.

Both letters also described Gibson as a good parent, even though he has some problems, Flint said, adding that “it looks like both of them are concluding that (Gibson) shouldn’t be locked up for a long, long time.”

Flint argued that the progress his client has made is an element that makes the him a good candidate for probation – in lieu of prison. He also mentioned a doctor’s report that stated Gibson is 98.99%  likely to successfully complete treatment and to never reoffend.

Flint described his client as a good father, and with treatment can become the father he has always wanted to be, rather than the type of father that causes harm. The attorney also said Gibson’s progress should be the main factor in determining his appropriate sentence, which, he argued, should be probation – not prison.

With that, Flint asked the court to sentence his client to 210 days in jail and 48-months’ probation, as well as all other sentencing recommendations as set forth in the presentence report. 

The defendant also addressed the court by saying he has always cared deeply for his children, and he has spent a great deal of time thinking about the lies he told himself, including that his actions would not cause anyone pain.

“But I knew better,” he said.

He said he was ashamed of his actions and that he wanted his family to know that none of what happened is their fault, and said he was committed to having a positive effect on the healing process his family is undergoing, a process he said will continue for the next several years.

Most of all, he said he wanted his family and the court to know how much he cares for his children. 

Westfall opened by saying, “What most people don’t understand is that child molesters and sexual offenders don’t have fangs and walk around in trench coats.”

2019 file photo for illustrative purposes only of 5th District Judge G. Michael Westfall in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, April 24, 2019 | File photo by Court Pool, St. George News

Instead, Westfall said, they are people who have done good things with their lives. That does not, however, excuse the type of conduct that happened here, he said.

“It absolutely does not,” the judge said. “Your background prepared you to not do this.”

Westfall added that the defendant’s whole life has progressed toward not committing these crimes, but he “did it anyway.”

He also said despite the state’s recommendation of jail time, he was considering a prison sentence.

“I seriously am considering it all right,” Westfall added.

When it came down to the ruling, the judge followed the guidelines set forth in the presentence report, and he suspended the prison term of 1-15 years for each charge; one for each of the victims. He then sentenced Gibson to serve one year in jail on each charge to run consecutively, for a total of two years. Gibson was also given credit for the 198 days he already served.

Upon his release, the defendant would be placed on 48 months’ probation and ordered to comply with Level 1 sex offender requirements, one of which requires the defendant to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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