A man facing nearly two dozen charges of child sex abuse in Salt Lake City will likely be set free because of a loophole in the criminal justice system.
Lonnie Hyrum Johnson, a man previously convicted of raping a teenage girl, has been charged with rape, sodomy and aggravated sexual abuse of a child for acts he allegedly committed against a family member and another child over a 5-year period.
However, doctors say he’s not mentally competent to stand trial and yet at the same time, say he also poses no danger to society. So instead of facing life behind bars — each charge is a first-degree felony that carries a life sentence — he is expected to go free on Thursday afternoon following a hearing.
He has been institutionalized since 2008, at which time he was deemed incompetent to stand trial. In the interim, doctors have been trying to “restore his mental capacity.” But a judge recently found that his mental capacity still isn’t up to par, which means he probably won’t be well enough to face the charges against him.
“That magic language effectively kills our criminal case,” the assistant district attorney on the case, Craig Johnson, said to Fox News.
Johnson also tried to have the accused committed civilly, but according to doctors, the necessary legal standard hasn’t been met: In Utah, if a person suffers from mental illness and cannot stand a criminal trial, a doctor must find that the person’s mental illness makes them a danger to others. Apparently in this case, the accused suffers from a cognitive disorder, which means he falls in between the cracks.
Understandably, relatives of the victims are unhappy as well as fearful that other children could be in danger.
“I am just floored,” said Christy Danner, the mother of one victim to Fox News. “I don’t understand how he’s competent enough to let go but not competent enough to stand trial. It’s not fair to the girls. It’s almost like they are victimized again.”
I hate hearing stories like this one, because it’s hard to argue with the fairness of our judicial system – when the loopholes work to our liking, few people complain. But when they seem to go against the grain of reason, as they do in this case, it seems outrageous. Hopefully doctors have helped restore this man’s mental capacity to the extent that he will not harm anyone else.
How will you feel if this guy is set free?