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For week ended November 28, 1999 Posted 18 Dec 1999

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'He Said, He Said' Key to Sex Conviction Appeal

Summarized by Vickie Speek

'He Said, He Said' Key to Sex Conviction Appeal
Salt Lake Tribune 28Nov99 D4
By Greg Burton: Salt Lake Tribune

A Utah judge could soon rule on a peculiar case which would set aside an inmate's conviction for felony sex abuse. In 1993, a former child social worker, Richard Swart, pleaded no contest to charges he had sex with a 14-year-old LDS patient named Edward Ryan Arthur. Swart has fought to retract the plea almost every moment since he gave it, claiming he was given inadequate investigation by his attorneys, Ron Yengich and Bradley Rich. The case has launched a role reversal for Yengich and Rich, two of Utah's preeminent criminal defense attorneys.

Swart's case centers on his alleged victim's criminal history and medical records. In closing arguments now under review by 3rd District Judge Frank Noel, Swart's attorney cites documents from Benchmark Regional Hospital in Woods Cross portraying Arthur as "a diagnosed sociopath, convicted sexual predator, liar and manipulator" who "admitted having sexually abused at least nine younger children."

When the charges against Swart originally were filed In 1992, police relied on Arthur's "recovered" memory of two-year-old events. Before he fingered Swart, Arthur had made identical, unfounded allegations against another man. When Swart pleaded "no contest" in 1993, he did not know Arthur was in jail awaiting trial on charges he had raped two teen-age girls.

In 1993, Rich told Swart that the Salt Lake County prosecutor had withdrawn a proposal to reduce charges from three first-degree felonies to two second-degree felonies, but that he might be able to get the offer back on the table if Swart immediately agreed to plead guilty. Swart, although continuing to deny the allegations, took the offer (but pleaded "no contest") instead of risking a trial that could have resulted in three life sentences.

Swart claims that Yengich, who has handled some of the Utah's most famouscriminal cases, avoided his calls, skipped meetings and bullied him. He says that both attorneys told him that "as a non-Mormon he had no chance of winning in front of a Utah jury," and that Arthur would be seen by the jury as a "Mormon choir boy." He says the Benchmark records, which the attorneys failed to obtain, not only discredit Arthur, but reveal serious flaws in the original case against him.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information