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A man who sexually exploited a Utah teen will have to reimburse her for the pay she lost when depression caused by the abuse led to problems at work and a reduction in her hours.
In a 3-0 decision, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld a 3rd District judge's order requiring Scott C. Wadsworth to pay restitution of nearly $13,000 in lost wages to his victim, who is now an adult. The ruling said the connection between the sex crimes and the victim's economic injury is sufficient to support the award under the Crime Victims Restitution Act.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Tera Peterson said the ruling puts abusers on notice that they will have to pay for the damage they inflict, no matter how long it takes for the victim to heal.
"This decision is a victory for sex abuse victims who often suffer severe and debilitating psychological pain long after the abuse ends," Peterson said.
Tammie Atkin, victim advocate for the Utah attorney general's office, agreed, saying, "Restitution will never make the victim whole, but it is a good beginning."
Wadsworth met the then-14-year-old girl in an online chat room in July 2003 and the two chatted online and on the phone, court documents say.
During their conversations, Wadsworth, then 34, sent the teen numerous pornographic images and video clips. On one occasion, he went to her home and she performed oral sex on him, according to the documents.
In December 2003, Wadsworth was charged with 26 offenses stemming from his misconduct with the girl. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor, unlawful sexual activity with a minor and enticing a minor over the Internet. The remaining charges were dismissed and sentencing was set for April 2005.
But Wadsworth fled before his sentencing and was a fugitive until July 2009, when Idaho police discovered during a traffic stop that there was a warrant for his arrest and turned him over to Utah authorities.
Third District Judge Vernice Trease sentenced him in December 2009 to one to 15 years in prison and ordered him to pay restitution in an amount to be decided later.
At a restitution hearing in November 2010, the victim testified that both Wadsworth's crime and the reminder after his arrest of what had happened caused her deep depression, which led to an inability to interact with her co-workers and a reduction in her hours. In addition, she said, the emotional trauma put a strain on her marriage that required counseling.
Trease ruled that Wadsworth's conduct was the direct cause of the victim's psychological trauma and pay loss and ordered him to pay $12,934.40 in lost wages based on the victim's reduced work hours and $6,500 for counseling costs.
Wadsworth did not appeal the counseling restitution but challenged the pay reimbursement, arguing there was not a direct nexus between the victim's lost wages and his conduct because of the several years separating those events.
In addition, he said, even if his criminal conduct caused the victim's damages, her lost wages are more appropriately classified as pain and suffering damages, which are not covered under the Crime Victims Restitution Act.
The Court of Appeals rejected those arguments, saying the act explicitly provides for victims to receive restitution for lost pay and that those wages were connected closely enough with Wadsworth's criminal acts to be recoverable.
In addition, the court said the four-year separation between the crimes and the victim's lost wages was due to Wadsworth absconding prior to his original sentencing date and that he should not be rewarded for depriving the victim of her right to a prompt resolution of the case.
Wadsworth is serving his sentence in the Utah State Prison and is slated to be paroled Aug. 11, 2015.