OGDEN -- A mediation hearing has been scheduled for December in one of two cases in the Ogden courts under the state law that compensates wrongfully imprisoned inmates.
Kevin George Peterson, 54, filed suit against the state of Utah in 2008, seeking damages after serving 15 years in prison for crimes he has always claimed he is innocent of.
He was likely the first to file suit under the 2008 Factual Innocence Act, which sets the legal process and the financial compensation formula for the wrongfully imprisoned.
Debra Brown was the first inmate found innocent under the statute in May last year in a ruling by Ogden 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda, who ordered her release from prison. She was convicted of murder in 1995 in Logan. Judges there recused themselves, which sent the factual innocence case to Ogden. The Utah Attorney General's Office has appealed DiReda's ruling to the Utah Supreme Court, holding up the state's payment of $570,780 to Brown.
Brown spent 14 years in prison after a year in jail awaiting trial. The law has a 15-year cap that covers only prison time, so Peterson may be due a larger amount.
In June, officials formally canceled Peterson's factual innocence trial, which had been set for August before Ogden 2nd District Judge Scott Hadley.
The Utah Attorney General's Office has now agreed to enter into mediation with Peterson's lawyers, Keith Henderson and Jason Richards, of Ogden, before Judge W. Brent West, the senior judge in the 2nd District. Proceedings have been stayed until February to allow the mediation session, according to court records.
The expected daylong mediation this week was set for Dec. 11.
The Attorney General's Office declined requests for comment, but officials there have said in the past that the office is defending the state in 10 or more factual innocence lawsuits filed since the 2008 law went into effect.
Peterson, formerly of West Haven, was sent to prison in early 1993 on second-degree felony child sexual abuse charges alleging sexual contact short of rape. He moved back to the Ogden area when he was released from prison in November 2007.
The suit includes sworn affidavits from Peterson's two children, who say they were coerced by their mother and stepfather to tell authorities their father sexually molested them. The son and daughter were 11 and 9 at the time.
Peterson pleaded no contest to the second-degree felony charges, meaning he denied guilt but couldn't defeat the state's evidence in the form of his children's testimony.
His refusal to admit his guilt to the state Board of Pardons ensured he would do the entire 15 years of his one-to-15-year sentence, as such admissions and accepting responsibility for criminal acts, as well as remorse, are typically a requirement of parole.
The whereabouts of the ex-wife and stepfather are unknown, and any prosecution of them would have statute-of-limitation problems.