Former officer facing sexual misconduct charges pleads down

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 10:31 AM

Tim Gurrister

BRIGHAM CITY — Former Box Elder County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Womack pleaded no contest Wednesday to three counts of attempted custodial sexual misconduct.

Even though Womack will now be listed as a sex offender, he and his attorney Wednesday insisted his behavior was not sexually motivated.

Womack had been charged with 12 similar counts related to traffic stops in 2010 where he coerced as many as eight different women to partially disrobe on the pretext of checking them for tattoos tied to non-existent warrants. He was fired during the departmental investigation of complaints.

Under the plea bargain, the nine other charges were dismissed. First District Court Judge Kevin Allen set sentencing for May 8.

The 12 charges had been spread among four different Box Elder County courts, the lone felony filed in 1st District Court, with the others spread among justice courts in Garland, Tremonton and the county. The cases were all moved to the district court as part of a global resolution of all the charges among the various prosecutors and public defenders.

Eight counts filed in April in federal court relate to the same victims.

Those charges, all misdemeanors, will also become part of the resolution of the case, attorneys told the judge Wednesday, with Womack to plead guilty to two of the federal counts.

Womack and the county also face civil suits in federal court over the incidents.

Because of the federal lawsuit, county officials have declined comment on the case on advice of legal counsel, never detailing the number of Womack’s victims beyond saying four or more.

The federal criminal charges filed in April of last year fixed the number of victims at eight.

In each of the traffic stops in remote parts of the county, Womack claimed to have a warrant, typically alleging drug charges, with the woman’s name on it, according to court records. The victims would then partially disrobe to prove to Womack they didn’t have tattoos described in the non-existent warrants.

The one felony filed, custodial sexual misconduct with a minor, was reduced Wednesday to a class A misdemeanor and the word “attempted” added.

Womack’s public defender Bernie Allen, no relation, told Judge Allen the no contest pleas were because of the federal civil suit, where a guilty plea could be used against him. Under a no contest plea, the state crimes would require testimony to be included in the civil suit, instead of a simple entering on the record of the guilty pleas.

A felony charge on his record would end any possibility of returning to law enforcement. But Womack and his attorney said that was not a factor in the plea bargain.

Womack, 36, in brief remarks after Wednesday’s hearing, said he voluntarily surrendered his Utah police certification shortly after he was charged. After 15 years in law enforcement, he said he has no intention of trying to return to the profession.

Allen said his client has never discussed clearing the felony from his record so he could work again as a cop.

But losing the felony shortens Womack’s stay on the sex offender register to five years, Allen said, which was a goal.

Allen told the judge in court that Womack was admitting to the incidents, but not admitting they occurred for any purpose of sexual arousal.

He and Womack both reiterated that stance after Wednesday’s hearing.

“Just a stupid procedural thing,” was Womack’s description of the tattoo-checking traffic stops.”Absolutely no sexual intent.”

He faces a potential sentence of up to a year in jail on both the state and federal criminal charges. The federal civil suit filed by three of the victims is still in the motion phase.

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