OGDEN -- Kevin Peterson was awarded $70,000 in compensation for the 15 years he spent in prison on sexual abuse charges for which the courts have now exonerated him, his attorneys say.
The amount is low compared to the handful of other claims the state has settled under Utah's 2008 Factual Innocence statute.
"Our client took the first offer they made," said attorney Jason Richards, who with fellow Ogden lawyer Keith Henderson, mediated the lawsuit with the Utah Attorney General's Office. "Kevin just wanted to get it behind him."
In January when the sealed settlement was first announced, Peterson's lawyers were reluctant to disclose the dollar amount before the check had been received.
Peterson has declined comment since a brief interview he granted after he first filed the factual innocence lawsuit in 2008. "He wants nothing to do with the media," Richards said. "He just wants to ride off into the sunset."
Peterson's soon-to-be-expunged file in 2nd District Court in Ogden now includes a letter from Judge Scott Hadley that reads: "Because it is the Order of the Court that you are factually innocent of the crime for which you were convicted, you are hereby relieved of all obligations and collateral consequences attributed to that prior conviction."
Hadley has ordered that Peterson be removed from the state's sex offender registry under terms of the settlement; the remainder of the terms were sealed by the judge.
After a nearly four-hour, closed-door mediation session Dec. 11 with the Attorney General's Office, presided over by fellow 2nd District Judge W. Brent West, officials would only say there was a settlement, but terms are sealed.
Peterson, 54, formerly of West Haven and now an Ogden truck driver, was sent to prison in early 1993 on charges alleging sexual contact short of rape. He moved back to the Ogden area when he was released from prison in November 2007.
Peterson's lawsuit includes sworn affidavits from his 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.
Peterson served the full 15 years of a one-to-15-year prison term for child molestation, because he refused to admit guilt to the state Board of Pardons.
The whereabouts of his ex-wife and stepfather are unknown. Any prosecution of them is complicated by statute-of-limitation issues.
Peterson's was the second case decided in Ogden under the statute that can pay wrongly imprisoned inmates.
In 2011, Debra Brown was released from the Utah State Prison after a trial under the factual innocence statute, which lays out the process for suing the state for wrongful imprisonment. Ogden 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda freed her, finding her 1993 murder conviction in Logan unfounded.
In Brown's case, DiReda ordered the state to pay her more than $570,000 under the statute's compensation formula, likely the maximum, as it has a cap of 15 years on the number of years of lost income to be repaid. Her case is on appeal to the Utah Supreme Court, with no payment made to date. Officials have said they do not seek to return her to prison if DiReda's order is overturned.