By Ed Close
and Bryon Glathar
EVANSTON — A Lyman man charged with 17 felony counts involving child abuse, who admitted to sexually abusing his adopted daughter when she was between the ages of 12 and 17, left court Wednesday with mere probation.
“It’s outrageous that nothing happened really, but we have no control over it,” executive director of SAFV Task Force Linda Cummings said yesterday in a Herald interview.
In a surprising plea deal, Brunow, represented by defense attorney James E. Phillips, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault in the third degree in Third District Court Wednesday, Jan. 22, even though he was charged with eight counts of sexual assault of a minor, eight counts of sexual assault of an adopted child and one count of child abuse.
“It’s sad that there’s no justice for the victims,” Cummings said. “Where is the justice for these victims? There isn’t any.”
In fact, Judge Dennis L. Sanderson questioned the prosecution over the deal at the change of plea hearing.
“Why was no period of incarceration requested in the plea agreement?” Sanderson asked Assistant Uinta County Attorney Lora Cooper.
“So she, the victim, can move forward, he needed to step up and take responsibility, so we entered into the plea agreement,” Cooper said.
The crime Brunow admitted to Wednesday was shown in court records to have occurred from May 22, 1998 to Aug. 21, 1998. At that time, there was no such charge on the books for sexual assault of a minor, so the prosecution used the charge of sexual assault in the third degree.
In stating the factual basis to the court, Brunow said, “When this happened, I had the victim put her hand on me and move it up and down and then I rolled over and finished.”
Brunow later admitted to abusing his adopted daughter for “several years,” and when Cooper asked him if it “was when she was between the ages of 12 and 17 years of age,” he had but one word to say: “yes.”
He said he’s lived in the valley all his life and works at the Trona Mines near Green River.
His behavior, he said, cost him lots of money and almost cost him his marriage.
At one point during the hearing, Cooper asked, “Why did you turn to minors?”
Brunow said he’s changed.
“I turned to my dark side,” he said. “I don’t do that anymore.”
He also said he hasn’t spoken with the victim in several years.
Aside from the years of abuse, there was also some foul play once the crimes came to light.
“At one point she (the victim) did recant — she was forced to recant — and you did not step up and say this did happen and take responsibility for your actions?” Cooper asked.
Brunow was sentenced to not less than three and no more than five years suspended, and placed on five years supervised probation. Brunow was also sentenced to a sexual offender evaluation within three months, must register as a sex offender, cannot have contact with any child under the age of 18, no sexually arousing or stimulating material of any kind, no association with other known sex offenders, $150 to the Crime Victim’s Fund, $10 to indigent services and $10 to the Court Automation Account.
Cummings, who said she’s a secondary victim of child sexual abuse (meaning someone she knows and loves, a child, grandchild, or other loved one, was a victim of sexual assault) and can relate to victims.
“I know what they went through,” she said. “And it’s hard. And it’s tough.”
She said the perpetrator in the case close to her was sentenced to seven years in prison.
“And that’s a good thing,” she said. “Seeing it first hand and what it does to the children and adults — the secondary victims — it’s hard, it’s tough, it’s emotionally grueling. It takes everything out of you — for years, not just a little while.”
While Brunow walked out of the courthouse a free man on Wednesday, Cummings said his victims will pay for his crimes for the rest of their lives.
“These children suffer,” she said, “and they suffer, and they suffer forever.”