EVANSTON — Last week, Jerry Brunow of Lyman, who admitted to sexually assaulting his daughter while she was between the ages of 12 and 17, made a plea agreement with prosecutors that kept him out of prison. This week, that plea deal is being defended by the Uinta County Attorney’s Office and Brunow’s victim, now survivor.
“If it came down to if he should go to prison or get probation,” Stout said, “I don’t think there’s anybody that would disagree — he should go to prison.”
But, he said, based on the nature of this particular case and the lack of physical evidence, it would have been very difficult to win in court.
“You look at it and you feel frustration,” Stout said. “But he wouldn’t have admitted [to the crime] and we would have had to prove it.”
According to Lyman Police Chief Tom Clark — who said he’s not happy with the state’s decision to let Brunow off with probation — Brunow’s wife, Tammy Brunow walked in on Jerry Brunow as he was abusing their daughter, Rikki Ramirez.
Tammy Brunow immediately called police and Jerry Brunow was taken into custody.
“Afterward,” Ramirez said, “she got sad. She was crying all the time; she told me if I just tell them it didn’t happen she would protect me and that he’s going to do 15 years if I don’t help. So, as a child at 14, you think your mother is going to protect you.”
But, Ramirez said, Tammy Brunow didn’t keep her end of the bargain. She did not protect her daughter. And Jerry Brunow continued to sexually abuse Ramirez for three more years.
“She betrayed me more than he did,” Ramirez told the Herald.
After Ramirez, under pressure from her mother, recanted, “it was just set aside,” Ramirez said.
But as an adult, over a decade later, Ramirez chose to seek justice.
Charges were filed against Tammy Brunow — one count of influence of a witness and one count of child endangerment — back in February 2013, the same time her husband was hit with eight counts of sexual abuse of a minor, eight counts of incest of an adoptive child and one count of child abuse.
Though no agreement was made between the county attorney’s office and Tammy Brunow, charges were later dropped.
“We dismissed the charges in order to try and be able to call her as a witness,” Stout said.
He said while charges were pending, she could enact her Fifth Amendment right not to testify against herself and would likely be no help at all for the prosecution.
“Our thought was, ‘We need to eliminate that,’” Stout said.
But Tammy Brunow wasn’t exactly cooperative.
“In the end, we would have been able to call her [as a witness],” Stout said. “But what our fear was, is that she wouldn’t have told the truth.
“We were hoping we could create an environment to make sure we had as many possible witnesses as possible if this were to go to trial,” he said. “There was never an agreement to testify; we would have had a decent case [had there been]. We worked as hard as we could.”
Stout said conviction simply wasn’t likely should Jerry Brunow face trial.
“We were to the point where we were rolling the dice on a case that could go either way,” he said. Or, he added, prosecutors could give the victim peace and have Jerry Brunow register as a sex offender and face everything that goes along with that.
But Lyman Police Chief Tom Clark disagrees.
“I don’t buy that for a minute,” Clark said Wednesday. “There was a real strong case built against him. I think it was a strong case.”
Clark did acknowledge that Ramirez was content with the outcome, and he was sensitive to her as the victim.
“I think they were trying to spare Rikki from going on the stand and having a defense attorney try to rip her apart on the stand,” Clark said. “But I disagree with the county attorney’s office. I think this was a strong case.
“Granted, as law enforcement we file the charges and do the investigation on this. We have multiple, multiple instances with [Jerry Brunow], but felt we had strong evidence on the 17 charges filed,” Clark said.
In fact, alleges Clark, Ramirez wasn’t Jerry Brunow’s only victim. Stout confirmed that there was at least one other alleged victim who wouldn’t testify against the assailant.
Ramirez’s response to the plea deal that has seen an outcry from residents across the county may leave some scratching their heads — but she understands that.
“If it was anyone else’s child,” she said, “I would be upset, too, that he didn’t see any prison time. Basically, it’s what I needed to move on.”
Ramirez said her father had been painting her in very poor light for the past decade in attempts to discredit her original accusations.
“If it would have gone to trial, even if he was found guilty,” she said, “he would have never admitted it. And he’d still call me a liar and a horrible person like he’s done all these years. This is what I needed to move on and close that chapter of my life. It helped me move on and get the closure that I needed.”
And, she said, even though her abuser isn’t locked up, she doesn’t believe children in the community are in danger.
“If it were a big city and people didn’t know each other, then I think he’d be a danger to society,” she said. “Coming from a small town, everybody knows everybody. We all know who he is — he’s not a free man here. People will take measures to keep their kids safe.”
Ramirez said she also thinks Jerry Brunow is incarcerated, in a way.
“He can’t sneak into a store, everybody knows his face. He’s basically confined to his home and his work,” she said. “If anybody spots him out with a child, they call [police] and he’s in prison.”
Ramirez did call the outcome less than ideal, but reiterated that she is at peace with it.
“This justice is for me,” she said, “and that’s what I needed to close that chapter of my life.”