Convicted Sex Offender Runs For School Board Seat
If Richard Jones wins election this November for one of seven seats on the Granite School Board in Utah, he won't be able to stop by the schools in his district. That's because 23 years ago Jones was convicted of sexually abusing a child, and he remains on the sex offender registry. Meanwhile, a woman has come forward claiming that Jones kept her as a "sex slave" about 30 years ago, when she was 14.
"The Board of Education finds that conviction of a sexual offense against a child is incompatible with unfettered access to school property and schoolchildren, regardless of whether sentences have been served or probations have ended," the school board said in a statement.
The 67-year-old candidate served five years in the Utah State Prison, and spent another decade on probation, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. Jones' sentence is now served in full, and he's become an active community member. He co-founded the Holladay Republican Club and East Side Voter Forum, and says that he's been a presenter at forums on how to prevent sex abuse.
Jones' past came up two years ago, when he helped organize a meet-the-candidate event. Democratic Rep. Phil Riesen was scheduled to moderate the affair, but withdrew because he considered it partisan in nature, and was bothered by Jones' past conviction.
In response, Jones said that his crime was committed "two decades ago," and Riesen was "a bigot," reported The Salt Lake Tribune.
But for some, Jones' past remains as relevant as ever. "The story came on and they showed a picture and said his name Richard Wagner Jones and I had another anxiety attack as if all this happened yesterday," a woman told ABC News Salt Lake City, after watching the channel's recent interview with Jones.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, claims that about three decades ago, when she was a 14-year-old from a broken home, she was sent to live with Jones. "I was pretty much Dick Jones' slave -- sex slave -- pimped out to his business partners and associates," she said. She claims that case workers didn't believe her when she told them of the abuse. Wagner's arrest came years later for the violation of another child.
Granite school board members, during their four-year terms, make all the policies for the district's public school system and have "a responsibility to children and youth in emotional development, citizenship instruction and values training, as well as intellectual instruction."
Wagner wouldn't be required to visit the schools as a school board member, but the board president, Gayleen Gandy, said that doing so is valuable to the job. "I personally feel that it's very important for me to be out in the schools as much as possible," Gandy told KSL News. "If I'm going to make decisions from the 30,000-foot level, I need to know what's going on in the trenches."
The woman who claims to be Wagner's victim has much deeper concerns about his possible election. "If he has any, any access to public records, he's going to find more victims," she told ABC News Salt Lake City, "and this time I'm not going to shut up."
Wagner said that the past behavior for which he was imprisoned has "been taken care of and is behind us."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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