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Women speak out after former jailer’s sentencing

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Posted at 9:31 PM, Feb 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-24 23:31:27-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Behind the walls of the Wasatch County Jail they were pegged as criminals, but today, Julie Hoggan and Deborah Hatch consider themselves victims, no more free now than the day they were arrested.

“I feel like, physically, I’m not incarcerated anymore, but emotionally I have,” Hoggan said.

Hoggan was sentenced to a year behind bars for prescription fraud in 2009. But she believes her punishment really began when she met the now former Wasatch County Deputy Christopher Epperson.

“He would just come to my door and say, ‘Hoggan, come here.’ And I would walk over to him and he would grab me forcibly, put his hands down my pants,” Hoggan said. “And another time, he pushed me down by my shoulders, on to my knees, and tried to have me perform oral sex on him.”

Fellow inmate, Deborah Hatch, shared a similar story.

“He forced me to lift up my shirt and he took pictures of me with his cellphone,” Hatch said.

Hatch was booked into the jail in March 2010 for issuing a bad check or draft.  Within a month, she said Epperson began abusing her.

“He told me if I said anything that he would deny it,” Hatch said. “And, ‘Who is going to believe you? You’re an inmate and I’m an officer.’”

But the U.S. Attorney’s office did, and according to court records, they weren’t happy with the sentencing recommendation by the U.S. Probation Office.  In an objection to it, U.S. Attorney David Barlow argued that it did not appropriately calculate the seriousness of Epperson’s crimes.  Barlow felt that Epperson’s status as a jail guard placed him with power over victims, which he used to conceal crimes.  They recommended Epperson serve a four-year sentence.

However, during a sentencing hearing on Friday, a federal judge ordered Epperson to 3 years of probation and 8 months of house arrest.

“He’ll never be able to work in law enforcement again. But he was a young man, he hadn’t been on the force very long, and I’m sure he would do things differently now,” said Epperson’s defense attorney, Steven Killpack.

Before Epperson came to work at the jail, his record was pristine, according to Killpack, who argued it was only tarnished by the poor management and training he received from the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office.

“Without the proper training, he had to put the young ladies back in their jail cells,” Killpack said. “And so, he should have and could have done it differently than he did.”

But Epperson’s punishment doesn’t fit the crime for Hoggan and Hatch.

“I think it’s absolute garbage, absolute garbage,” Hoggan said. “I feel like he should have done the amount of time that we’ve been in emotional anguish over this. And that’s four to five years.”