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Another inmate challenges parole board’s decision to keep him behind bars

Posted at 4:53 PM, Oct 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-07 20:27:18-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Another inmate is challenging the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole's power to keep him behind bars.

Dennis Wynn, who was recently told he would stay in prison until his sentence expires in 2023, filed a petition for extraordinary relief in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court. He pleaded guilty to four counts of securities fraud in 2008 and was ordered to pay more than $782,000 in restitution.

However, after completing most of what was required of him to earn release, Wynn's attorneys allege that the parole board refused to let him out unless he paid back restitution. The problem is, they claim, he can't pay restitution unless they let him out.

"He wants to. He's been fully remorseful," Wynn's attorney, Peter Stirba, told FOX 13. "He's done everything he can do and yet the board says 'Nope! You're still going to stay in."

In a 2013 recording of Wynn's last hearing before the parole board, he was grilled about how he'd repay his victims. The recording was provided to FOX 13 by the parole board. On it, a hearing officer expresses repeated concerns about how he'd make money and if he would reoffend.

"Did you liquidate all your assets to pay back restitution?" the hearing officer asked him.

"I've liquidated everything I have," he replied. "It's gone."

Wynn's attorney said he has a job lined up and can repay his victims -- if the parole board would release him. Even some of Wynn's victims have asked the parole board to free him.

"I'm sure Dennis Wynn has paid well for his problem with us and others," Norine Garrett, whose family was scammed out of $25,000 by Wynn, said in an interview with FOX 13. "He's been in prison for quite a while and it's probably a good time for him to get out and earn some money and pay back the debt."

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, through a spokesman, declined to comment on Wynn's petition for relief.

The five-member parole board is appointed by the governor, but they have wide authority. For example, the governor has no power in Utah to commute a death sentence -- only the board. Recently, several inmates have mounted legal challenges over the lack of checks and balances on their power. The Utah Supreme Court indicated it has several similar legal challenges to Wynn's on its docket.

Last month, the state's top court heard Bobbie Widdison's challenge to the parole board's power. Widdison said she was told she'd serve 20 years and then the board took away her release date, giving her an effective life sentence. When the Utah Supreme Court set arguments in her case, the board ordered her released.

"It's not fair," Widdison told FOX 13 outside court last month. "What they did to me, they do to other inmates on a daily basis."

Stirba had just filed his motion to see if a judge would order Wynn released. He said the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole's decision to not allow his client released without restitution amounted to a "debtor's prison."

He said the other cases pending the courts should signal a problem with the parole board.

"If this is any indication, they're acting in an arbitrary and capricious fashion," Stirba said.