Local funeral home director Lonnie Nyman appeared in a Salt Lake City courtroom Monday where he pleaded guilty, with a great deal of hesitation, to charges of soliciting sex from an underage male and later committing fraud in order to post bail.
Before 3rd District Court Judge Vernice Trease took Nyman’s plea, she gave him the opportunity to ask questions, setting off a dialogue between them that lasted about 10 minutes and included an offer to postpone the entry.
The first question Nyman asked was how long it would take to get a trial date if he decided he still wanted a trial in the cases filed against him. They established that he wanted to go through with the change of plea hearing, but when it came time to enter a guilty plea, he responded with so much hesitation that Trease expressed concern about his willingness to do so.
The apparent hangup come in the statement of facts presented in conjunction with the charges filed against him, with the facts being that he sent a sexually explicit image to a minor, that he communicated with that minor about getting together for sexual activity, and that when he was aware of an investigation he asked the youth to delete their conversations.
When asked if he was guilty, there was a pause before he responded with “not in those words, but yes.”
The hang-up appeared to be in his plea to dealing in material harmful to a minor, so the judge broke that down to each of the individual elements that have to be met — Nyman was asked if he was guilty of failing to establish the age of an underage male he had been in electronic communication with, and if he sent that male photos of his genitals.
“I can’t accept a guilty plea without an admission of guilt,” she said.
Nyman once again shook his head before leaning down to confer in whispers with his attorney, prompting Trease to state she would not accept Nyman’s plea and she wanted him to take some additional time to talk it over with his attorney.
“It is a difficult thing to do but you must be sure, 100 percent,” she said.
Nyman assured the judge that he wished to continue, and he wanted to move forward with the case as soon as possible.
“I just wasn’t comfortable with the wording,” he said.
Nyman pleaded guilty to one count each of dealing in material harmful to a minor, tampering with a witness and obstruction of justice, all third-degree felony offenses, along with two counts of enticing, soliciting or luring a minor by internet or text, a class A misdemeanor.
He also pleaded guilty to two second-degree felonies — engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, and issuing a bad check — in connection with his fraudulent attempt to post bail following his arrest in the first case.
Defense attorney Greg Law pressed for sentencing as soon as possible but by statute, the state has up to 45 days to complete a presentence investigation to be considered at sentencing.
Sentencing is currently set for Aug. 12.