A Providence man charged in a sexual assault case last year was sentenced to prison on Wednesday.
Richard Royal Cornell, 74, was sentenced to 5 years to life in the Utah State Prison for charges of first-degree forcible sodomy and second-degree forcible sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty to the charges in July; as part of a plea agreement, remaining charges were dismissed and the state agreed to concurrent sentencing as credit for time served.
Prior to sentencing, defense attorney Shannon Demler told the court there was “no question” that what his client had done “violated social norms,” but Cornell had lived his life crime-free. Demler told the court Cornell was a hard-working “provider” who “obviously made some very, very bad decisions.”
Demler asked the court to impose jail time for his client as a term in prison would likely be a “death sentence.”
Cornell expressed his remorse for the incident and asked the court for mercy — he said he didn’t want to go to prison.
“I feel so bad about what happened,” Cornell said, addressing the victim and others present in the courtroom. “I know you can’t forgive me right now.”
The alleged victim tearfully addressed the court and spoke to the toll the assault had taken on her and her family.
“I’ve dealt with so much pain since this happened to me,” the victim told the court. “I don’t need anymore pain.”
Despite Cornell’s statements to the contrary, Cache County prosecutor Dane Murray told the court Cornell had not taken full responsibility for the assault. While he agreed with Demler’s comments about Cornell likely spending the rest of his life in prison, Murray argued such a sentence was warranted. In this case, Murray said justice is served by Cornell not breathing another breath of free air.
Judge Brian Cannell said he appreciated the victim addressing the court and having what it takes to express her “genuine pain.” Cannell imposed a concurrent prison sentence and said while he understood the request for mercy, he also understood the call for justice. Cannell expressed his belief that people can move forward despite trying circumstances.
“I’m genuinely hopeful that people can heal,” Cannell said.