Utah man exonerated of sexual assault after nearly 15 years in prison
Lauren Bennett, KSL.com
SALT LAKE CITY (KSL) — A Utah man was fully exonerated Tuesday of a sexual assault he was convicted of in 1997.
Christopher Wickham, 50, was wrongfully convicted in 3rd District Court of two counts of aggravated sexual assault, first-degree felonies, that carried two consecutive sentences of 10 years to life.
Wickham, who maintained his innocence since the accusation, served nearly 15 years in Utah State Prison and was paroled in 2011 but remained on the sex offender registry list until Tuesday, according to Jennifer Springer, managing attorney at Rocky Mountain Innocence Center.
In 2013, the Utah State Parole Board reviewed hospital records that corroborated Wickham’s alibi on the night of the alleged assault and reduced his charges to third-degree felonies, Springer said.
Rocky Mountain Innocence Center took Wickham’s case in 2014 and uncovered additional documents that proved Wickham’s innocence, Springer said.
On the night of the alleged assault, the victim told police she was assaulted by two men and indicated one was Wickham. However, according to hospital records, Wickham was being treated for injuries he suffered in a car accident that night, Springer said.
The victim said the other man who assaulted her was Robert Daniel Pliego, according to Springer.
Pliego took a plea deal and was convicted of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a third-degree felony, court documents show. He avoided jail time, Springer said.
Wickham was unavailable for interviews Tuesday as he was overwhelmed and celebrating his exoneration privately with family, Springer said.
She added that the center was “absolutely beyond thrilled” to have proved Wickham’s innocence and cleared his name.
“We are absolutely thrilled for Mr. Wickam and his lovely wife,” Springer said.
Court records indicate Wickham was also awarded $615,960 by the state, in an effort to make up for the years he wrongfully spent in prison.