Charges have been dropped against a Utah man accused of soliciting sex from a woman and underage girls.
Darin Thomas worked as a supervisor in the Duchesne County School District’s maintenance department for 24 years. In early 2018, he was investigated for allegedly paying a woman for sex and asking her to find underage girls to include in their sexual interactions.
The woman, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, “was in trouble with the law herself, according to court records, and had been working as a police informant.” She told police that Thomas was paying her for sex. Vernal Police Detective Shaun Smith then used the woman’s phone to pose as her and communicate with Thomas.
Smith told Thomas that he (posing as the woman) found a 17-year-old and 14-year-old girl to join them. Smith later changed the age of the younger girl to 13 in order to make the charges against Thomas worse, as he would be soliciting a “child” not a “minor.”
Smith, according to the Tribune, wrote in his search warrant that Thomas “agreed to pay for sex with the woman and they discussed various sex acts the man wanted to do with the young teens” and that Thomas “had asked for nude photos of the girls.”
Thomas said he had done nothing wrong. He told the Tribune that he kept telling the woman that he didn’t want to engage with the young girls but that she kept bringing them up. He said he did at some point talk about the fictitious young girls in a sexual way, but told the Tribune he was responding to the woman and thought it was some sort of sexual fantasy of hers.
“The way Shaun Smith talked to me, it was just a set-up from the get-go,” Thomas told the Tribune. “He entrapped me the whole time. It just wasn’t right.”
These texts lasted for a week, until agents from the Internet Crimes Against Children department showed up to arrest him. Thomas claimed that Smith told him during his arrest, “It took me a week to get you to say the wrong thing.” The agents collected his electronics but found no evidence of child pornography.
The Deseret News reported that Thomas was charged “with five felonies: conspiracy to commit rape of a child, conspiracy to commit sodomy on a child, conspiracy to have unlawful sexual activity with a minor and two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, as well as a misdemeanor charge of patronizing a prostitute.”
All the felony charges were dropped against Thomas on January 30, 2019. The misdemeanor remained, and Thomas’ attorney advised him to plead guilty to make it go away. Thomas refused.
“I told them from the get-go, I knew I did nothing wrong,” Thomas told the News.
He hired a new attorney, James Lewis, and prepared for trial.
“We were a little bit perplexed about why they decided to proceed with that misdemeanor. So we got ready for trial and then found out late in the evening before trial that their so-called ‘key witness’ would not be appearing at the trial. And so that case was dismissed the next morning,” Lewis told the News.
That “key witness,” was apparently the woman making the original accusation. Court records reviewed by the News found that on April 24, the prosecutor in the case asked for it to be dismissed since the woman “was not served with the subpoena.” Two officers who were supposed to testify at trial blamed each other for the mistake.
Lewis told the News it was “kind of surprising they didn’t figure that out until the night before the trial.”
The defense attorney also said the police believed the woman’s claims and thought it was “highly inappropriate how the case was handled from beginning to end.” Further, he said that when he became Thomas’ attorney and looked through his electronic devices, there “was no money for sex component whatsoever.”
“Not one thing of any evidence of any impropriety at all was ever found on any of my devices. And I’ve kept every phone for the last 20 years. So they had everything from my whole life, and they did not find one (piece of evidence),” Thomas added in an interview with the News.
Though the charges have been dropped, Thomas says the accusation itself was enough to ruin his life.
“You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but this world is not that way anymore. You are guilty the second you’re charged. And you’re fighting for your life. And no matter what the circumstances, you are not innocent,” he said.