How a Utah mother’s exhortation led to heavier charges for her son’s abuser
Nate Calaway is pictured in Provo on Friday. A Springville man pleaded guilty to sexually abusing him and was sentenced Monday to three and a half months in jail. The 17-year-old had hoped for a prison sentence. The boy’s mother had previously helped convince prosecutors to lay more serious charges in the case. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
PROVO – Aspiring filmmaker Nate Calaway tries to keep busy between class and his job at an ice cream shop. He watches thrillers like “Parasite” and “Pulp Fiction”, plays video games and directs short films with his friends.
Those he is closest to know about his plans to make films for a much larger audience someday. But the 17-year-old avoided sharing something he occupies his time to avoid thinking: after landing his first job at the Subway sandwich shop near his family’s home, he fell victim to a supervisor more than two times. times his age.
“I don’t want to be treated any differently,” Calaway said. “I don’t want them to feel like they have to change the way they talk to me and act around me, just because of this experience I had.”
The teenager is now speaking out publicly, fearing that his attacker will do the same to others and joining his mother in expressing his frustration with prosecutors’ handling of the case. KSL.com does not generally identify victims of sex crimes, but Calaway chose to use her name.
His former boss admitted he had a special relationship of trust with the boy, according to court documents, and touched him without consent a year ago. Justin Thomas Nielson, 36, of Springville, pleaded guilty to forced sexual abuse, a second degree felony, in a plea bargain. Nielson had hired the boy and “would know about the victim’s age,” police wrote in a booking affidavit at the time of his arrest.
4th District Judge Kraig Powell on Monday ordered Nielson to serve 3.5 months in prison, four years of probation and undergo treatment. The judge suspended a prison sentence of up to 15 years, which means it will only take effect if he violates the conditions of his supervised release.
The teenager struggled to concentrate on school and sleep, he said, feeling lonely most of the time and scared as he walked past the sandwich shop. Calaway had hoped her attacker would be sent straight to Utah State Prison.
Still, Nielson would likely have faced a lesser sentence if the teenager’s mother had not intervened in the case by looking at the state code and consulting lawyers she knows.
Nielson initially faced two less serious charges of illegal sexual behavior with a minor – one for third degree felony and the other for class A misdemeanor, but prosecutors agreed to upgrade them afterwards. that Alyson Calaway determined that the original case did not reflect the authority he had over his son and urged Utah County Prosecutor David Leavitt to look into it.
“I found myself having to explain the laws on a special position of trust in the DA’s office, and I’m not even a lawyer,” Alyson Calaway said.
In the weeks that followed, her son believed he saw Nielson twice at a new restaurant where he worked as a bus waiter, despite a no-contact order from the judge.
Distraught, he quit that job and got another one where he already knew the employees and there were no hidden areas.
Calaway said he suspected his boss had targeted him – taking him to a room with cameras that weren’t working – because the teenager is open and open about being bisexual.
“I am proud of my sexual orientation and who I am, but the accused took advantage of knowing that I am LGBTQ,” Calaway said in court on Monday.
Nielson, who helped run several nearby Subway stores until he was fired over the criminal case, apologized on Monday. “I thought at the time that I was getting into a consensual relationship,” he said, but later realized how wrong he was.
Calaway recalled that her boss asked her about her sexuality in a job interview and then posted pornography on her phone. But he didn’t want to raise concerns and risk damaging the good relationship he had with his boss.
When her mother began arguing for tougher criminal charges, she said a Utah County Assistant District Attorney told her county juries were uncomfortable with the crimes in both the accused and the victim are male – an assertion she considers homophobic. She said prosecutors appeared to want to quickly resolve a backlog of cases during the pandemic instead of using the full force of the law, a notion Leavitt disputes.
The county prosecutor doesn’t think jurors would be less likely to believe a boy than a girl testifying to adult abuse, he told KSL.com. He noted that his office replaced the prosecutor with another lawyer after the boy’s mother raised concerns.
“There isn’t a human being on the planet who doesn’t have an implicit bias of some sort. And when I find prosecutors who express a bias, then I have to find a prosecutor. who doesn’t have that particular bias, ”Leavitt mentioned. “We are really trying to serve the victims the best we can and to listen to the victims.”
State law allows higher fees for people in a “special trust” relationship, Leavitt said, such as employers, coaches and religious leaders. But a “screening” team of prosecutors that determined which charges to lay – a team that did not include the original prosecutor – was not sure a jury would agree that Nielson met the definition of an employer. , Leavitt said. However, lawyers in his office concluded upon closer examination that there was also evidence that Nielson coerced the boy, a factor that supported the larger charges.
In exchange for Nielson’s guilty plea, and as part of a plea deal, two counts of forced sodomy, a first degree felony, were dismissed. Leavitt said the family agreed to the plea bargain and noted that Nielson is now a criminal who will be on the Utah sex offender registry.
The teenager and his mother were told about the plea negotiations, but had no choice.
“We were traumatized by Mr. Nielson,” said Alyson Calaway, “and we were traumatized again by the criminal justice system.”