A Payson man was sentenced Tuesday to nearly nine years in prison with lifetime probation after confessing he attempted to sexually assault a minor at a friend’s house a year ago.
Jeremy Allen Fultz, 40, said he was deeply sorry for his actions and the pain it had caused everyone involved.
“I am really sorry for my offense against this community, against the family represented here today and obviously against the young person that I committed this crime against,” he said. “This is by far the worst mistake I have ever made in my life.”
In July 7, 2012, a 12-year-old girl was spending the night at a friend’s house when Fultz assaulted her. He was a roommate living in the home at the time.
The girl was reportedly sitting on a couch with Fultz, watching the movie “Transformers.” Several other people slept on the floor.
At some point, Fultz got on top of the girl and touched her intimately. She got up to use the bathroom and when she came back, pretended to sleep. Again, Fultz got on top of her and touched her and attempted to perform sexual acts short of intercourse, according to police reports. When she pretended to wake up, Fultz got up and left the room.
When Det. Mike Varga questioned Fultz later about what had happened, he initially blamed the girl, saying she had come onto to him.
In fact, in all four child sexual assault cases last year, the perpetrators initially denied any wrongdoing, most telling police the victim had either made advances or gave their consent.
In two of the assault cases, adult males said they had “consensual” sex with underage girls. According to the law, engaging sexually with anyone under 18 years of age is misconduct. In both cases, the men were charged with sexual conduct with a minor.
In another case, a man reportedly touched a young boy inappropriately. The man first denied he ever touched the boy, then said he was only trying to bond with him. Finally, the man insisted the boy was touching himself and he had tried to stop him.
That man was eventually charged with molestation and aggravated assault.
Gila County Deputy Attorney Shawn Fuller said his office is taking a hard stance against child assaults and would not offer lenient deals. With Fultz, they insisted on prison time and lifetime probation.
Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill agreed with the plea and sentenced Fultz to 8.6 years in prison with credit for 393 days served. Fultz will serve out the full sentence with no possibility of early release. Afterward, he will serve probation for the rest of his life, which may include electronic monitoring.
Fultz told the courtroom no one else in his family has ever been convicted of a felony.
“It is an embarrassing thing for me and my family and certainly the worst thing I could have ever done to another individual and their families and I never meant to maliciously put anybody through anything this bad,” he said. “I am just really sorry.”
The victim’s parents were present in the courtroom Tuesday, but chose not to speak.
Cahill thanked them for their cooperation, saying the case could not have moved forward without it. “It is very valuable to have had your careful, time-consuming, and I am sure, anxious participation,” he said.