Willson gets four months
Paul Willson, a 23-year-old from Sandy, was sentenced to four months in Carbon County Jail after his involvement in the death of Johnathan Tobey, age 20, stemming from an incident on Aug. 8, 2009.
Seventh District Court Judge George Harmond handed down the decision on Wednesday, March 3, which also included a 36-month probation period during which Willson must perform at least 20 hours of community service a week, a restitution payment of $3,686 and pay $500 in fines. Harmond also said Willson is not to consume or be in the presence of alcohol at any time during the probation.
"They were not strangers, they were friends," said Judge Harmond. "This is out of character for Mr. Willson based on testimony from family and friends. There is nothing I can ever do that would make up for that (victim's mother Robin Tobey's loss)."
Willson was originally charged with second-degree felony manslaughter, but on Jan. 13 in district court Willson pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of third-degree felony homicide by assault.
Defense attorney David Allred said he was pleased with the outcome and that the jail sentence handed down is near the 90 days requested by both the prosecution and defense.
"I thought it was a fair outcome," Allred said. "This was a tragic accident, not a malicious activity. Judge Harmond did a good job of analyzing the case especially with the large amount of information he was presented."
Reportedly, a group of five campers from the Salt Lake area came to the Price Recreation Area to celebrate a birthday on the day of Tobey's death. During the celebration, an argument allegedly erupted concerning a female-male relationship between unidentified members of the group. After the argument became heated, one male in the group apparently left the camp and started to walk toward Soldier's Summit, where the Carbon County Sheriff's Department later located him.
The argument continued and three members of the group decided to leave the area, but Tobey refused to get into the vehicle. To control Tobey, Willson purportedly got the man onto the ground and put a hold on the subject, which resulted in Tobey's death.
"This is a very tragic and sad event," added prosecuting attorney Gene Strate. "What started out as a happy event eventually turned to tragedy in the end."
Strate said he thinks Willson was trying to help in diffusing the situation but went too far in the end.
"It's really a sad case because it seems everything spun out of control," Strate said. " I think he (Willson) was sincerely trying to help in that situation in trying to contain Mr. Tobey, but too much force was used."
Willson was immediately taken to the jail after the decision was rendered. Judge Harmon said he would make the recommendation that Willson be credited for the time he has already served, approximately 10 days. The charge carried a maximum sentence of five years in state prison.
Willson, in a statement to Judge Harmond, said he was sorry to the Tobey family for the loss of Johnathan's life and wished for a different outcome.