ST. GEORGE — A LaVerkin man accused of sexually assaulting two women last year was sentenced to prison after the women described how the defendant’s actions left them shattered.

Booking photo of Raymond Kapongo, 29, who was sentenced on two counts of forcible sexual abuse during hearing held in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, Nov. 16, 2023 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Raymond Kapongo, 29, appeared in 5th District Count on Nov. 16 to face two second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse — charges to which he pleaded guilty during a pretrial conference in October.

The three remaining charges that were filed in two separate cases — first-degree felony rape, forcible sexual abuse and object rape — were dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea.

Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger represented the state, while defense attorney Steven Nielsen represented Kapongo.

The first investigation 

The defendant was taken into custody on Jan. 16, during a traffic stop by a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy who found an outstanding first-degree felony warrant that was filed Nov. 22, 2022.

The case involved a monthslong investigation that opened when the LaVerkin Police Department received a report alleging that Kapongo had sexually assaulted an employee in March.

Investigators learned the sexual assault took place less than three months after the complainant started working for a cleaning business owned by the defendant, according to the affidavit filed before Kapongo’s arrest.

It was while cleaning a property that Kapongo sexually assaulted her, the complainant reportedly told investigators. The warrant was issued for the suspect’s arrest in November 2022 and remained outstanding for nearly two months until Kapongo was arrested during the traffic stop Jan. 16, 2022.

Less than a week later, officers were tasked with following up on an unrelated report alleging a second sexual assault that had taken place 12 months before.

In that case, the reporting party told investigators that on the night in question, she had agreed to go on a drive with the suspect, who was an acquaintance she had not seen for several years. During the encounter, she said Kapongo “took the back roads” to an area near Sand Hollow State Park.

Kapongo continued to make advances and appeared to become more aggressive and was described as becoming “feral.” Despite her telling him “no” more than 20 times, the defendant sexually assaulted her, according to charging documents filed at the time of the arrest.

Stock image of a Hurricane Police vehicle in Hurricane, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Hurricane Police Department, St. George News

With Kapongo already in custody in Washington County following his arrest on the case filed in November 2022, the Washington County Attorney’s Office filed the second case and charged him with three additional first-degree felonies — one count each of rape, sodomy and object rape.

Detectives discovered another unrelated case filed in 2017 when Kapongo was working as a restaurant shift leader and was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery of a 16-year-old coworker.

The defendant pleaded guilty to the sexual battery charge three years later and the jail sentence was suspended. Instead, Kapongo was placed on 18 months’ probation and ordered to pay a fine.

Two separate cases; one sentencing hearing 

During the sentencing hearing, one of the survivors described in a written statement how the assault “stripped her” of any confidence or self-esteem she had before the incident, adding the defendant was “sick” and should not be walking free amid the public.

File photo of prosecutor Jerry Jaeger during hearing before District Judge Keith C. Barnes in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, May 2, 2023 | Court pool photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The prosecutor agreed, “That’s how the state feels about him — he is sick. And at this point, he should not be walking in the streets.”

The second victim’s impact statement described the night the defendant sexually assaulted her, following which, she said the defendant told her not to tell anyone and that “he had a reputation to maintain and he didn’t do anything wrong.”

She closed by saying the defendant’s actions have left her feeling worthless, broken and damaged.

Jaeger, the prosecutor, told the court he was shocked at what was read in Kapongo’s statement.

“I mean, here he is blaming the victims for his conduct,” Jaeger said.

The prosecutor added that even after the preliminary hearing that included testimony from multiple individuals, the defendant still maintained that he never “forced himself” upon the women. Jaeger said the state’s recommendation to the parole board was for Kapongo to remain in prison for the next 30 years. 

Nielsen, Kapongo’s defense attorney, read a statement written by the defendant stating that Kapongo has spent the last several weeks thinking about how he would go about apologizing for his “terrible decisions” but could not find any words appropriate for an apology.

Nielsen grew emotional while offering his closing statement, saying he believed that his client was starting to appreciate how his “terrible” decisions have affected so many lives.

The defense attorney said his client pleaded guilty to the reduced charges to spare the women from going through a trial, which could have “revictimized” them, Nielsen said. He then asked the judge to run the sentences concurrently.

The ruling 

District Judge Keith C. Barnes addressed “the very, very important and special people in this case,” the courageous victims, he said, adding their words are what empower him to “get through days like this.”

He told both women he hoped they would gain back the joy in their lives and the ability to feel love again. And that he hoped that both would realize they are the survivors, unlike Kapongo — who will “leave here and spend many, many years in prison.”

2022 file photo for illustrative purposes only of District Judge Keith C. Barnes during hearing in St. George, Utah, Oct. 27, 2022 | Court pool photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The judge said he was puzzled by the defendant’s statement that was included in the pre-sentence report, where he “minimized” his actions.

And while the judge said he felt for the defendant’s family, who has been at every hearing, Barnes said that most of all, “I feel for these two victims that had to meet you.”

The question before the court was whether the sentences would run concurrently or consecutively.

Barnes sentenced the defendant to serve 1-15 years in Utah State Prison on each count that would run consecutive to one another. He also ordered Kapongo to pay nearly $6,000 in restitution to the victims. The defendant was ordered to have no contact with either party, and the transport order was signed during the hearing.

After spending 310 days in jail in Washington County, Kapongo was transported to Utah State Prison on Nov. 23. to begin serving his sentence.

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