ST. GEORGE — An Enterprise man who was arrested for reportedly arranging to meet up with who he believed to be a 13-year-old boy in Sept. 2023 appeared in court for sentencing last week.

File photo of 5th Judicial District Courthouse, St. George, Utah, date unspecified | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

The defendant, Ramon Joe Betony, 25, appeared before District Judge Eric Gentry on enticing a minor for first-degree felony sexual activity, a second-degree felony charge. One first-degree felony rape of a child rape charge was dismissed under the terms of a plea agreement reached.

The case stems from an undercover sting operation conducted in Washington County involving agents with the State Child Exploitation Team, a program coordinated by the Utah Department of Public Safety.

During the operation, Betony reportedly began communicating online with who he believed was a 13-year-old boy, but was actually an undercover agent, according to charging documents filed at the time of the arrest. The defendant made arrangements through a text conversation to meet at a prearranged location in Washington County to engage in sexual acts with the child.

When Betony arrived at the prearranged meeting place, he was arrested by task force agents. While speaking to investigators, the suspect reportedly admitted he was meeting with the child to engage in sexual acts, which agents allege was further supported by condoms and lubricant found during a search of the suspect.

During the hearing held on Jan. 3, the defendant was represented by Jacob Fisher, a public defender, while the state was represented by Prosecutor Zachary Weiland.

Booking photo of the defendant, Ramon Joe Betony, 24, who appeared before District Judge Eric Gentry on enticing a minor for first-degree felony sexual activity during a hearing held in St. George, Utah, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Sept. 24, 2023 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The prosecutor said the state was in agreement with the recommendations set forth in the presentence report, which outlined the defendant’s limited criminal history and the fact that Betony is “relatively young,” Weiland said, which the state considered mitigating factors in the case.

Weiland went on to say that other defendants arrested during the undercover operation for similar offenses would not fare as well, since their cases had been picked up by federal prosecutors. Those defendants “are serving years” in federal prison, he said.

The prosecutor warned the judge that this is Betony’s “one chance” and asked the court to follow the recommendations in the presentence investigation by Adult Probation and Parole that recommended 210 days in jail, “straight time — no good time,” Weiland said.

Fisher said the defense agreed with the recommendations as well. The judge then suspended the 1-15 year prison sentence. Instead, Betony was sentenced to serve 210 days in jail with credit for 101 days already served.

The judge also ordered Betony to be placed on four years’ probation up his release and to comply with all sex offender treatment requirements and restrictions. The judge also ordered that he register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Gentry closed by addressing Betony, saying just as Weiland had said, that the defendant was faring far better than many other defendants in similar situations that were prosecuted by the federal government.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.