By David Martin

Ultimately, Wilson ruined himself


March 27, 2019

I remember running into Allan Wilson at Smith’s a few years ago. He had been a member of the Green River City Council for a year or so at that point. He was on his way out and I was going in to grab a quick lunch. We exchanged pleasantries and he talked about how he planned to work on his cabin later that week. We shook hands and parted ways.

He greeted me last week at the Sweetwater County Courthouse prior to his sentencing hearing. This time, the exchange was much different. He looked at me and scratched his nose with his middle finger as I walked by, while his wife made a comment about me being “the fake news.”

Those actions are small in comparison to threats to my physical well-being or the possibility of a lawsuit, both of which have been made to me. However, it did cause me to think about if the newspaper has treated Wilson unfairly as he faced his legal challenges.

It didn’t take me too much time to conclude we have been fair in our coverage. Not long after we broke news about the charges he faced, I wrote a column explaining our decision to publish a story about those charges. It included the following paragraph:

“... the allegations are nothing more than that at this point. Like any story we publish regarding (criminal) charges, the accused should be considered innocent until proven guilty. We realize the social media bandwagon often misinterprets that ideology, but that’s how our justice system works. However, the fact of the matter is Wilson is in a position of community trust and should be held to a higher standard than other residents in the community. These charges, whether they’re ultimately true or not, should be reported because of that.”

And so, we covered developments in the case as it made its way through the court system towards the eventual trial. That’s the heart of the news business in a nutshell. Covering change and developments as they occur. However, that trial would never happen.

Wilson entered a guilty plea to a charge of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree Dec. 17 last year. As readers will notice on the cover story about Wilson’s sentencing, this was a plea made through a deal agreed between the Wilson, the Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office and approved by Judge Nena James. We reported that plea the week it happened, as well as news about the plaque honoring Wilson’s commitment to the Green River Sweetwater County Child Development Center being removed afterward. Again, reporting change as it occurs.

Wilson may blame the media for bringing attention to the criminal charges made against him, but it wasn’t a newspaper, radio station or website that caused his eventual fall from grace in Green River.

His guilty plea did that for him. Regardless of why he accepted the plea agreement, the trust and respect Wilson developed as he worked his way to the top of the city’s parks and recreation department, through service on numerous boards and ultimately as a member of the Green River City Council, was destroyed the moment he changed his plea.

The plea deal is the best outcome Wilson could hope for through such an agreement. If he completes probation, his legal record will be clear. He won’t have to register as a sex offender either. His other charges were dismissed and while five years of supervised probation won’t be a walk in the park, it’s a much more preferable option to spending decades in prison. Beyond that plea agreement, there were some added benefits to the timing of when it occurred too.

By entering the guilty plea when he did, he avoided the embarrassment of being removed from the Council. By mid December, his Council replacement was chosen by voters a month earlier and there was only one meeting left for the year when he changed his plea. The cover of the Green River Chamber of Commerce’s December newsletter featured a photo of its board, including Wilson, in recognition of their service.

Wilson’s time as a public figure naturally wound down, all without the nasty business of publicly removed from his roles.

In the end, it wasn’t this newspaper, the Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office or the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office that tarnished the former Councilman’s reputation. That came from the decisions and actions carried out by one man, Allan D. Wilson.


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