was an LDS church member; sentenced to prison for child sexual abuse; the day after sentencing, injured himself to avoid serving longer in prison

Case Summary

1989 – Utah

John Rick Carpenter, “is a convicted child molester from
Utah, who was set free after serving less than two days of a one- to- 15-year sentence….
“Documents obtained by the Weekly show that in the 1980s, Carpenter was arrested on
multiple counts of aggravated sexual abuse and charged with molesting two 8-year-old girls.
His victims tell the Weekly that Carpenter, then 24, was a Sunday school teacher at a

Mormon church in Provo County. “He had sexually abused several kids,” Sharon Davis of
Salt Lake City alleges. “I do know [about] other kids. It happened to me.”…

Carpenter pled guilty to a second-degree felony for sexual abuse of a child and was
sentenced to up to 15 years, with a chance to enter a sex-offender treatment center…

But the day after he was sentenced in 1989, according to jail reports, Carpenter stood atop
his bunk bed and dove head-first into the concrete floor. When a guard later asked if he’d
jumped intentionally, Carpenter replied, “Yes, 1 did, it’s better than being in this place for six
months.”…

Although he’s a convicted child molester, Carpenter doesn’t appear on the public sex-
offender registry.”

From the Deseret News on 1988-12-26:

” A former Provo resident will be tried Feb. 13 on two counts of aggravated child sexual abuse following a not-guilty plea tendered Friday by public defender Michael Esplin.

John Rick Carpenter, who now lives in another state, is charged with abusing two 8-year-old girls from Orem and Provo in separate incidents about a year ago. The defendant worked as a bookkeeper for a business owned by the family of one of the girls.”

From Deseret News on 1989-09-10:

” A former Provo resident who pleaded guilty in May to sexual abuse of a child has been sentenced to a year in the Utah County Jail and ordered to undergo an 18-month program at the Ogden Community Correctional Center.

Fourth District Judge George E. Ballif ordered the jail time after giving the defendant, John Rick Carpenter, a suspended prison sentence of one to 15 years and placing him on probation for two years.In addition to ordering jail time and treatment, Ballif fined Carpenter $1,562.50. The judge also ordered the defendant to pay counseling costs for his victims, and he refused to give him credit for the past three months he has spent in prison undergoing a diagnostic evaluation.

Deputy County Attorney Jim Taylor told the court, “You can’t measure the grief these little girls and their parents have gone through. This is a heinous, serious offense that has caused substantial suffering that cannot be rectified.”

Carpenter, 25, was charged in connection with the sexual abuse of two 8-year-old girls from Orem and Provo in November 1987. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated child sexual abuse, but in an agreement with prosecutors later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of child sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.”

From LA Weekly on 2013-12-05:

“In 2012, Jon Carpenter filed 257 lawsuits in L.A. County — more lawsuits than there were court days — under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a civil rights law intended to give disabled people the same access to places that everyone has.

The spree left small businesses all over the Southland scratching their heads. What was this law? And who was Carpenter?

A basic records search by L.A. Weekly shows that 2012 was a prolific but not atypical year — the 47-year-old quadriplegic has filed nearly 1,000 lawsuits in L.A. County alone, and is believed to have reaped a sizable but unknown amount of cash.

But now, lawyers representing businesses sued by Carpenter have unearthed the man’s sordid past: He is a convicted child molester from Utah, who was set free after serving less than two days of a one- to- 15-year sentence.

How he got out of jail made the lawyers’ skin prickle.

Stephen Abraham, a defense attorney representing restaurants and others Carpenter sues, says, “He’s a destructive contradiction. This is someone for whom the law only goes one way — his way.”

Documents obtained by the Weekly show that in the 1980s, Carpenter was arrested on multiple counts of aggravated sexual abuse and charged with molesting two 8-year-old girls. His victims tell the Weekly that Carpenter, then 24, was a Sunday school teacher at a Mormon church in Provo County.

“He had sexually abused several kids,” Sharon Davis of Salt Lake City alleges. “I do know [about] other kids. It happened to me.”

“It’s horrific to me, that he’s under the radar,” Beth Roskelley says. She was a little girl when she was sexually abused by Carpenter — the crime for which he was convicted.

Carpenter pled guilty to a second-degree felony for sexual abuse of a child and was sentenced to up to 15 years, with a chance to enter a sex-offender treatment center.

But the day after he was sentenced in 1989, according to jail reports, Carpenter stood atop his bunk bed and dove head-first into the concrete floor. When a guard later asked if he’d jumped intentionally, Carpenter replied, “Yes, I did, it’s better than being in this place for six months.”

Two days later, the state of Utah informed Judge George E. Ballif that Carpenter was a permanent quadriplegic and asked that Ballif “suspend execution of the sentence until such time as the defendant has achieved medical stability,” arguing that “further incarceration or therapy in this matter would serve little purpose and in any event is not appropriate at the present time.”

Ballif appeared to suggest that Carpenter would return to jail, saying his imprisonment would be reconsidered “at such time as the defendant achieves medical stability and further reviews are appropriate.”

Deputy Utah County Attorney Cort Griffin, who was not around then, says, “Why and what happened here, I can’t say.”

But Roskelley says, “I think they just assumed that he would be a vegetable for his entire life.”

Abraham, the attorney fighting Carpenter’s ADA suits, says, “He was released only because they didn’t want to provide a guard at the hospital, and because of the nature of his injuries they didn’t think he was going anywhere. They just dropped the ball.”

Carpenter eventually moved to L.A., records show, settling near USC and an elementary school. Although he’s a convicted child molester, Carpenter doesn’t appear on the public sex-offender registry.

He slid into the serial-lawsuit business without raising red alerts with Los Angeles County Superior Court judges, yet he certainly stood out.

According to David Peters, who heads Lawyers Against Lawsuit Abuse, Carpenter has sued 94 pharmacies for everything from steep ramps and failure to remodel access areas to lack of Braille or hearing-assistance technology for the blind and deaf.

Carpenter’s hearing and vision, Peters says, were perfectly fine.

California is a rare state that lets people who allege an ADA violation personally win pots of cash in court — $4,000 minimum per violation, plus attorney’s fees, which can reach tens of thousands of dollars.

Small businesses can be sued if the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom is too high; the customer counter is too tall; aisles are too narrow; or the grade of their wheelchair ramp is steeper than 3 percent.

But in California, defense attorney James Link says, those regulations run about 435 pages. “I had one case where the coat hook in the men’s accessible stall at a P.F. Chang’s was too high.”

Legislators have tried to fix the state law that enables serial litigants, passing Senate Bill 1186 in 2012 and cutting the number of ADA lawsuits roughly in half.

But Carpenter thrives.

“California is the only jurisdiction on the planet that has minimum financial damages for claims of this nature,” Peters says, referring to the $4,000 floor. He estimates that 42 percent or more of the nation’s ADA lawsuits are filed in California. “There are lawyers who have moved from other states just to file these lawsuits here,” he says. “It’s more profitable than [selling] narcotics.”

According to Link, more than 3,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in L.A. County in the last three years — more than 1,700 of them by attorneys Morse Mehrban of L.A. and Mark Potter of San Diego’s Center for Disability Access.

“I stand by every case,” Potter says via email. “This is an important federal civil right that we are talking about.”

Link scoffs. “If you’re trying to clean up the stores and restaurants that you frequent, that’s one thing. But if you are going to 1,000 different businesses … that’s just trolling.” (Mehrban, who didn’t respond to the Weekly’s calls, this year told ABC 7 News, “Isn’t every lawsuit technically extortion?”)

Disabled plaintiffs routinely ask L.A. Superior Court judges to grant them “fee waivers” to get out of paying the $435 court filing fee. Taxpayers pick up the costs, even for convicted felon Jon Carpenter.

“I have judges who tell me … ‘We just cut 40 departments,’ ” Peters says. “And some judges are telling me they’re spending 80 percent of their time on mega-filers who are filing fee waivers.”

Other mega-filers include Alexander Johnson, a hearing-impaired man with a service dog named Snoopy. According to multiple defense attorneys, Johnson’s approach is to walk into businesses and get the clerk to object to Snoopy’s presence.

Then there’s Alfredo Garcia, who testified that he became a paraplegic when he fell out of a tree while high on cocaine. Garcia, who targeted 24 laundromats, has filed more than 600 ADA lawsuits; ABC 7 news reporter Marc Brown exposed him in 2011 and again in 2013. (Neither Johnson or Garcia could be located by the Weekly.)

But nobody tops Jon Carpenter, aka John Rick Carpenter.

“I’m just one of many that are trying to make things more accessible for everyone that has to use a wheelchair,” Carpenter emailed the Weekly.

Carpenter and his current attorney, Potter, almost always target mini-malls or small businesses, which must create parking spots for special vans like the one he drives. They also must provide parking lot space for a wheelchair to be lowered, and special signage. Get a detail wrong — even the color of the sign — and Carpenter can sue for $4,000 and up.

“We didn’t know that we needed a parking spot for a van,” says Avi Hadid, owner of a mini-mall at Western Avenue and Washington Boulevard. He settled with the convicted child abuser for $10,000 — cheaper than hiring a lawyer. A friend of Hadid’s, who owns a gas station, also was sued by Carpenter. “They say they’re going to pay,” Hadid says. “I’m sure he made so much money from that, this guy.”

Attorney Abraham is defending a restaurant owner who has been sued three times for ADA violations, most recently by Carpenter. Abraham, a former army intelligence officer deployed in Operation Desert Storm after 9/11, once worked to assess the legal status of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

“I see someone like Carpenter essentially using the judicial system but without truth at its center,” Abraham says, “and that’s a perversion of justice.””

From LA Weekly on 2014-08-21:

“Late in 2013, I wrote an article outing Jon Carpenter, a prodigious filer of hundreds of lawsuits against small businesses in Los Angeles, as a convicted child molester who never did his prison time.

“I’m no longer haunted.”
—Beth Roskelley

In March, nearly four months after L.A. Weekly’s story, the wheelchair-bound Carpenter traveled to Zurich, Switzerland. He did not come back.

A week later, I started getting emails saying Carpenter was dead. The third was from a family friend, Taylor Best. It read: “Jon Carpenter killed himself because of this article.” He linked to my Dec. 5, 2013, article headlined, “Child Sex Abuser Profits by Suing 1,000 Firms Under Disability Act.”

Taylor Best closed with: “Fuck you.”

Was Carpenter really dead? Was it because of my story?

A former caretaker of Carpenter’s at first doubted his suicide. If anyone was capable of faking his own death, it was the sly, manipulative Carpenter.

According to a Swiss death certificate obtained by the Weekly, Jon Carpenter, 49, died between 12:45 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. on March 30. The “Cause of Death” section is blank. His family and lawyers have told people that he went to an assisted suicide facility, which is legal in Switzerland.

I first heard about Carpenter from a friend of my brother’s. A quadriplegic by his own hand, Carpenter had sued more than 1,000 people, businesses and property owners in Southern California under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). He targeted the most minute of violations: He was big on finding design flaws in disabled-parking spaces, or suing people whose ramps were a bit too steep. Or whose posted signs didn’t contain exactly the right wording. That sort of thing.

He filed 257 lawsuits in 2012 alone, more than there were days on the court calendar. Although the financial figures are not available, it’s likely that he reaped millions of dollars from vulnerable mom-and-pop stores and small property owners who couldn’t match Carpenter’s aggressive and well-prepared lawyers in court.

It seemed like a straightforward news story. But then a small group of lawyers who defend the store owners and others against frivolous ADA lawsuits let me in on a secret: Carpenter had been a teacher at a church in Utah, where he was convicted of child molestation for sexually abusing two 8-year-old girls. There may have been others.

Carpenter pled guilty and got up to 15 years in prison. But on his second night in prison, he purposely dove from his upper bunk, head-first into a concrete floor. He never walked again and had limited use of his arms and hands.

Two days later, Utah Judge George E. Ballif, acting on the recommendation of the state, suspended Carpenter’s prison sentence “until such time as the defendant has achieved medical stability.” After that, the Utah County district attorney and Ballif apparently decided the quadriplegic Carpenter couldn’t do any further harm. He never spent another day in prison.

Carpenter moved to Los Angeles, into an apartment near USC and an elementary school, where he was served by a revolving cast of personal caretakers. One was actor Sean Summers, who emailed the Weekly after Carpenter died.

While Carpenter was in Zurich, Summers read the paper’s December article outing him as a child molester and was mortified.

“It was a pretty devastating experience to find out that he was what he was,” Summers says. He says Carpenter sexually abused children here in Los Angeles: “He still managed to molest kids even after he was in a wheelchair. I felt awful I allowed it to happen.”

Summers contacted the family of one child victim in the Los Angeles area, pushing them to press charges. “They talked it over and decided not to —their kids had gone through therapy,” Summers says. “They decided they were over it. That’s their choice.”

Carpenter’s suicide caught just about everyone off-guard. Summers tells me that the Zurich trip was planned only a few weeks in advance and that Carpenter was an avid traveler, enjoying trips to Portugal and Morocco.

Another caretaker contacted by the Weekly responds via email, “I would never really talk about this to outsiders or the media.” But, he says, he would consider talking “in exchange for compensation of my time and true first-hand knowledge of the story.”

I tell him that few journalists will pay for interviews but offer to buy him lunch. He writes back: “If it was for an uplifting, positive, inspirational story, I might consider it. But I am not sure how you could do that.”

It turns out there’s bad news on the horizon for mom-and-pops targeted by Carpenter: His lawyer, Mark Potter, of the sanctimoniously named Center for Disability Access, is pursuing Carpenter’s lawsuits despite his death. The money reaped from people targeted by Carpenter for obscure offenses against the Americans With Disabilities Act purportedly will go to Carpenter’s mother — and, of course, to Potter himself.

James Link, who has fought Potter in court on behalf of small businesses, says Carpenter is still the named plaintiff in 40 active cases. Those being sued may not even know Carpenter is dead and thus are likely to settle to avoid his well-worn tactics — draining their time and forcing them to lawyer up.

In effect, Carpenter is haunting defendants from beyond the grave.

Potter and a cadre of attorneys like him are the driving force filling the courts with ADA lawsuits pursuing people over modest errors.

Potter, who has never returned any of my phone calls, is replacing Carpenter with a new cast of lawsuit filers. “Apparently there’s no shortage of folk out there that are willing to become plaintiffs,” Link says.

Summers says Carpenter was clever, manipulative, charming. “He and I had some heart-to-hearts about past mistakes,” Summers says, although “not specifics. But I think he felt remorse. I really do.”

But then again, Summers says, “Maybe he wasn’t saying he did anything wrong. He said, ‘I wished I had sometimes made different decisions.’ He’s a tricky soul.”

Carpenter was the oldest son in a fairly large Mormon family. He was called Rick, since his dad’s name also was Jon. One of Rick’s younger brothers, who attended a memorial in L.A. after his death, defends Carpenter, saying he helped out his personal aides who’d been poorly treated in the health care industry. “Rick would help these guys [get] on their feet, help them find better prospects. These people are now going to medical school and film school.

“You know who was at his memorial?” the brother adds. “His pharmacist was actually there. She was completely distraught. He actually connected with her on such a personal level, and treated her as someone important, as a person.”

The brother insists that a note Carpenter sent to his family before he committed suicide “had nothing to do with your piece. … He never mentioned it.”

How often do we think of ourselves as little islands? Carpenter was proof of our enormous capacity to affect others. He touched so many lives — harmed so many people. Thousands of businesses. A number of little girls in Utah. And maybe some girls in the Los Angeles area, too.

Beth Roskelley was 8 when Carpenter sexually abused her in Utah. In her interview last year with the Weekly, Roskelley’s voice was tinged with anger. But a month after Carpenter’s death this year, she seemed calm.

“I had been in church, and they had talked about how you need to forgive everyone,” she says. “I just thought I couldn’t hold those past experiences back. So I started praying — ‘Please help me to feel the desire to forgive him.’ Because my heart was like a stone.”

Before she heard about Carpenter’s suicide, Roskelley had a dream: She was in a court­room with him and forgave him. When she woke up, she actually felt forgiveness.

“It’s pretty amazing,” she says. “I’m no longer haunted. I’m on the other side of it. In my family, the bitterness against Rick Carpenter — I never knew know how much it was worth.””

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