SALT LAKE CITY — KSL Television is reporting that the man who held several Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints elders at gunpoint in June has been sentenced to up to 30 years in the Utah State Prison. He will be required to serve at least two years in prison.
In November, Alfredo Paul Herrera, plead guilty to six counts of kidnapping which is a second-degree felony. Court records report that Herrera admitted to detaining the missionaries against their will. In exchange for his guilty pleas, the state dismissed two charges of aggravated assault and a third-degree felony, said KSL.
Herrera’s family questioned the punishment saying it was harsh as no one was hurt, and the elders were kept for under two hours. Prosecutors disagreed and said the punishment fit the crime.
“The fact is that they were being threatened with a loaded firearm,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Michael Palumbo. “Every missionary that goes off into the world, they’re going to have to consider, ‘What about that thing that happened in Salt Lake that one time? Is that going to happen to me?”
Attorney John Easton represented Herrera and says that Herrera doesn’t remember what happened and woke up in jail following his arrest wondering how he got there.
“Alcohol has been a huge problem in his life,” Easton said.
Easton told the court that Herrera’s criminal history was brief but did include a 2015 conviction for assault. Herrera had completed probation for that charge without any problems, Easton said.
Herrera said he hoped to take substance abuse programs while in prison.
“I’m just grateful nobody was seriously injured in this situation,” he said,
Prosecutors initially asked the judge to give Herrera 6 consecutive sentences of one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison.
“Third District Judge Linda Jones declined to do so. She ordered two consecutive prison terms and allowed the rest to run concurrently, or at the same time, saying her order balances the seriousness of the case with Herrera’s rehabilitative needs,” stated KSL.
Jones noted that the elders were subjected to a horrible ordeal while trying to do some good in the world.
On June 20, the missionaries visited Herrera. Instead of just two elders meeting with Herrera, 6 visited as they told police they didn’t have a good feeling about meeting with Herrera. While at his home, Herrera offered the elders booze and got upset when one of the elders declined to hold a gun that he showed them. Herrera also forced the missionaries to stay in his home, pointed a gun at them and forced one elder to watch pornography.
“The missionaries reported they tried to leave the home after the first 10 minutes, and that Herrera was drinking and would point the gun at them if they didn’t like what he was talking about. Officers later found empty containers of beer and whiskey in his home, court records say,” reported KSL.
Outside the courtroom, family members questioned why 6 elders would visit with Herrera despite not feeling good about doing so. Herrera’s uncle Art Romo said the missionaries should have seen that Herrera was drunk, and that should have told them they shouldn’t visit with Herrera that night, Romo said.
“I think it’s very harsh,” Romo said of the sentence.
Romo reported that Herrera had a rough upbringing and had suffered abuse. While Herrera’s actions were wrong, Romo believes Herrera may have felt threatened by the six elders.
Herrera, 45, was credited for 6 months that he has already spent in jail.