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Rape Law in Mid-Twentieth-Century Utah

In the summer 2017 issue of UHQ, historian Michaele Smith examines the laws associated with sexual assault in WWII-era Utah by using, among other sources, court documents.

One case Smith looks at in depth occurred in 1937 and centered on Jim Stockfish, a young working-class man from Salt Lake City.

In July 1937, Veda White reported to police that Stockfish had assaulted her. Because White was married, the county attorney charged Stockfish with adultery, to which he plead guilty.

The Third District Court sentenced Stockfish to imprisonment for a term not to exceed three years and then gave him a stay of execution.

During his stay, another woman reported that Stockfish had sexually assaulted her. He denied the claim but admitted that he had “unlawful sexual relations with the girl in question.” The court then revoked the stay and sent Stockfish to prison. The document below pertains to this woman.

The judge in the White case, Roger McDonough, noted that a third woman had previously accused Stockfish of sexual assault but later wanted the charges dismissed.

Box 10, fd. 11, Attorney’s Correspondence 1929-1982, Salt Lake County Attorney, Salt Lake County Archives, West Valley City, Utah.