Sons say they made up accusations that sent their father to prison, want to clear his name

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a story of a broken family and an effort at reunification.

Two men accused their father of a horrific crime and now, they say they made it up.

"We accused him of sexually abusing us, which wasn't true," Jeremy Hawkins said.

David Hawkins' sons say they're trying to right a wrong.

"This man's suffering for something he didn't do," Nathan Hawkins said. "That's not right and this needs to be fixed now."

12 years ago, as children, Jeremy and Nathan accused their father of sexually abusing them.

"Growing up as kids, we hated my father," Jeremy Hawkins said. "We didn't want to see him again but we didn't realize how serious it was."

The boys say growing up, they didn't have the best childhood with either of their parents, and they leveled the accusations against their father.

"We're basically the only evidence they have. They didn't find any evidence, see anything wrong with us. It's just our words," Jeremy Hawkins said.

"I don't think they understood the severity of what they were saying," David Hawkins said.

David Hawkins was found guilty in a jury trial. He was prepared to challenge the verdict, but pleaded guilty and went to prison for eight years. He's now out on parole.

"It was surreal," David Hawkins said. "I couldn't stop it, couldn't control, I had to let it play itself out."

Now, his sons have grown up and insist there was no abuse. They're trying to get their father's conviction overturned.

"I never experienced or saw anything like that," Ian Hawkins said. "I love and support my brothers, but at the same time I want to tell the truth."

But Salt Lake County prosecutors don't appear to believe them now and have refused to overturn the conviction.

Documents obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune under a public records request say prosecutors concluded:

"Jeremy and Nathan's explanation that then 13-year-old Jeremy convinced 9-year-old Nathan to allege abuse merely because he was upset with his father has greater inconsistencies than the original disclosure."

"They don't believe our voice," Nathan Hawkins said. "Our truth trying to come out now."

David Hawkins still hasn't seen the sons who accused him of abuse since he went on trial, but he tells Fox 13 he supports what they're doing.

"I'm extremely proud of them, I'm very humbled," David Hawkins said. "I know it's not something they thought about overnight. It takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of strength."

The family's hired a lawyer to pursue what's called a factual innocence claim. If his conviction is overturned, he'd no longer be on parole or on the sex offender registry.

David Hawkins is hoping he can see his sons soon.

"The damage is done, you can't change the past," David Hawkins said. "All you can do is move forward at this point. That's what I'm working on."

David Hawkins' lawyer plans to file that factual innocence claim within the next month.

You can read more about their story in the Salt Lake Tribune.