A jury has convicted a Utah man accused of attacking his ex-girlfriend during a fight over a recent breakup.
Jeffrey Charles Salt, 52, director of the Great Salt Lakekeeper environmental group, was found guilty Thursday of third-degree felony aggravated assault.
Jurors dismissed a first-degree felony count of aggravated kidnapping, which would have carried a mandatory prison sentence, and a misdemeanor charge for allegedly preventing the woman from calling 911.
The victim took the witness stand Tuesday in 3rd District Court, detailing the June 2008 assault. The woman said she had agreed to meet Salt at his home to discuss their failed romance and that, when she tried to leave, Salt prevented her from going.
“I can’t let you leave,” she recalled him saying.
The woman said Salt grabbed her neck and gave it “two sharp twists.” Then she bit his finger in hopes of escaping.
One of Salt’s attorneys, Kim Cordova, told jurors that he called his ex-girlfriend an “inappropriate name” and that the woman slapped him. Cordova said Salt was trying “calm” the woman when she bit him. The two then grabbed each other and fell.
The ex-girlfriend said Salt told her he “hated her” and that he had recently purchased a gun.
Cordova, however, painted Salt as a hurt man, who had purchased an engagement ring and wanted only to discuss the breakup.
As they wrestled on the ground, the woman said Salt pinned her leg up against her chest and hit her at least five times with a piece of pottery and what she believed was a metal bar.
The woman said she suffered cuts and bruises, and emergency room doctors later put 65 staples in her head. Jurors later told attorneys they did not believe Salt hit the woman with the pottery because they believed she would have died if he had.
Salt — whose environmental efforts have focused on the Great Salt Lake, the Jordan River and other waterways — faces a maximum of up to five years in prison when he is sentenced June 4 by Judge William Barrett.
Salt has also been in a trademark dispute with the environmental network started by Bobby Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
Shortly after Salt was charged in the domestic violence case, Kennedy’s Waterkeeper Alliance, a network of 190 environmental groups, tried to stop Salt from calling himself the “Great Salt Lakekeeper.” The group filed suit in 2010, saying he had violated quality standards for alliance members and that the alliance was trying to protect its brand. In the most recent court papers, both sides indicated they are exploring mediation.