Greg Peterson, alleged date rapist, will stand trial
Accused date-rapist Gregory Nathan Peterson was bound over for trial Wednesday following a two-day preliminary hearing featuring four woman who testified the 37-year-old Orem man sexually assaulted them.
Third District Court Judith Atherton, who conducted the hearing, ordered Peterson to appear Aug. 24, at which time he likely will enter pleas to 25 charges of assault, rape and kidnapping before Judge Katherine Bernards-Goodman.
Atherton also boosted Peterson's bail from $750,000 to $2 million at prosecutors' request. And she elevated one misdemeanor charge of sexual battery to felony forcible sexual abuse.
Atherton's decision came at the end of a hearing in which several themes emerged: All the women said they initially met Peterson because he was a member of the Mormon church, and all said he was sexually aggressive, usually on the first date.
In an unusual move, Peterson's attorneys called two witnesses, including his mother, who said Peterson brought one of the alleged victims to her home but that the woman seemed happy.
"She just visited with me cheerfully," Jean Peterson testified.
She also said she never heard the alleged victim scream out during a sexual encounter overnight, as the victim testified on Tuesday. Jean Peterson said she lived in a manufactured home with three-inch thick walls, so she hears nearly every movement in the house.
Peterson began to cry when he locked eyes with his mother on the stand.
While that testimony may have appeared compelling, a judge at a preliminary hearing is not allowed to weigh the credibility of witnesses and must view the evidence presented in a light most favorable to the prosecution.
Defense attorneys said after the hearing that they intended not to sway the judge but get the testimony on the record, as one witness is moving out of the country and Peterson's mother has health issues.
The other witness, Luis Capunay, testified that he saw the same victim Peterson's mother met painting doors at Peterson's Heber cabin, where many of the alleged assaults occurred. Capunay said the woman was smiling, and did not appear to be afraid.
That woman, a native of Brazil, testified Tuesday that she did go to the cabin on July 9, 2011 a few days after Peterson allegedly assaulted her. She said Peterson told her that if she helped with the painting, he wouldn't bother her anymore.
The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
During cross examination of the woman Wednesday, defense attorneys revealed that she and the fourth alleged victim had met through a mutual friend and discussed their experiences with Peterson. And both women said during their testimony that Peterson made them watch an episode of "Big Love," an HBO drama about a Sandy polygamist with three wives.
The fourth alleged victim testified Wednesday that she met Peterson at a humanitarian fundraiser hosted by an LDS singles group in Draper on March 26, 2011. After offering to show her his Mormon temple recommend, he asked her on a movie date. But when she got in his truck, he began grabbing her leg and told her he kept a gun in the console. Then, he informed her they were going to his cabin to watch a movie.
He ordered her to touch his genitals and kiss his neck. When her tooth touched his neck, he slapped her. "I was shocked," she testified.
She was also afraid because of his claim about the gun. When he told her to kiss him again, she complied to avoid being hit, she said.
Once at the cabin, she said, he became aggressive, grabbing her hair and pushing her on the bed, rubbing her breasts and ordering her to touch him. Then he played "Big Love" on the television.
"'Tell me you'd be my wife. Tell me you'd want to be my wife. Tell me you'd want to be one of my wives,'" she said Peterson told her, adding that Peterson asked her if she would have sex with him after watching him have sex with his other wives.
"I remember lying there, being completely scared, looking around the room," she said. She became even more frightened when she spied a gun case in the room.
When the TV show was over, she testified, Peterson raped her. After taking a break during which he fixed bowls of cereal for them and posted a message on a Facebook page called "Sarah for President," he raped her again.
In the morning, she asked Peterson to take her back to her car. When he missed the exit, she believed he might be kidnapping her to be his wife.
"It became so real after he passed that exit," she said. "Is he for real? Is he taking me to Orem? I am not his wife."
But Peterson eventually did drop her off at her car. She then drove to a friend's house in Syracuse and called police. She subsequently was examined by a nurse and testified that she suffered lacerations, and vaginal and anal bleeding from the attack.
During cross examination, defense attorney Cara Tangaro pressed the woman about her past. The woman admitted she had accused three other men including both of her ex-husbands of raping her.
"She's either the most unlucky woman I've ever met, or there's something else there," Tangaro told reporters after the hearing.
Peterson's lawyers said they plan to bring more witnesses during trial that will help prove the sexual encounters were consensual. They also maintain one victim fabricated her story. Tangaro said it is likely that guilt over violating "tenets of chastity" may have played a part in their accusations.
"It's called buyer's remorse," she said. "There is going to be some of thatâ¦I think that does and will play in this case a little bit."
Peterson is well known in Utah Republican circles for his political activity. Since the charges were filed on July 16, he has been held at the Salt Lake County jail. On Monday, the Wasatch County Attorney filed a new charge of forcible sexual abuse against Peterson involving a fifth alleged victim. That office is still investigating claims by two other women that Peterson assaulted them.
Greg Peterson is expected to enter pleas to 25 charges of assault, rape and kidnapping on Aug. 24. His defense team says no plea deal is in the works, and the case will likely go to trial within a year.