In a handwritten, five-page letter written before he took his own life, political activist Greg Peterson insisted he was innocent, and blamed prosecutors, the media and several women who had accused him of sexual assault and rape for making suicide his only option.
"To my family/friends, someday, albeit not now, I believe you'll see I'm doing the right thing by ending the extraordinary pain to you, and exposing lies & injustices. I love you all very much. I'll miss you," Peterson wrote in the suicide note, released by his attorney.
Peterson, 37, was facing charges that he had sexually assaulted or raped five women. He shot himself in the head at his Heber cabin on Oct. 23, days after posting $2 million bail.
The letter, written on his work letterhead, alternates between assertions of his innocence, condemnations of his accusers, and denunciations of those including former friends, media and prosecutors who he believed conspired against him.
"I love life. I never kidnapped, raped or burglarized anyone," he wrote, then referred to several individuals, whose names were blacked out in the letter: "You have the blood of an innocent man on your hands."
Peterson claimed one of his accusers manufactured the story to ease her own guilt and her parents' anger over her sleeping with him, because of peer pressure, and to get a green card.
"This was a case about regret, not rape," he wrote. "Add a dose of retribution, greed, and a green card, and some peer pressure and you've got an angry mob."
He said that, after his death, an investigation could begin into the falsehoods alleged against him, perhaps through a wrongful death suit and subpoena power.
"Make my accusers famous, so you can reveal their lies, their motives, their history," he said.
Peterson's family waited to release the letter until after his memorial, which was held a week ago, said his attorneys, Cara Tangaro and Jerry Salcido, in an email. Making it public "is one way to let Greg finally speak out," the attorneys wrote, and the family "is now ready to help restore Greg's tarnished reputation."
Peterson's note includes his assertion that women falsely accused him, "but what the public does not know is that one of his 'victims' has accused three other men of rape in addition to Greg; another 'victim's' own brother revealed that she wanted to marry Greg in hopes of getting a visa to stay in the United States; and, yet another 'victim,' immediately after Greg allegedly assaulted her, posed for a picture with him smiling and happy and spoke to Greg's phone camera in good spirits," their email said.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who had seen the letter, said his office filed charges based on the evidence and the testimony of the accusers and it was handled no differently than any other case.
"He seems to be blaming everyone else but himself," Gill said.
"There was no conspiracy or anything like that. What it was was putting multiple cases together. ... It took tremendous courage for these victims to come forward. We certainly believe their statements and based on the strength of the evidence, we had filed our charges," he said. "To us this was like any other case and we put it together with the same diligence."
Holly Mullen, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center, said, "It's very sad and I'm sorry they have to dredge this up."
With Peterson's suicide, she said, nobody will know the outcome of the criminal case, but the judges involved had determined there was enough evidence to go to trial.
"Perpetrators often believe or will say it didn't happen the way the victim claims, that it was mutually agreed upon and then she felt guilty later and went to the authorities," Mullen said. "People don't want to admit doing what they've done. If he did it, he doesn't want to admit it, and I guess that's how he's going to present his case, even from the grave, and the women who went through what they did will continue to say otherwise."
Peterson was a self-proclaimed mover-and-shaker in Republican politics, who hosted members of Congress and state elected officials and scores of conservative activists at his cabin in Heber.
But prosecutors charged him with systematically preying on women he met through LDS singles sites or church events over several months.
Prosecutors said that in March 2011, Peterson sexually assaulted and raped a woman at his cabin. Again, in July 2011, he drove another woman to Heber and assaulted her, threatening to have her deported, prosecutors alleged. He then drove her to his mother's home and assaulted her over the next two days, they said.
In December, after a lunch date, Peterson allegedly assaulted a third woman. And in April 2012, he allegedly assaulted a woman he had met on a singles site at her home before she broke free and made him leave. In August, he was charged in Wasatch County with attacking a fifth woman.
All told, Peterson was facing 26 counts, most of them felony charges of kidnap, rape or assault.
In his letter, Peterson said that rape was such a shocking charge and questioned whether, if he was acquitted, he would be able to recover his business clients, reputation and home.
"I meet my Creator in a few short minutes, so I have no reason to lie. I want the world to learn from this tragedy, and to hear my side of the story that never got told," Peterson wrote. He said posting the bail had taken all the money he could use to hire investigators, and his lawyers "won't let me fight back."