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University of Utah groper gets prison in 2011 assaults

Published August 2, 2013 9:25 pm

Courts • Man apologizes to victims of 2011 attacks on campus, blames his alcoholism.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

He was raised in a church-going family, the son of a scout leader. But on Friday, a judge ruled that the now-32-year-old man is a danger to society.

Gary W. Fotheringham, who sexually assaulted several women on the University of Utah campus in 2011, was sentenced to up to five years in prison for three counts of attempted forcible sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty to the three charges in June in a deal with prosecutors.

Fotheringham, a tall man with straight brown hair, stood stoically before the judge with his hands cuffed and his legs shackled as she handed down his sentence. He told the court that he's struggled with alcoholism and has accepted responsibility for what he's done.

"I would like to apologize for the stress and fear I caused the victims," Fotheringham said. "It's not their fault; it's my fault. … I'm truly sorry."

Judge Katie Bernards-Goodman nodded as she listened to the man's apology. But it wasn't enough.

"There are a lot of alcoholics in the world who don't go out and commit sex offenses," Bernards-Goodman said. "I worry about society and how it would be if I let you go."

She ultimately sided with prosecutors, who argued that Fotheringham was a growing danger to women, and pointed to his criminal behavior, which has escalated over time.

In 2010, University of Utah police arrested Fotheringham for lewdness in a women's restroom. According to court documents, Fotheringham tried to film a woman in a restroom stall using his cellphone camera.

A year later, Fotheringham returned to the university, where he "terrorized women," prosecutors said.

No victims were present for Fotheringham's sentencing, but at a preliminary hearing last year, the women testified against Fotheringham, detailing Nov. 4, 2011 — a day comprised of a series of escalating sexual assaults.

One woman, a U. freshman, said she had just finished changing for an on-campus dance class when she saw a man standing with his back against a wall in the dark hallway outside the women's locker room. He was peering in at her.

The student said the man later hid in a restroom stall and, when confronted, told her he thought he was in the men's room.

A junior at the university testified that she was studying in a building on the campus about 4:30 p.m. when a man crept up behind her as she bent over to pick up her backpack. He put his hand between her legs and groped her, she said.

She said she followed the man, berating him with questions. As he walked away, she said, underwear fell out of his pocket.

Another student also testified at the preliminary hearing, but was unable to identify Fotheringham as the person who assaulted her.

Police have said Fotheringham's attacks became more serious over the course of that day, culminating about 8:40 p.m., when Fotheringham followed another woman to her car and groped her as she attempted to get inside.

According to charging documents, Fotheringham tried to cover the woman's mouth with his hand, but she bit his finger. When officers interviewed Fotheringham in this case, the documents state, he had an injury to one of his fingers.

His attorney, Melissa Fulkerson, asked the judge to allow Fotheringham to stay in the Salt Lake County Jail for 20 more months to complete a substance abuse treatment program and then be released into the care of his family and his family's church.

She declined.

Fotheringham's mother cried as she told the court about her son's struggles with alcohol and her family's pain. She declined to comment further as she left the court.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @marissa_jae