'It was not him,' says attorney for accused 'BYU groper'
Provo • The man accused of grabbing and groping more than a dozen women on the Brigham Young University campus walked into court Thursday with his head raised and his wife at his side.
Nathan Eric Fletcher, 23, held tight to his wife's hand as he strode past TV news cameras and reporters, into the 4th District courtroom, where he made his first appearance before a judge.
Fletcher has been charged with two counts of class A misdemeanor sexual battery out of a series of 16 that authorities believe the man committed over the course of several months.
His alleged misdeeds have earned Fletcher the nickname of the "BYU groper" and notoriety that, his lawyer said, he never wanted.
"He feels picked on, beat up," defense attorney John Allan said after the hearing. "We're very concerned about the allegations against him, and we feel that Mr. Fletcher has been mistreated up until this point."
Prosecutors and BYU police officers in attendance Thursday declined to comment.
Fletcher will appear in court again July 17.
Neither the prosecution nor defense said whether additional charges could come between now and then.
If convicted, Fletcher, who was a student at the university and a former member of the Cougars' track team, could face up to a year in jail for each count.
His former track members allegedly helped police identify Fletcher when they told police the gait of the perpetrator seen in surveillance video from around the campus matched Fletcher's.
But what neither his former teammates nor the video recordings could explain, Allan said, is how the defendant could cover so much ground in so little time, and why descriptions given to police are inconsistent.
"I'm at a loss; I'm stumped," Allan said, noting that one woman described her assailant as between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-4 and wearing bright green shorts. Fletcher, on that day, was wearing blue shorts and a gray T-shirt. He stands no taller than 5-foot-10.
"We feel confident in our ability to defend Mr. Fletcher against these accusations," Allan said. "It was not him that did this."
Fletcher has never before been charged with a crime, according to Utah court records.
Police say Fletcher typically grabbed women's breasts as they walked or jogged by him.
In March, a camera at the Heritage Halls dorms captured footage of a woman descending a flight of stairs and stepping onto the sidewalk, where a man in a gray sweatshirt and black pants walked past her and grabbed her breast.
Two hours later, another woman was jogging in a parking lot east of the football stadium, where she ran past a man, who grabbed her breast, police said.
In addition to those attacks, women have also been groped in similar fashions at Helaman Halls and Wymount Terrace on-campus housing, off-campus housing in Provo and just outside the campus police office.
The first assault was reported Jan. 23, according to BYU police. Fletcher, who declined to hear the judge read aloud the charges against him Thursday, has maintained his innocence in the case.
Since he was charged in April, Fletcher has been suspended from school and moved out of his on-campus housing. He has been searching for employment, his lawyer said, but has had little luck given the media attention surrounding the case.
"No one will have him," Allan said. "It's been devastating."