Utah State University student ordered to stand trial for allegedly raping classmate on campus lawn

Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo Old Main Building is at Utah State University. In the wake of sexual assault allegations lodged against former USU linebacker Torrey Green, the school has announced the formation of committes to address sexual violence on campus.

Logan • Alison Berg paused before describing what happened in the early morning hours after a fraternity party in September 2015.

“Can we take a short break?” she asked, during her testimony at a preliminary hearing on Tuesday about how she had allegedly been sexually assaulted by a fellow student on the lawn at Utah State University in Logan.

Berg, now 20, left the courtroom, followed by her father and boyfriend. When she returned a few minutes later, she resumed the stand and described the defendant taking off her white shorts, despite her objections.

“He said it‘d be fine, that he just wanted [brief sexual contact]. I said I wanted to go home,” she said. “He said it would be fine. I told him I wanted him to stop.”

At the end of the hearing, 1st District Court Judge Kevin Allen ordered Scott Raymond Simmons, now 21, to stand trial on charges of first-degree felony rape and second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse.

Berg reported the incident to campus police in early 2017. She was an 18-year-old freshman at the time of the Sigma Phi frat party.

Simmons testified that she and Berg exchanged phone numbers when they met at the party. Berg went back to her dorm and drank Fireball cinnamon whisky with friends while Simmons went to dinner with his friends. But the two arranged to meet later.

Berg suggested Simmons come to her dorm to hang out. He suggested a walk. She agreed, and the two met up around 2:30 a.m. and walked over to the University’s Old Main Hill.

The two began kissing, and despite her protests, Simmons allegedly removed Berg’s clothing and sexually assaulted her, according to her testimony.

She didn’t fight back because she was scared, she testified.

But Berg testified she repeatedly told Simmons she didn’t want to have sex. And, she said, she had been too intoxicated to consent.

The prosecution played a recording of a phone call between the two students that was set up by police earlier this year, in which Simmons recounted what happened that night, which he called “the biggest regret of my life.”

During the call, Simmons insisted the two didn’t have sex, but that he tried to “push it further.”

I remember being right on the edge, and you resisted and I remember two seconds later, thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ ” Simmons said in the recording.

In an interview with Utah State University police Sgt. Jessica Vahsholtz, Simmons said he had tried to have intercourse with Berg after she had told him she didn’t want to. When Berg pushed Simmons away, he said, he stopped, Vahsholtz testified Tuesday.

But Berg testified that Simmons then forced her to perform oral sex.

Vahsholtz added: “[Simmons] did say he knew it was wrong and she wasn’t sober and couldn’t give consent.”

On the phone, Berg asked why he had continued when she told him to stop.

“I was an idiot. I was immature and stupid,” he replied. He apologized several times during the call.

“I still feel so terrible that I took advantage of you while you were drunk,” Simmons said in the recording. Guilt and anxiety prevented him from sleeping for nights after, he told Berg on the phone. After that night, he had become depressed and failed classes, he said.

“Yeah, me too,” she responded.

Berg started working with the University’s Sexual Assault and Anti-Violence Information (SAAVI) office after her grades dropped, her friendships suffered and she became depressed, she told a Salt Lake Tribune reporter in June.

Defense attorney Clayton Simms said Simmons had not forced himself on Berg, and called her a “willing participant.”

After the hearing, Simms told news reporters the guilt his client had expressed was religious, not criminal.

“He felt bad because he‘s very religious,” Simms said. “He knew he shouldn’t have done that unless he was married to her.”

The Tribune generally does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Berg has agreed to the use of her name.

Simmons will be in court again in January. If convicted of rape, he could be sentenced to prison for up to life.

Simmons is the fourth male USU student to be charged with alleged sexual assault between 2014-2015, and the third involving the school’s fraternities.

Former Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity president Ryan Wray pleaded guilty in 2015 to trying to sexually assault a woman in August 2014 while he was tasked with caring for inebriated women at parties.

Jason Relopez was accused of assaulting two women in 2014 and in 2015 at the Sigma Chi fraternity house, where Relopez lived. He pleaded guilty to charges in 2016.

And a former USU football player, Torrey Green, is accused of sexually assaulting a number of women while he was a student in Logan between November 2014 and November 2015. He has been charged in seven cases, all of which are pending.

University officials in 2016 created a task force to address sexual violence, according to spokesman Tim Vitale, and have made several changes. Those include bystander intervention training for students, amnesty from drug and alcohol student code violations for students who report or witness sexual violence, and upgraded technologies to make reporting easier.

A campus climate survey was also recently completed, according to Vitale, and the data is currently being analyzed.