Juror no-shows force mistrial in Uintah County gang-rape case

Defense attorney Greg Lamb, stands with his client, Jerry Flatlip, as Flatlip pleaded not guilty to charges of rape of a child, a first-degree felony and sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony.

A mistrial was declared Tuesday in the case of three men who are accused of gang-raping a 9-year-old girl at a Uintah County home in 2016.

A 10-day trial was expected to begin this week for the men — Larson RonDeau, 38, Jerry Flatlip, 31, and Randall Flatlip, 27 — who are each charged with first-degree felony rape of a child and first-degree felony sodomy upon a child.

But court officials say that about a third of the potential jurors who were supposed to report to the courthouse this week never showed up, leaving a pool too small for attorneys to pick from.

Spokesman Geoff Fattah said 120 jurors were initially called, but the group was brought down to 96 after court officials contacted the jurors and some asked to be excused.

Thirty-six of those never showed up for jury duty.

“[This is] a perfect example of why we want people to take jury duty seriously,” Fattah said.

Though charges were initially filed in the 8th District Court in Vernal, the trial was moved to Summit County after a judge ruled it would not be likely that the three men would receive a fair trial in Uintah County. The potential jurors all reside in Summit County.

A Dec. 18 hearing was set to decide what to do next in the case. Fattah said it’s possible that the judge could send stern warning letters to the no-show jurors, or could even order them to come to court and explain themselves.

“We don’t want to frighten the public,” Fattah said. “But this is a serious civic duty they need to do. Without jurors, we can’t administer justice.”

The three men are accused of holding the young girl down and each raping her on March 27, 2016. A fourth man also was charged in the case, but charges against him were dismissed at a 2016 preliminary hearing after a critical identifying witness — the girl’s mother — could not be found.

The girl told investigators that all four men sexually assaulted her, and said they told her, “if I tell anybody, they were going to kill me.” She identified the three men who are facing charges in a police line-up, according to preliminary hearing testimony.

Charging documents state that the girl’s mother told police officers she had taken her daughter with her to a home, near 1000 South and 2000 West in Vernal, to spend Easter weekend with her friend, whom she met while incarcerated at the jail. The four men also were staying at the house, the mother reported.

At some point that day, the mother left her sleeping daughter on a couch and went to the garage for about 30 minutes to get high on methamphetamine, she later told police.

When she returned, her daughter was upset, and told her she wanted to go home, according to charges.

Two days later, the girl told her mother of the assault.

The men have denied sexually assaulted the girl in interviews with police, and have pleaded not guilty to the charges.