Defense attorney says women who accuse USU football player of rape were ‘needing attention,' prosecutor focuses on similarities in their stories

(Eli Lucero | Herald Journal via AP) Prosecuting attorney Barbara Lachmar gives her opening remarks during Torrey Green's rape trial, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 in Brigham City, Utah. Green is accused of raping multiple women while he was a football player at Utah State University.

Brigham City • One by one, a prosecutor tacked photos on a whiteboard inside the courtroom Monday. Jurors looked at the six images, showing the smiling faces of young women who lived and went to college in the Logan area.

These six women had never met, but each reported a remarkably similar crime: That she was sexually assaulted by Utah State University football star Torrey Green.

A trial began Monday for Green, who is charged with 11 felonies in connection with the reports of these women who say the athlete sexually abused them between 2013 and 2015 when he was a student in Logan.

During opening statements Monday, Deputy Cache County Attorney Barbara Lachmar described Green as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” telling jurors that he used his charm to “lure” and “disarm” women, to try to get them alone before forcing sex on them.

“His intention was to engage in premeditated attacks,” Lachmar said, adding as she pointed to each woman’s photo, “And he did that over, and over, and over, and over, and over and over again.”

Lachmar also highlighted similarities in the women’s accounts. Several of the alleged victims reported that they met Green on the dating app Tinder. The six women reported they were assaulted during their first time alone with Green in his apartment.

Five say Green put on a movie before the alleged assault, and five said Green had told each of them “she would enjoy it.”

Defense attorney Skye Lazaro said during her opening statement that rape was “despicable” — and said Green will tell jurors that himself during the trial.

“Torrey is a man who respects women,” she said.

Lazaro said the women who reported being sexually assaulted were upset with Green for various reasons and were “needing attention.”

She noted that several publicly aired allegations in a Salt Lake Tribune story published in July 2016, just after Green had signed a contract to play for the Atlanta Falcons. He was cut from the team shortly after the allegations were made public.

She said Green should be playing in the NFL now — “He should have a Super Bowl ring” — but is instead defending himself in court because of women who were upset with him. She asked jurors to listen to the testimony carefully and assess the credibility of the witnesses.

Each of the four women included in the July 2016 story had previously reported her alleged assaults to police. The Tribune’s reporting prompted Cache County prosecutors to re-examine sexual-assault allegations lodged against Green in 2015. Other alleged victims have come forward, and, since July, prosecutors have investigated at least 15 sexual-assault allegations against Green.

The first alleged victim, identified in court papers as M.H., testified Monday that she was assaulted by Green in November 2013.

The woman met Green on Tinder, she testified, and she eventually agreed to go to his apartment for dinner and a movie. He made her dinner, she said, and they talked about fried chicken and music.

“I was having fun,” the woman testified.

After dinner, they went to Green’s bedroom to watch a movie. He asked to give her a massage, the woman testified, and she agreed — but told him he could touch her only over her clothing. When he began lifting up her shirt and trying to take her clothes off, she testified, she asked him to stop.

“It was a struggle,” she testified. “And he was getting my clothes off and I was really scared.”

He told her that she would like it, she testified, and he eventually overpowered her and raped her on his bed.

After she left Green’s apartment, the woman said she told her on-again, off-again boyfriend what happened.

“When she came over, I could tell something was wrong,” the boyfriend testified Monday. “She was clearly upset. She seemed to be traumatized by something.”

The woman didn't report the alleged attack to police until 2016, she said, after her friends mentioned a news story about Green while they were on vacation in California. She was resistant at first to reporting — saying she had “moved on” with her life — but friends encouraged her to tell authorities.

“I didn’t realize that that was happening to other women,” she testified. “And I had chosen not to report it. I felt like maybe if I had done something about it sooner, it would not have happened to all the other women.”

On cross-examination, Lazaro focused on the woman’s decision to go to a party hosted by Green after the alleged rape. She suggested the woman might have been upset because Green was there with another woman.

M.H. said she went to the party in an effort to prove to herself that she was in control. She said she spoke to Green only briefly at the party.

“I was upset about what happened,” she testified. “I wanted to essentially just get my control back.”

Almost a year after M.H. says she was raped by Green, Carsen Davis says she met him at USU’s Taggart Student Center and gave him her number. She testified Monday that they set up a date in the fall of 2014, and he picked her up from her dorm room. The plan was to go to his apartment where he would cook her dinner and they would watch a movie.

They didn’t end up eating dinner, Davis testified, but went into his bedroom to watch a movie.

Once there, they began kissing — ”I was OK with that,” she testified — but then he started grabbing her buttocks and leg. She told him she wasn’t comfortable with the touching, but Green laughed it off. When she tried to leave, she testified, he pinned her against the wall. She eventually ended up on the bed, she said, where he removed her pants and raped her.

“I was in shock and I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I remember trying to push him away, but I couldn’t really do much else.”

Davis said she cried during the assault, and remembers Green telling her, “I know you want it.”

After the alleged assault, Green dropped her off at a friend’s house. She said she let Green give her a ride because she was in shock and she didn’t have another way to leave his apartment.

The 18-year-old freshman did not immediately report the sexual assault, she testified, but wrote about it in an English essay. She read her essay to jurors.

“One night is all it takes to change a life for good,” she read. “My one night of vulnerability started with a simple conversation at lunch hour and a phone number exchanged with a boy who didn’t even give me his name.”

Davis testified that Green did give her his name, but she didn’t want to put that detail in the essay in order to protect him.

“I didn’t want to ruin somebody’s career,” she testified. “I knew he had a career in football.”

Lazaro focused some of her cross-examination on Davis’ essay, particularly a portion where the student wrote that she “fought like hell” against someone who was violent toward her during the rape. Davis said the essay explained how she felt in that moment but was not an actual reflection of what happened.

The Tribune generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, but Davis has previously agreed to the use of her name. She told jurors Monday that she decided to use her full name in the newspaper’s coverage because she thought it might help other women who had been similarly assaulted.

The trial is expected to last three weeks. It is being held in Brigham City after Judge Brian Cannell ruled that it would be unlikely to find an impartial jury in Cache County because of the “interrelationship” of the Logan community and Utah State University.

A seventh victim, who reported that she was assaulted during a party at Green’s apartment, will not testify at this trial. A judge ruled last year that her account was not as similar to the others. Her case will be tried separately.