‘Start by believing’: Prosecutor says Torrey Green’s rape convictions send a message to Utah’s criminal justice system

Torrey Green looks back at his family, after a jury finds him guilty of eight charges including five counts of rape and a charge sexual battery in connection to reports from six women accusing him of sexual assault while he was a football player at Utah State University, Friday, Jan.18, 2019 in Brigham City, Utah. (Eli Lucero/Herald Journal via AP)

Brigham City • They were believed.

That was the message a Utah jury sent to six women late Friday evening, a Cache County prosecutor said, when they found former Utah State University football star Torrey Green guilty of sexually abusing them.

One by one, each woman took the stand last week, tearfully telling jurors that Green forced sexual contact even when she said no. Green also testified, and told jurors he had sexually assaulted no one, essentially describing his accusers as spurned dates.

But Friday evening, after deliberating for more than 16 hours over two days, the jury came back with guilty verdicts. Green was convicted of eight charges: five counts of rape, one charge of object rape, a count of forcible sexual abuse and one charge of misdemeanor sexual battery.

“There were convictions for all six of these survivors,” Deputy Cache County Attorney Spencer Walsh said after the verdicts were read. “We’re very happy about that. They were believed.”

Green, who broke down in tears as the verdict was read, had initially faced 11 felonies in connection to the six women’s reports that he sexually abused them between 2013 and 2015 when he was a student in Logan.

The jury, looking weary as they were led into the courtroom, acquitted Green of aggravated kidnapping, object rape and forcible sexual abuse charges. They downgraded one charge from felony forcible sexual abuse to a misdemeanor count of sexual battery.

Green, 25, now faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced March 27. Walsh said they will ask for each of the rape charges and the sexual battery count to run back-to-back to one another because of the number of victims. This means prosecutors will seek at least 25 years and up to life behind bars.

Green’s attorney, Skye Lazaro, avoided news reporters Friday evening by leaving the courthouse through a back exit.

None of the victims were in the courthouse when the verdict was read. But Walsh said each had been informed of the verdict, and they were “thrilled.”

Confronting their attacker in court and being peppered by questions during cross-examination was stressful and caused anxiety, Walsh said. But it was a “very big day” for them to finally get a guilty verdict.

“They were phenomenal,” the prosecutor said. “They are incredible women and it is definitely an honor for our office to able to get them justice.”

The jury heard testimony for nearly two weeks before reaching their verdict Friday.

During the trial, prosecutors leaned on similarities in the women’s testimonies to paint Green as a predator, someone who used his charm to get women alone before forcing sex on them.

In closing arguments, Walsh called Green a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and said it was impossible for so many women who do not know each other to falsely accuse Green of strikingly similar crimes.

All six women testified that they were assaulted during their first time alone with Green. Five said Green forced himself on them while they were in his apartment. Several of the women testified that Green had taken her into his bedroom to watch a movie before the alleged assault, and several said that Green told her that he was really good and “she would like it.”

Green took the witness stand earlier this week and told jurors he had consensual sex with four of the women, and did not have sex with two other accusers. He said that he did have regrets about how he treated the women — he said he should have been more clear that he did not want a serious relationship.

“I wish I didn’t break their hearts,” he testified.

Throughout the trial, Green’s defense attorney implied the women may have been upset with Green, maybe because he did not go on a second date with them or he was seen at a party with another woman.

Lazaro, the defense attorney, told jurors in her closing argument that prosecutors “cherry-picked” certain texts or pieces of evidence that supported a case that was only filed after The Salt Lake Tribune published a story in 2016 that detailed the accusations of four women. At that time, police and the university had taken little action.

“We’re here because of bowing to media pressure,” she argued.

Lazaro told jurors that while they may not morally agree with Green’s decision to have a lot of casual sex in college, that’s not illegal.

The jury considered charges connected to the six women, though there is a seventh alleged victim — who reported that she was assaulted during a party at Green’s apartment. She did not testify at this trial. A judge ruled last year that her account was not as similar to the others, and her case will be tried separately.

Walsh said Friday evening that he hopes the verdict in Green’s case will signal to victims that they will be believed when they report a sexual assault — even if they don’t report to authorities right away.

He also said Green’s case should send a message to community members, law enforcement officers and prosecutors that these sorts of allegations should be handled better.

“I hope this is a learning experience for everyone involved,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job with taking sexual assault cases very seriously. Start by believing. And then do a competent, thorough investigation. And if we do that, we’re going to make a better state, and a better, safer place to live.”