It was fair for 6 women to testify about similar sex assaults by former USU athlete, Utah top court rules

Torrey Green, who wanted a new trial, is serving a prison sentence after a jury convicted him of eight sexual assault-related charges.

A former Utah State University football player convicted of sexually assaulting six women will remain in prison after the state’s high court rejected his request for a new trial.

Torrey Green had argued to the Utah Supreme Court that a jury never should have heard from all six women over a 10-day trial in 2019, saying it was unfair and could have influenced the jury’s decision to convict him of eight charges. But the justices said in a Thursday ruling that it was fair game for prosecutors to present the women’s strikingly similar accusations as a way to combat Green’s assertion that the women had made up their reports that they were sexually assaulted.

“Mr. Green put the women’s credibility at issue by claiming they were lying,” Chief Justice Matthew Durrant wrote, “and the accusations of multiple similar acts of sexual misconduct by Mr. Green corroborated each woman’s story.”

Green has been serving a 26-years-to-life prison sentence since a jury in 2019 convicted him of eight charges, in connection with reports from six women who said he sexually abused them between 2013 and 2015, when he was a student in Logan.

Prosecutors brought charges against Green in 2016 alleging assaults against seven women. This came after a Salt Lake Tribune investigative report that year showed how four women told police that Green had raped them, and authorities up to that point had taken no action.

Prior to Green’s trial in 2019, a northern Utah judge had ruled that six of the seven women’s accusations had enough similarities that he allowed them to testify in each other’s trials. After the judge made that ruling, Green’s trial attorney asked for the six cases to be consolidated into a single trial. Green is expected to go to trial in connection to the seventh woman’s accusations in September.

In his ruling, First District Judge Brian Cannell noted several similarities among their allegations: Four of the alleged victims said they met Green on the dating app Tinder. Six testified that they were assaulted during their first time alone with the defendant in his apartment.

Five women reported that Green put on a movie before the alleged assault. And five said Green had told each of them “she would enjoy it.” All, the judge wrote, said they verbally and physically communicated with Green that they did not consent.

Prosecutors wanted jurors to hear that testimony in an effort to show that Green was a serial rapist and to counter his defense that sex was consensual and the women fabricated their allegations.

Green’s appellate attorneys had argued that the judge made the wrong decision, and noted that many of the women’s recollections lacked independence, because they did not report to police until after The Tribune coverage in 2016.

The Utah Supreme Court ruled that Cannell made no error in allowing all six women to testify, and also did not make a mistake in letting prosecutors present corroborating testimony from friends and family members of each woman, who told the jury about times prior to the 2016 Tribune coverage when she told them Green assaulted her.

This was an effort to show independence from one another — that despite some of the women not reporting to police until later, victims had told those closest to them that they were raped. Prosecutors also showed jurors a poem and a college essay written by two of the victims describing being sexually assaulted that were authored years before The Tribune’s article. Attorneys on both sides also agreed to show jurors a summary of The Tribune’s coverage of Green’s case.

Green’s appellate attorneys argue that this was all “hearsay” evidence, which should have never been allowed at the trial and harmed his case. The high court ruled this week that it was fair for the jury to hear this evidence because Green had accused the women of lying about him to get attention in media reports or possibly money, since he had been playing professional football with the Atlanta Falcons at the time The Tribune’s article was published. He was cut from the team shortly after the report.

The Utah Supreme Court also rejected an argument that prosecutors made improper racial remarks.

Green is Black, and all of his victims were white. His appellate attorneys argue that prosecutors at trial made statements that evoked racial stereotypes implying that Black men are “animalistic” and “sexually unrestrained.”

They argue in his appeal that prosecutors painted the women as young and naive, while he was portrayed as a large, dangerous predator preying on young women. He was in his early 20s, his attorneys note, while most of the women were 18 or 19.

It was inappropriate, Green’s attorneys argued, for a prosecutor to tell jurors in his closing arguments that Green was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and to refer to his apartment where the sexual assaults occurred as his “lair.”

The justices, however, determined these statements were “stray references” that never developed into “any clear racial theme.”