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A woman who met alleged date-rapist Greg Peterson through Facebook testified Tuesday that the 37-year-old Orem man told her he was "powerful politician" who could check her immigration status and have her deported.
That threat, which the woman said kept her from trying to escape, came during the couple's first date in July 2011. The woman, who wept throughout her testimony, said that after they left a movie early, Peterson drove her to a cabin and then to his mother's house, assaulting her over several days.
The woman, a native of Brazil who is in the U.S. illegally, was the third alleged victim to testify against Peterson during the first day of a preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court. Peterson, who is well known in Utah Republican circles for his political activism, is charged with 23 felonies and two misdemeanors that include assault, rape and kidnapping involving four women in 2011 and 2012.
The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
The hearing continues Wednesday before Judge Judith Atherton, who will determine if there is enough evidence for Peterson to be bound over for trial. He has been held in the Salt Lake County jail in lieu of $750,000 bail since the charges were filed July 18.
The Brazilian woman said Peterson told her he was a powerful politician and had a permit for a concealed weapon. After leaving the movie, he began to drive but didn't tell her where they were going. He did, however, say she could trust him.
"The only person you can trust is me," the woman said he told her. "I won't get you deported."
She said Peterson drove to a cabin where he began touching her under her clothes and digitally penetrated her. He also made her touch his genitals, according to the woman. The next morning, he drove her to her house and told her to get some clothes. She said she was too frightened to call police because of her immigration status. After driving away from her home, he exposed himself in the car and ordered her to touch him.
"I couldn't believe these things were happening to me," said the woman, who frequently referred to Peterson as "the monster."
Peterson then drove the woman to her brother's house so she could pick up a key from him, but she testified she was too terrified to tell her family what was happening.
Afterward, he drove them to his mother's house in Lewiston, where he forced her to stay for two days and continued to assault her while his mother slept in the next room.
Peterson then took her to Crystal Hot Springs and a Golden Corral in Midvale for a political event before finally taking her home, the woman testified.
Defense attorneys asked why she stayed with Peterson when she had chances to get away by telling her family or staying inside her home. She said she was too scared to try to escape because of the deportation threat.
The first woman to testify Tuesday said she met Peterson through an online dating site for LDS singles. From his profile, she said, Peterson looked like a "great catch." They met for lunch April 21, 2012, but when she told him she needed to leave after lunch, he became angry. He then followed her to her car, apologized and kissed her, asking to see where she lived. He followed her home in his car, but as soon as they were inside, he grabbed her hand and led her to the bedroom.
Peterson, she said, told her he wanted to rub her legs because she had run a half-marathon that morning. But after she laid face down on the bed, he got on top of her and began touching her breasts and buttocks over her clothes. When she broke free, he exposed his genitals. She ordered him to leave, but before doing so, he snapped a photo of her with his phone.
Prosecutors objected when Peterson's defense attorneys asked the woman if she had worked for Sen. Orrin Hatch's campaign. She said she never volunteered or was employed with the Utah Republican's office.
The second woman, who identified herself as a 28-year-old schoolteacher, said she also met Peterson on ldssingles.com. The couple went on a movie date in December 2011, and nothing out of the ordinary happened. The next day, she invited Peterson to her West Jordan home for lunch after church. But as soon as he walked in the door, she said, Peterson picked her up, placed her on the couch and began kissing her.
He pushed up her skirt and began touching her genitals and nuzzling her breasts, she testified. " 'Don't you like this? It makes a stronger connection, like mother and child,' " the woman said Peterson told her.
She said she tried to push him off, but he was too heavy. The woman said she asked him to leave more than once, but he said he wasn't leaving until he had lunch. Frightened, she said she made him a burrito. "I felt like I was in a daze," she said.
The woman said she later went to a hospital after experiencing vaginal bleeding as a result of the assault and called police. But she decided not to press charges after a detective, who didn't interview her until February, told her it was her word against Peterson's.
Defense attorney Gerald Salcido pressed the woman on how Peterson could have touched her with such force through her tights and LDS undergarments.
A fourth victim is expected to testify Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a new charge of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse against Peterson was filed Monday in Wasatch County's 4th District Court.
In that case, which is not part of this preliminary hearing, Peterson allegedly took the woman to his Heber cabin for lunch in April 2010 and said he wanted to watch a movie. The woman said she didn't have time and needed to pick up her daughter from school. According to court documents, Peterson began kissing her and, after she told him to stop, exposed his genitals. When he attempted to make her touch him, she put her hand on the holster of her gun and "told him he needed to take [her] home or she would start walking," according to court documents.
Wasatch County authorities have said they are investigating Peterson in connection with sexual assault claims made by at least two other women.