Utah • GOP activist appears in court on felony charges that he raped four women.
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Three more women have come forward and accused GOP activist Gregory Nathan Peterson of sexually assaulting them, a sheriff said Friday.
Wasatch County Sheriff Todd Bonner said two women have given interviews to his detectives saying Peterson who already was accused of date raping four women he met in Salt Lake County had kidnapped and sexually assaulted them. A third woman has made an allegation but not yet decided whether she wants to provide a full report and cooperate with detectives, Bonner said.
"My understanding is [the allegations are] pretty similar to the others," Bonner said.
Peterson, Bonner said, met the women "outside of Wasatch County and he brings them to his cabin in the Heber area."
Bonner said detectives have sent information to the Wasatch County attorney to consider charges.
Wasatch County Attorney Scott Sweat confirmed prosecutors there have met with detectives but said he wasn't yet ready to file charges.
"We're still in the investigation stage," Sweat said.
Meanwhile, Peterson appeared in court Friday in Salt Lake City on charges he sexually assaulted four other women.
Third District Judge Judith Atherton on Friday scheduled a two-day preliminary hearing for Aug. 14 and 15, to determine if Peterson will stand trial.
"There's going to be a lot of testimony," defense attorney Cara Tangaro said Friday.
Evidence presented at a preliminary hearing is used by a judge to decide if there is probable cause to believe the alleged crimes occurred and that they were committed by the defendant, which may advance the case to trial.
One of Peterson's attorneys, Jerry Salcido, declined to discuss the new allegations, saying he did not have information about them. As for the Salt Lake County case, Salcido said there's evidence that at least one woman was in no danger from his client.
Salcido said one woman was calling family members and chatting on Skype while she was with Peterson, without discussing any problems.
"They'll be information coming out at the preliminary hearing," Salcido said.
Peterson is being held at the Salt Lake County jail in lieu of $750,000 bail.
A 3rd District Court judge earlier this week refused to reduce Peterson's bail, siding with prosecutors, who called the 37-year-old Orem man a flight risk and a danger to the community.
The lack of a bail reduction prompted Peterson's attorneys to demand a preliminary hearing within 10 days. Although the hearing wasn't scheduled that soon, a Utah defendant charged with first-degree felonies typically waits months before receiving a preliminary hearing.
Salt Lake County prosecutor Thaddeus May said he did not know how many witnesses would testify during the August hearing. May also declined to say whether more women had come forward with similar allegations against Peterson.
"We're just focusing on this case," May said after the hearing.
Peterson is charged with 23 felonies and two misdemeanors. According to charging documents:
• In March 2011, Peterson drove a woman he met at a church activity in Draper to his cabin in Heber where Peterson often held political functions when she had only agreed to go with him to a movie. During the drive, Peterson told the woman he had a concealed-weapons permit and pointed to the center console of his car where he reportedly kept a gun. At the cabin, Peterson assaulted and raped the woman.
• In July 2011, Peterson took a woman to a movie in Sandy. He later asked her to go out to dinner but instead drove to the Heber cabin and raped her. The woman said he threatened to have her deported for an expired visa. The next day he forced her to go to his mother's house in Lewiston, where he continued to sexually assault her during the next two days.
• In December 2011, Peterson was supposed to go on a lunch date with a woman he met through an online dating site. Peterson walked into her West Jordan home, pushed her onto the couch and sexually assaulted her after she told him to stop.
• On April 21, 2012, Peterson met with another woman he met through a dating website. He pushed her down on the bed in her Salt Lake City home and grabbed her. After a struggle, the woman managed to get him out of her house.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he reviewed a fifth woman's case involving allegations from August 2009 but declined to prosecute because he could not prove that she didn't consent to having sex with Peterson. The fifth woman told Peterson she "felt uncomfortable, and that was the only thing she said," according to Gill.
When the March 2011 case came to the attention of law enforcement, Sweat said he declined to file charges in Wasatch County, believing he lacked the evidence to prove the he-said, she-said case in court.
But Gill said the combined allegations of that woman and the three others allowed him to file charges based on a pattern of criminal behavior.
Peterson is a certified financial planner and the owner of Peterson Wealth Management and Smartstocks.com, an online trading website. He holds an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship from Brigham Young University.
He has also been a fixture at Utah Republican events.
Peterson organized the Rocky Mountain Conservatives Convention and Barbecue two years ago at his Heber cabin. Since then, prominent Utah politicians, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, Gov. Gary Herbert, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and congressional candidate Mia Love, have attended the event, which this year featured a debate between attorney general candidates John Swallow and Sean Reyes at Wasatch High and a keynote address by Lee.