'It feels like he's raping me with his eyes,' woman testifies in stalking case involving governor's son
PROVO — Aiona Butters didn't mince words when it came to describing how she feels when Nathan Gary Herbert looks at her.
"It just feels like he's raping me with his eyes," she said.
Butters testified against Gov. Gary Herbert's oldest son Friday in a hearing to challenge a stalking injunction Butters filed against Herbert earlier this year.
The civil case filed in Provo's 4th District Court on Aug. 10 alleges that Nathan Herbert, 40, had been following and harassing Butters, who is the younger sister of a woman he was charged with stalking in 2005.
The girls' parents said Nathan Herbert began stalking their older daughter after she went on a few dates with him in 2004. Taleimoana Weingarten Akana testified that she ended things with Herbert after she began to have an odd feeling about him.
Following the short-lived relationship, Herbert allegedly followed the woman at the gym, BYU, Utah Valley University and other places. He was charged with simple assault following an incident during which they say he blocked her vehicle from leaving a parking lot and choked her.
The charges were dismissed, as well as others, in exchange for Herbert's good behavior, completion of a life skills course and payment of a $100 fine.
Since then, Akana, who is now 30, has moved out of Utah and now says Herbert has been stalking her younger sister, Aiona Butters.
Butters, a 26-year-old, married Spanish Fork woman, recounted as many as five different run-ins with Herbert who she said she has never even talked to. She said each encounter leaves her shaking and crying. She testified that he has circled her vehicle, both on foot and in his car on two separate occasions.
"I was mortified by the fact that this man had been circling my car that I had just gotten out of for minutes," she said. "I was, indeed, scared. Obviously I had children and was married. There's no reason this man should be circling my car. It is not normal behavior."
She called police most recently in August, saying Herbert had followed her into the gym. On a previous visit, she said bystanders later told her that he was staring at her and touching himself while she exercised.
"I tried to reason in my head that a person wouldn't be doing that in plain view of the public," she said. "I didn't go to the police. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt."
One witness testified that Herbert went to the police station in Orem the day of the run-in at the gym, under the guise of settling an issue over a parking ticket. But Orem police officer Chad Black said he was called in to talk with Herbert, who told Black that he thought he saw the sister of a girl he had dated at the gym and felt "uneasy' because she and gym employees were looking at him.
Black said he gave Herbert a witness statement sheet to fill out, but that Herbert never turned it in.
Butters testified that she did notify the police on other occasions, including a time she said she saw him standing behind her in line, smiling, at the Orem City Library in January and then followed her out of the building.
Defense attorney Scott Card repeatedly questioned Butters as to whether there could be other explanations for his client's conduct, saying, for instance, that Herbert could have been adjusting his athletic shorts when she thought he was touching himself at the gym.
"I absolutely hope so," Butters said in response to Card's suggestion.
In September, Butters told the Deseret News that she wanted the case to be public, in hopes that Herbert might "take responsibility for his actions and recognize how inappropriate his actions are."
Despite initial attempts to keep the case out of the scrutiny of the public — out of fear of damaging his father's career and reputation — Card rescinded his motion to seal the case, leaving documents, as well as the hearing, open to the public.
In an Aug. 30 Facebook comment, Herbert wrote to a friend, "The truth will prevail. Mark my word!"
After Butters' attorney had called all of his witnesses, Card called a few of Herbert's family members to the stand, namely his cousin and aunt that he often worked out with. They testified that he was at the gym and behaving normally the day Butters called police and complained.
Nathan Herbert will take the stand in his own defense Wednesday, Card said. Card said he will also take the opportunity to argue his client's case then.
He has been vocal about Herbert's innocence, even going so far to release a statement after the documents were filed, saying the allegations against his client were "malicious and false."
Card grilled the girls' father, Bob Weingarten, on the stand Friday about what he'd said to the media concerning the length of Herbert and Akana's relationship.
"These folks' story seems to get better with time," Card said to the judge about the Weingartens.
The hearing will continue on Wednesday when 4th District Judge James Taylor is expected to rule on whether or not the three-year injunction should be made permanent.
Contributing: Wendy Leonard
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