PROVO — A judge signed a three-year civil stalking injunction against Gov. Gary Herbert's son Wednesday, banning Nathan Herbert from being within 50 yards of a woman.
Fourth District Judge James Taylor upheld the injunction after two separate days of testimony from both Herbert and Aiona Butters, who accused Herbert of stalking her for more than a year at various locations in the Provo-Orem area.
Taylor said that while both Butters and Herbert had weaknesses in their testimonies, Butters was ultimately "more credible" than Herbert.
"She is influenced by the fears and concerns of her mother and others ... and she feeds on those concerns," Taylor said.
But while the judge said Butters was also "more emotional" than most who appear in court, Herbert — with a look the judge described as a "direct, almost unblinking, intense stare" and body language that he said smarted of arrogance — consistently minimized his behavior and was "not credible" in his sporadic memory of events.
Herbert, 40, who was supported at Wednesday's hearings by a number of people, including his mother and siblings, took the stand Wednesday to emphatically state that he did not know Butters. He said without hesitation that he had never met her or contacted her in any way.
He reiterated that after the hearing.
"This is a girl I do not know, and to this day, I can't pronounce her name. She doesn't occupy space in my thoughts. She came in and made up spectacular lies."
This view was supported by Utah's first lady, Jeanette Herbert, who said she thinks Butters' story was full of holes. She was also clear in stating that she stands by her son.
"It's a very difficult day," she said. "We believe in Nathan 100 percent. We know his soul, and the story he told today is true."
She said she feels her son was wrongly accused and that the judge "decided before this even started."
"I do not think the judge did his job today ... and the governor feels the same way," she said.
Nathan Herbert said he would abide by the order, which prevents him from going to Utah Valley University or the Gold's Gym in Orem.
"I will respect the judge's decision, but I do not agree in any way," he said.
The governor's son, however, had plenty to say about Butters.
"I think she likes the attention. She's kind of a drama queen. She found her way to the front page of the news."
Despite the loss, Nathan Herbert said he was glad he could tell his side of the story, calling his experience on the stand a "victory."
"It came to a point where I felt I needed to fight more aggressively," he said after the hearing. "She made whole scenarios up out of whole cloth."
Butters, a mother of two, said she was happy the judge believed her and granted the injunction.
"This has been a nightmare. It's been a battle, but I'm so grateful to have an injunction in place," she said. "I'm relieved to be able to go about my business and be a mom like I'm supposed to. ... Hopefully, he'll recognize he needs to stop."
She was tearful as she said she repeatedly tried to give Herbert the benefit of the doubt but began to fear for her safety.
"His behavior crossed the boundaries of normalcy," she said, noting that she never claimed Herbert touched her, followed her or talked to her. "Enough was enough."
Herbert testified Wednesday that he didn't even know who Butters was until one day in August when he was at the gym, noticed her and gym employees looking at him and thought she may be the younger sister of a girl he'd dated years before.
Due to a then-five-year history he had with Butters' family that included a prior stalking injunction and an assault charge stemming from allegations that he choked Butters' sister, Herbert said he wanted to "get ahead of" what he thought may be coming and went to the police.
"The history of this family, sadly to say, has been extreme paranoia and dishonesty," Herbert said.
While at the police station, he was told Butters was filing a complaint. He was later informed that a stalking injunction had been filed, and Herbert made the decision to challenge the injunction.
"This case is the first time Mr. Herbert has fought," Herbert's attorney, Scott Card, said. "He's had enough, and it's time the truth be told, and he took the stand and told that truth."
Herbert testified that he dated Butters' sister "briefly" and "casually" in 2004 while she was on medical release from her mission. He said she told him she wanted to focus on her mission, and he said he was fine with that.
"I had no real, strong inclination or desire to date her at all," he said.
The woman returned to her mission, and the two didn't see each other. In July 2005, he said he pulled up alongside her in a parking lot and was trying to joke with her, but the woman remained "stoic." He said he "jostled her shoulders" in an effort to get the woman to loosen up.
"She seemed alarmed," he said. "She wasn't responding to my clownish gesture or humor."
The woman testified earlier that she thought Herbert was choking her. He was charged with simple assault, and the case was later dismissed.
The woman also succeeded in getting a three-year stalking injunction implemented against Herbert. Apparently unbeknownst to Herbert, her sister's name was on the injunction as well.
The judge later noted that Herbert's testimony that he wouldn't even be able to identify the other person on the injunction was "not believable."
Before the alleged choking incident, Herbert pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, a class B misdemeanor that was amended to an infraction, stemming from an incident at a Nordstrom department store where witnesses said they saw him fondling himself while staring at a Nordstrom employee.
Herbert adamantly denied these allegations and said he only ran from officers in the mall and pleaded no contest to the charges because he wanted to stay out of jail and, he hoped, media reports.
"I was scared," he said of why he ran. "I was in the middle of a political campaign, and I was my Dad's son and campaign manager, and I felt like I was being set up. I was in a bad situation, and my instinct was to get out of it."
Card said this incident was crucial and would later become the "poisonous tree" that would taint Herbert's reputation.
"All of a sudden, Mr. Herbert became a monster," Card said. "He becomes sick. He becomes perverted. So this is the image in (Butters and her sister's) mind when they see him. He's a sicko stalker."12 comments on this story
Butters took the stand last week and recounted, often tearfully, her numerous run-ins with Herbert that left her crying, scared and "mortified." She said she feels like he is "raping (her) with his eyes" when he looks at her and said that he had circled her vehicle both on foot and in his car, chased her from a library and consistently leers at her.
In arguments before the judge, Butters' attorney Stephen Quesenberry pointed out that while Butters' had a number of neutral witnesses to corroborate her stories, Herbert didn't have any. He said Herbert tries to dismiss numerous allegations that have led to him being banned periodically from UVU, BYU and the University Mall as "misunderstandings."
"He's repeatedly in these kinds of situations," Quesenberry said. "It's hard to believe it's all just a mistake."