Sect leader 'Holy Ghost' convicted of raping daughter
SALT LAKE CITY — After about five hours of deliberation, a jury Thursday found a leader of a religious sect guilty of raping his daughter and allowing his friend to rape her as well.
Terrill Dalton, 45, who used the name the "Holy Ghost," was convicted of two counts of rape, a first-degree felony.
Defense attorney Rudy Bautista said jurors were emotional, and one was crying as they announced the verdict. He said he plans to appeal the verdict.
Prosecutors say Dalton condoned an "impression" that Geody Harman, 38, said he had received indicating that he needed to have sex with the then-15-year-old girl. Both Dalton and Harman were leaders of a small religious group called the Church of the First Born and the General Assembly of Heaven.
Dalton called himself the "Holy Ghost" while Harman was often referred to as "God in the flesh." In a prior hearing, Dalton's daughter testified that she was promised she would receive blessings if she had sex with the two men and felt extreme pressure from her father and those in his church to comply.
"I didn't know what to believe," Cynthia Dalton testified. "That church was everything I knew."
She has also spoken publicly to the media about the alleged rape.
Following two days of evidence, prosecutor Tupakk Renteria asked the jury Thursday to convict Terrill Dalton on both counts of rape. He stated Dalton was not on trial for his unconventional religion, but for raping his own child.
"She was raped at 15 years old by a person who should have protected her," Renteria said. "Instead of protecting her, he served her up on a silver platter. … In raping her, he manipulated her. He used religion, said this is what God wanted."
As evidence of Dalton's guilt, Renteria recounted testimony from a number of witnesses, including another daughter of Dalton and the man's sister. Both women said Dalton made sexual advances toward them.
"He knew how to prey on weak individuals," Renteria said. "Individuals who were depressed, individuals who were young."
But Bautista said there were "just too many problems" with the evidence because it was largely a "he said, she said case."
"There is no physical evidence," Bautista said. "What we're dealing with is people who have motivations and biases."
Saying the details would make or break the case, Bautista called into question the testimonies and motives of many witnesses, including Harman. He especially focused on Cynthia Dalton.
"When someone's story keeps changing, there's a reason," he said, questioning why the woman couldn't remember certain details. "That reason is that they can't remember the lie they told."
The Church of the First Born and the General Assembly of Heaven was based in Magna at the time of the alleged rape — September of 2005 — but later moved to Idaho and Montana, where Dalton and Harman were arrested. Dalton's daughter said previously they were living in Magna when she was told about Harman's "impression."
The then-teenager ultimately had sexual intercourse with Harman and soon after, said her father told her that she needed to have intercourse three times with him. She said it happened once and only because she was scared, "didn't know how to get out of it" and was hoping for the blessings she was promised.
Not long after the alleged incidents, Cynthia Dalton left home, testifying she never received the blessings she was promised and that her life then went "downhill."
Harman was also charged with rape, a first-degree felony. He has twice testified against Dalton and, in exchange for his testimony, will be allowed to plead guilty to a reduced count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a third-degree felony.
Dalton will be sentenced May 11.
Contributing: Hunter Schwarz
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