SALT LAKE CITY — The attorney for a politically connected Orem businessman jailed on charges of sexual assault, rape, sexual battery and kidnapping said her client "is 100 percent innocent."
"We plan to vigorously defend this case," said private defense attorney Cara Tangaro. "What he has told me and what he maintains is that nothing illegal has ever happened with any of these women."
Gregory Nathan Peterson, 37, was arrested late Wednesday at his Heber City cabin, where he has hosted annual fundraising events for GOP politicians. He is accused of raping four women he met either online or at various church functions; two of the alleged rapes are reported to have occurred at the cabin.
Tangaro, who has yet to see any police reports or details pertaining to the case, said more information will come out in support of her client. She said, so far, information has been very "one-sided."
Peterson remained in jail while the 25 charges, including nine counts of forcible sexual abuse, seven counts of object rape, three counts of rape, and one each of aggravated kidnapping, forcible sodomy, burglary and sexual battery, are investigated further.
One woman went to the Wasatch County Sheriff's office with a case against Peterson in March 2011. The information never amounted to charges, as Wasatch County Attorney Scott Sweat said there wasn't enough to warrant an investigation at the time.
A civil stalking injunction filed June 9 against Peterson states that a weapon had been involved in his interaction with one woman. At the time the order was written, it states the court did not find that the two parties had been intimate partners or that violence was involved. Peterson denied all of the allegations associated with the stalking claim, according to court documents.
Tangaro said she, along with a partner in Salcido Law LLC in Sandy, Gerald Salcido, will ask for Peterson's release. Similar charges, she said, typically warrant a bail amount of around $100,000.
Peterson was being held on $750,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday at 1:30 p.m.
Tangaro Friday said Peterson is not as involved in political circles as he has been portrayed. He was pictured with numerous GOP politicians in photographs posted online at Facebook and multiple online dating websites. Tangaro said his affiliation stops at fundraising.
But University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless said Peterson had access to sitting political officials that the general public could not likely obtain.
"Very few individuals have such an opportunity to be in a position of influence," he said. "Here's a person with access, a person who wants to be involved and who is indeed involved with people of power."
Sweat said he was not aware of Peterson's reported political involvement. He wouldn't comment any further on the ongoing investigation, which is being pursued by the Salt Lake County Attorney's office.
Meanwhile Friday, a profile of Peterson came further into focus.
Peterson had posted online about his jobs at various financial services agencies, including at least three businesses he founded in the past 12 years, and reportedly spoke openly about his wealth with colleagues and the women he dated. A former business partner said Peterson was "a self-made man."
But when it came to personal matters, Peterson apparently kept quiet. Friends of his were "surprised" and "shocked" at the news of his arrest and had no idea about any of the women Peterson had been dating.
While attending Brigham Young University, Peterson reportedly made money selling pest control. He obtained a bachelor's degree in international studies in 1999 and worked at Merrill Lynch in Idaho Falls for a year. He also married a woman from Mexico in the Mount Timpanogos LDS Temple, but the two divorced in 2009. Peterson had filed for divorce once prior to that, in 2006.
Officials at BYU confirmed that Peterson obtained an MBA in 2002. In 2000, he and some other graduate students started SmartStocks.com, an online stock market simulation game that is used by students at BYU and other finance education institutions across the country. A year ago, Peterson purchased the website and has since failed to renew a business license with the state of Utah.
Peterson has held jobs at Fisher Investments and Solomon Smith Barney in Provo. In 2001, he founded Satcom, a wireless technologies company that Peterson managed until 2005. He founded his own financial planning business, Peterson Wealth Management, in 2007.
Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill said Friday that no other potential victims had come forward Friday, but he said his office had received calls with more information about Peterson.29 comments on this story
Holly Mullen, executive director of the Utah Rape Recovery Center, said very few rapes are ever reported and those that are difficult to prosecute.
"It's one of the most difficult things imaginable to come forward and to report a rape," she said, adding that nearly 90 percent of sexual assault victims knew their assailant in some way. Mullen is working toward an updated report about rape in Utah, as the latest information available was compiled in 2007.