Who is Greg Peterson? A look at the man facing rape charges

GOP activist's preliminary hearing begins Tuesday

Published: Monday, Aug. 13 2012 9:28 p.m. MDT

Gregory N. Peterson at his Heber City cabin. A preliminary hearing for Peterson, who faces 26 charges related to sexual abuse allegations involving five woman, begins Tuesday.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gregory Nathan Peterson was a man hungry for success. And he appeared to be on the fast track for a rise to the top.

He earned a bachelor's degree in international studies in 1999 from BYU, an MBA in 2002, founded three businesses in a little more than a decade, had an impressive five-bedroom, five-bathroom cabin in Heber City, and was rubbing elbows with many of Utah's top GOP brass by hosting an annual fundraiser.

Friends say he would sign many of his letters and emails with the tagline "Future President of the United States." He is a man who friends say can be sincere, but also has a good sense of humor and can easily make people laugh.

But they also say Peterson, 37, has a dark side.

He could “go from zero to freak show in 60 seconds," said a former business partner who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A review of court documents, investigative reports and interviews with former friends, business associates and women he either dated or sought to date paint a portrait of a man who is also aggressive, arrogant and has a short fuse.

Today, Peterson sits in the Salt Lake County Jail on $750,000 bail, accused of raping or sexually abusing five women. He faces 26 charges — 24 of them felonies — including 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse, seven counts of object rape, three counts of rape, and one count each of aggravated kidnapping, forcible sodomy, burglary and sexual battery.

A preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough probable cause to proceed to trial begins Tuesday and is expected to last two days.

Four women are accusing Peterson of assaulting them. The latest charge, forcible sexual abuse, was filed Monday in Wasatch County on behalf of a fifth woman.

Another woman came forward and had her case reviewed by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, but prosecutors declined to file charges because of a lack of evidence. The Wasatch County Sheriff's Office confirmed it was also investigating two additional claims made against Peterson.

Peterson's attorney, Cara Tangaro, insists that her client is "100 percent" not guilty. "What he has told me and what he maintains is that nothing illegal has ever happened with any of these women," she said.

Several acquaintances, including a former business partner, said that while Peterson can be "aggressive and off-putting," he is not capable of rape.

Early years

Peterson grew up in Omaha, Neb. One former classmate remembers him as a skinny, "nerdy" kid who took his share of teasing. Gary Wilson said Peterson and his family didn't appear to have a lot of money, as he and his sisters wore a lot of hand-me-down clothes. Wilson said he remembers that Peterson held on to one pair of pants for two years and just kept unhemming the pant legs as he grew.

But being a bit socially awkward, as Wilson remembered him, didn't stop Peterson from trying out for the sports teams or running for class president.

"He always wanted to be popular, he was never ever shy by any means. He would always have no problems talking to everybody. But he was kind of obnoxious in a way," recalled Wilson. "I just remember him always wanting to be the most important at things. … He always wanted to be the popular kid in school, he always tried to be more important than he really was."

In junior high school, Wilson recalled Peterson talked about becoming quarterback on the football team, even though he mostly "rode the bench."

Nevertheless, Peterson was "always so passionate with what he was talking about," Wilson said. In seventh or eighth grade, Wilson said Peterson ran for class president and won.

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