MURRAY — A day after charges were dismissed alleging Steven Dale Green sexually abused a girl his family had sought to help, the 42-year-old Bountiful man isn't celebrating.
"When they told me the charges were being dismissed, I thought at that point it would be much more of an elated feeling," Green said Wednesday at the office of his attorney, wringing a packet of court documents in his hands. "I thought I would be happy, but part of me was angry, part of me wanted to cry, part of me wanted to throw up. It still doesn't feel real."
Green was charged in February 2013 with 13 first-degree felonies, beginning a year of grueling interviews and hearings, the loss of his job, crumbling relationships with friends and neighbors, family stress, escalating legal fees and public condemnation.
Those charges were dismissed Tuesday.
Green says the claims against him — which detailed an intense, sexual relationship with the girl starting when she was 13 and spanning two years — were all fabricated by the teen to cover her own indiscretions.
"We had presented a mountain of exculpatory evidence," he said. "Some of the statements she made in that preliminary hearing were so outrageous I couldn't believe people were taking them seriously."
When asked whether all charges were dropped because of doubt about the girl's story, prosecutor Cristina Ortega responded with a firm and simple, "No."
Ortega maintains the case was dismissed because new evidence surfaced through pretrial hearings indicating the prosecution might not be successful in a trial.
"Whether or not the witness is lying, that's not the issue here," she said. "It's the evidence that would have come forward at trial that I think would have affected the ability to get a conviction at trial."
Green said he and his family met the girl, whom he called "a troubled kid," when his daughter befriended her. Over about two years, the girl was in and out of the Green home weekly as they helped her get her grades up, invited her to family gatherings and cheered her on as she participated with Green's soccer team, he said.
Green said the family cut ties with the girl, now 18, when she got into self-destructive behaviors and engaged in sexual relationships with partners of both genders. She has now moved out of state.
In all that time, Green insists he was never alone with his accuser, having discussed the situation with his wife when they first agreed to help the girl.
"We obeyed all the rules. We were never alone. We did everything you're supposed to do, and this still happened," he said.
When charges were filed and a team of officers arrived to arrest Green during his morning workout last year, he was baffled. When they instructed him not to talk to any witnesses in the case because of concern about witness tampering, he was even more confused, he said.
"The first thing that goes through your head is, 'How do I know who not to talk to if I don't even know what I'm here for?'" Green said.
The Greens and their lawyer, Greg Law, launched their own investigation. They ordered a polygraph test, which Green passed. They acquired the girl's school attendance records, which contradicted allegations she had skipped school for romantic interludes, he said.
Travel records indicated Green wasn't in Utah at the time of some of the alleged encounters, he said.
They attempted to refute claims that Green drove his BMW through the snow to the "B" above the hills of Bountiful one January night for sex, and to prove that he and the girl couldn't have fit in the small car's back seat, as she had described it.
It was only at the beginning that Green's wife questioned whether the charges against her husband were legitimate, Green said. When they identified who the accusation came from and began the long process of painful pretrial hearings, her concern shifted.
"Since just before Christmas, when I originally thought we were going to get the dismissal and it didn't happen, from then on it was not so much, 'Did you do this?' but, 'Are they going to put you away regardless?'" Green said.
Prosecutors seemed determined to push the case forward "come hell or high water," Green said, even as Law presented the findings of their investigation.
"It's insane it got as far as it did," Green said.
Now that the case is closed, Green said he feels frustrated over what he calls a year of wasted resources. He said he hopes the experience will prompt more careful investigation of accusations concerning child sexual abuse.
"There are real predators out there doing real harm to real kids," Green said. "I don't want my story to turn into, 'We shouldn't be pursuing those people.' I don't want that to be the takeaway at all."
Family members, including Green's three children, are trying to heal as well, Green said. His oldest daughter has sought counseling, while one younger child refuses to talk about the case, and another finds comfort in long family talks.
Green apologized for sounding bitter as he related his story Wednesday, but expressed the mistrust he has developed for law enforcement and the legal system, and his reluctance to associate with children or teenagers in the future.
"I will never, if I dare say 'never,' coach again," Green said. "I will never tutor again. I will never help a child again."
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