State Sen. Darrell Renstrom was found not guilty Friday of sexually abusing a 19-year-old North Ogden man.
Emotions ran high after the verdict was read. Renstrom's young son clung to him in tears, and his daughter passed out in a hot stuffy corridor outside the courtroom.The six-man, two-woman jury took less than four hours to find Renstrom, D-North Ogden, not guilty of the charge of second-degree forcible sexual assault. Renstrom was accused of grabbing the teenager's genitals on June 22 while the two were riding in Renstrom's car.
Following the verdict, the teenager said he felt he was right by going to police.
"I really don't know what to say," the teenager said. "In my heart I know I'm right, and justice will be served eventually."
Renstrom, who is seeking re-election against Republican challenger Boyd K. Storey in the November election, said he would have to decide in the near future if he will stay in the race.
He also said he would consider initiating legislation that would allow lie detector results to be used in a courtroom, because he passed his test with flying colors.
The teenager also passed a lie detector test.
"Had the truth been known from the polygraph examination, you would have known I was telling the truth," the senator said. "I've gone through 45 days of living hell."
The teenager testified that Renstrom picked him up while he was walking down Washington Boulevard and asked the teenager to show him where some local bars were.
The teenager said Renstrom started talking about sex and eventually propositioned him and grabbed his genitals.
Renstrom told a different story, saying the teenager was hitchhiking and asked him for $20 to buy drugs. When Renstrom refused to give him any money and told the teenager to get out of the car, Renstrom said the teenager slammed the door and told him he would get him.
During closing arguments, prosecuting attorney Brian Namba said the teenager, who has a criminal rec-ord and a history of drug and alcohol abuse, felt he had to report the incident to police so it wouldn't happen to someone else. "That was a very painful thing for (the teenager) to do," Namba said.
Namba said Renstrom made up the story about the teenager asking Renstrom for money to explain away the allegations. Namba said it was highly unlikely that a teenager would ask a stranger for money to buy drugs.
The prosecuting attorney also said that Renstrom picked up someone like the teenager on the street because he knew the young man would be no match for him in court.
"You must conclude that the defendant has lied to you and that (the teenager) has told you the truth," Namba told the jury.
But defense attorney John Caine argued that the teenager was the one who was telling "the big lie."
"How can you erase it?" Caine asked. "He's (the teenager) a liar. He's lied his entire life."
Caine said the teenager has a history of dishonesty and loves to be on center stage, so he told a big lie.
"He's a person who's incapable of dealing with reality," Caine said. "The truth is, is that Darrell Renstrom told you the truth on the witness stand.
"We have all been victimized by the big lie," Caine said.
During the one-day trial, Namba attempted to call rebuttal witnesses to the stand who would have testified that Renstrom also had tried to pick them up.
But 1st District Judge VeNoy Christofferson ruled against the testimony because he said it would prejudice the jury against Renstrom.
The judge then sequestered jury members Thursday night so they would not hear or read about the witnesses from the media before they went into deliberations.