Missy Thompson, Associated Press
Defense attorney Tara Isaacson speaks with Christopher Burton at preliminary hearing Wednesday.

TOOELE — Their voices were clear, they looked rather small in the witness box and the three third-grade boys in court Wednesday had one other thing in common: They all testified that their former teacher inappropriately touched them in school.

Christopher Burton, 25, a well-liked former teacher at East Elementary School in Tooele, has been charged with eight counts of first-degree felony aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

Tooele County Attorney Doug Hogan and prosecutors Gary Searle and Dave Cundick claim Burton fondled eight third-graders between Aug. 21, 2006, and March 20 of this year.

Three boys testified at a preliminary hearing Wednesday and, although they got mixed up at times as far as the chronology of events, their stories of their personal encounters with Burton were identical.

Third District Judge Mark Kouris made no decision as to whether Burton should be bound over for trial because both the prosecutors and defense attorneys have as many as 16 more witnesses to put on the stand. The hearing was continued until June 22.

Under questioning from Cundick, the boys who testified all said Burton made them sit on his lap and he put both his hands in their front pants pockets and fondled them on several occasions.

One boy said these incidents occurred when the rest of the students were talking or distracted with other activities, such as watching a movie.

"He would make me. He would tell me to sit on his lap," one boy said. "I wouldn't want to."

This boy said Burton began touching him after the first day the boy started school and kept doing it about once a week.

When asked if he was telling the truth, the boy replied, "I swear."

Defense attorneys Walter Bugden and Tara Isaacson questioned the time line of events, and who talked to whom and when.

Bugden and Isaacson raised the possibility that susceptible young pupils might have been influenced by false rumors, TV news, and a letter from the district read to students at school and sent to parents during the police investigation announcing Burton had been fired. Bugden and Isaacson say they have witnesses who can contradict claims of any improper touching.

Burton is being held in the Tooele County Jail.


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