Grant Hildreth</I>

AMERICAN FORK — He was sentenced to prison Thursday evening, but Grant Hildreth vowed he will not stop fighting what he believes are spurious charges of sexual abuse.

"I honestly believe that this appeal is actually going to take place," the former American Fork chiropractor said. "I don't think it's right to be sitting here punishing me for something that's probably going to be overturned."

Hildreth, 45, was convicted by a jury March 25 of two counts of forcible sex abuse for sexually touching a former employee and patient — and is now appealing that conviction.

The woman — the Deseret News does not name victims of sex abuse — testified during trial that she had an infection in her vaginal area and allowed Hildreth to treat it with a gel. However, during the treatment, she said his application of the gel ceased to be medical and instead became sexual in nature.

Hildreth previously testified she came to him and asked for help. He concedes his actions were dumb, but maintains they were not sexual, nor criminal.

However, prosecutor Alex Ludlow called Hildreth a sexual predator, and told the judge they were in the process of investigating new allegations involving Hildreth abusing a young woman in athletics.

After hearing both attorneys argue for or against prison and why the sentencing should be delayed until the appeal is done, Judge David Mortensen ruled that based on Hildreth's "pattern of sexual abuse allegations and convictions," he should be sent to prison immediately.

Hildreth was convicted by a Montana jury in 1992 for sexual assault against a 15-year-old cousin he was tutoring. The conviction has since been dismissed and was not presented at trial.

A few years later, Hildreth was investigated for sexual-abuse charges stemming from allegations of a young female chiropractic patient in Louisiana. The family moved to Utah before anything proceeded.

Mortensen said he was concerned that Hildreth had trouble recalling details of the Louisiana investigation while on the stand at trial, but clearly explained Thursday that the girl was looking to get money.

"Based upon the history that I see, the Montana conviction, the allegations in Louisiana, if anyone should have been on guard ... that should have been you, Mr. Hildreth," Mortensen said. "There is no other explanation for the totality of what went on in this case other than some purpose to arouse yourself or another person."

The two current second-degree felonies carry a potential of 15 years in prison and will be served concurrently.

Hildreth's attorney, Carolyn Howard, said they will file an appeal Monday morning.

"We believe it was an injustice, and that an appeal will overturn the jury's verdict and we will be back here for a new trial," she said.

She believes Mortensen should have granted an earlier motion to sever the charges. He didn't, stating that while they were different situations, they constituted a pattern of conduct.

"It's not that difficult to show that Dr. Hildreth was clearly prejudiced by being found innocent on four, guilty on two," she said. "The regular lay person is going to say to themselves, 'I've got four to five women coming in here testifying about the same person. He's got to be guilty of something.' And that's exactly what happened."

Hildreth's family told the judge how service-oriented and kind-hearted their father is — a far cry from how the media and trial process has portrayed him, they said.

Debbie Hildreth, Hildreth's wife, talked about how her husband would always worry about how he could help patients, frequently staying up late into the night reading up on how to address certain ailments.

"Grant genuinely cares for people," she said. "He always has. His best interest has always been in trying to help others. He is not in any way this sexual criminal he's been made out to be."

"He played basketball with me," said his daughter, Shannon Hildreth. "He coached me since I was 8 years old. I'm so grateful for that now, I have a scholarship, I have a future in front of me because of my dad."

Both women said they don't believe Hildreth poses a threat and doesn't belong in jail or prison.


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com