SALT LAKE CITY — David Serbeck took the stand in his own defense Thursday and adamantly denied any sort of sexual contact with his teenage neighbor.
"At any time, David, did you ever have sexual relations with (her)?" Serbeck's defense attorney Scott Berrett asked.
"No," Serbeck replied. "Never."
But jurors did not believe him. After less than three hours of deliberation, they found him guilty of all three counts of unlawful sexual activity with a 16- or 17-year-old, a third-degree felony.
The man's victim, now 22, said the verdict brought her closure.
"(It was) a big relief," she said. "It was awesome to see. I was even excited — it's finally the end. He can no longer hurt anyone. It's over for everyone."
Serbeck was taken into custody immediately. Sentencing in the case has been set for May 25.
During the trial, the woman testified she had sex with Serbeck — who was her neighbor — three separate times in the summer of 2007.
Serbeck, who was shot and paralyzed in an unrelated Bluffdale neighborhood watch incident in 2009, said Thursday that he was a friend of the girl and nothing more. His children often went over to the girl's house to ask her to play or she would come by to see his family. He said she never sought him out, but the two did talk and text often.
"We were just friends and it was a matter of, 'Hi, How are you doing?'" Serbeck said. "It was just a friendship.'"
The victim testified Wednesday that Serbeck brought up struggles he had experienced that were similar to her own and said he kissed her during one of their conversations. That later led to sexual intercourse. She said the encounters left her uncomfortable and embarrassed, but she was scared to end things.
The relationship ended after a friend discovered nude pictures on her phone and told her parents.
Serbeck testified that the only pictures he ever received from the then-teenager was one of her trying on a cowboy hat and another of her in a cheerleading uniform, which was a Halloween costume. Prosecutor Alicia Cook questioned whether Serbeck felt that their relationship required boundaries.
"I didn't see a problem with our friendship, our own families' bonds to each other," Serbeck said. "It was a simple, honest and true friendship."
When the girl's friend told the alleged victim's father about the photos on the phone and the alleged sexual relationship, the father called Serbeck. Serbeck confirmed what multiple witnesses said in recounting that he denied that allegations. He went to the home shortly after.
"I handed my phone to (the father's girlfriend) and said: 'Please. You can see exactly what I have,'" Serbeck said. "I had nothing to hide."
That girlfriend testified that she did not look through the phone. Later, Serbeck said his accuser apologized and he asked her why she had told people they had sex.
"She said, 'To impress my friends,'" Serbeck recounted in court.
During closing arguments, Berrett told jurors the case was about money. He pointed to a civil lawsuit the victim has filed against Serbeck asking for punitive damages.
The victim said Wednesday she came forward because she wanted to help the case of Reginald Campos, who was convicted of attempted murder for shooting Serbeck in July of 2009. Serbeck and another man were patrolling their neighborhood in an SUV when they came across two teenage girls walking about 11:30 p.m. — one of whom was Campos' daughter, according to court testimony. The daughter said the same SUV later aggressively followed her, prompting her to tell her father. The father then grabbed his gun and drove around looking for the vehicle.
Serbeck said he had merely stopped to check on the girls and later followed the vehicle they were in because it matched the description of a vehicle suspected in a rash of burglaries.
Campos confronted the men and fired two shots at Serbeck, severing his spine and paralyzing him from the waist down. He was not confined to a wheelchair at the time of the alleged crimes.
During closing arguments, Cook said many elements of the case were not in dispute, including the 18-year age difference between Serbeck and the alleged victim.
"When you have someone that much older then a 16-year-old, it's an automatic power imbalance," she said, noting the impact of the conversation the pair had about their struggles. "She feels sorry for him. She is troubled on his behalf and that makes her vulnerable to him."
But Berrett said the alleged victim struggled with specifics and questioned her credibility.
"The only thing you need to focus on is did he have sex with (the alleged victim)?" Berrett told the jury. "He told you clearly and honestly that he did not. If the alleged victim can't be certain of the facts, how can we be?"
Berrett said that he and his client were disappointed in the verdict. "I thought we presented enough evidence to have an acquittal, but I have respect for the jury and their decision," he said.
The victim called the five men and three women who made up the jury "wonderful."
"I'm very thankful for having them as my jury," she said. "I'm just happy that it's over. I've definitely got full closure now. I'm feeling great."