SALT LAKE CITY — The case of three men accused of gang raping a 9-year-old girl in Vernal will be moved a second time after more than two dozen potential jurors in Summit County didn't show up for jury duty.
In an order handed down Friday, 3rd District Judge Edwin Peterson wrote that as attorneys attempted to seat a jury in the case, it became apparent that the Summit County facility was too small and the jury pool too sparse to handle the 10-day trial.
Now a new trial will be assigned to another judge in the 3rd District, which includes Summit, Salt Lake and Tooele counties.
"Due to the greater availability of judges to schedule a lengthy trial such as this, the cases will be reassigned to the 3rd District Court for trial," Peterson wrote.
Peterson went on to note that the three men accused in the case have been held in custody for more than 20 months since charges were filed, a question that now could be considered by whichever judge they are assigned to.
Larson Rondeau, 36, Jerry Flatlip, 29, and Randall Flatlip, 26, are each charged with rape of a child and sodomy on a child, first-degree felonies. They are accused of taking turns raping a 9-year-old girl while her mother did drugs in another room.
In a video interview played in court during a preliminary hearing, the 9-year-old girl described how the men woke her on Easter Sunday as she was sleeping on a couch. From there, they took her to a back bedroom and held down her arms and legs while each sexually assaulted her, she said.
In April, an 8th District Court judge in Vernal agreed to move the trial to Summit County after their attorneys argued that the extensive and impassioned public outcry by Uintah County residents against the three men in the case, combined with the area's small population, would make it impossible to seat an impartial jury.
But when the time came to begin a trial for the three men this week, only 60 of the anticipated 96 potential jurors appeared for selection, according to Utah Courts spokesman Geoff Fattah.4 comments on this story
Peterson's order notes that attorneys on both sides were aware of how few people they had to choose from, but chose to proceed with jury selection anyway. When the small pool was whittled down and the attorneys wouldn't agree to changes in the selection process, too few candidates remained to seat a jury and Peterson said he had no choice but to declare a mistrial.
A total of 120 Summit County residents had been summoned for jury duty in the trial, but 24 contacted the court in advance and provided valid reasons for not participating, Fattah said. The judge now has the option of calling the 36 no-shows into court and asking them why they didn't show up.
No new hearings will be scheduled in the case until a new judge is assigned. Meanwhile, the three men remain in the Summit County Jail.