SALT LAKE CITY — Three men who have been held in jail for 22 months on allegations of gang raping a 9-year-old girl were denied a request Wednesday to be released pending trial.
Saying he was "sympathetic to the situation" of the three men, 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy nonetheless denied bail in the case.
The judge cited the charges being considered and the fact that two of the men, members of the Crow Nation, were requesting to go live on the tribe's reservation in Montana, an area governed by its own law and not subject to Utah's subpoena powers.
Larson Rondeau, 38, Randall Flatlip, 27, and Jerry Flatlip, 31, are accused of taking turns raping a 9-year-old girl while her mother did drugs in another room.
Defense attorney Bryan Sidwell told Skanchy on Wednesday that the men, including his client, Jerry Flatlip, maintain prosecutors don't have evidence to back the charges against them and are eager to have their day in court.
"My client wants to clear his name. That is his motive, that's why he's going to show up," Sidwell told the judge.
Sidwell is also calling for the case to be dismissed.
Because the men have been in jail almost two years and have no way to pay bail, the attorneys asked for Jerry Flatlip and Rondeau to be released on their own recognizance. If they were denied their request to return to the Crow Nation, the men would find a way to live somewhere in Utah, the attorneys said.
Loni DeLand, who represents Randall Flatlip, said that because of additional pending charges, his client would remain in custody regardless of Skanchy's decision in this case.
A new jury trial before Skanchy in Salt Lake City is now scheduled to begin May 2. The three men will remain in jail until then.
In a video interview played in court during a preliminary hearing in Vernal in October 2016, the 9-year-old girl described how the men woke her on Easter Sunday that year 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.
Citing the delays taking the case to trial and a lack of evidence to support the girl's story, Sidwell filed a motion this week asking for the case to be dismissed.
According to Sidwell's motion, at the time that video of the girl's account was presented during the preliminary hearing, the sexual assault kit collected within 48 hours of the alleged incident still had not been tested.
Since the hearing, the kit has been tested three times and has yet to yield any evidence to corroborate the girl's story, according to the motion. The girl had no bruising anywhere on her body and there was "absolutely no evidence of even the most superficial injury" coinciding with the kind of sexual assault she had described, the motion states.
Additionally, no DNA matching any of the three defendants was found on the girl's body or in her underwear, according to the motion.
The motion also notes that, during the preliminary hearing, prosecutors did not present additional evidence to support the charges beyond the girl's taped interview.
An 8th District Court judge in Vernal agreed to move the trial to Summit County after the men's 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.Comment on this story
The trial was derailed, however, when 36 potential jurors failed to appear for selection last month and a full jury could not be seated. The judge there declared a mistrial and moved the case to Salt Lake City.
Following his arrest as part of the rape investigation, Randall Flatlip was charged in a separate case with 74 counts of exploitation of a child, all second-degree felonies. According to the charges, he is accused of accessing 48 images of 74 children between Feb. 19 and March 18, 2016, just eight days before police said he joined in raping the 9-year-old.