LOGAN — A former Utah State University student told investigators his life went on as normal for more than a year after he sexually assaulted a classmate he had just met at a fraternity party.
Then police knocked on his door.
Now, a judge says he cannot understand how Scott Raymond Simmons, 22, failed to realize on his own that his behavior was a problem.
"You simply cannot, in any conditions, engage in sex without a person's consent. Period. And when they're drunk or high or whatever, they do not have the ability to consent. And you knew that," said 1st District Judge Kevin Allen. "It's called rape, it’s called sexual assault, pure and simple. It is never OK."
The judge ordered Simmons Monday to serve six months in jail.
The student he assaulted on a campus lawn in September 2015, Alison Berg, said in court that she never got to have a normal college experience because the attack happened very shortly after she arrived on campus for her freshman year.
"I wish I could know what college was like without having to carry this burden around, but I don't," said Berg, who has told her story publicly and agreed to be identified.
Berg recalled getting ready for the party with new friends, smoking marijuana and taking shots before meeting Simmons and exchanging numbers. The two later met up for a walk and sat down on a hill to talk, but she had almost no prior experience with alcohol and drugs, and she couldn't stand up by herself at the time or speak coherently, she recalled.
Berg remembers he got on top of her before she saw her clothes strewn across the hillside, even though she told him to stop.
"Here I was alone on a hill at 2 a.m. with some man I just met. No one would have heard my cry for help. No one was around to say, 'Hey, get off of her, this is wrong.' I told him I wanted to go home. I remember him saying, 'Just a little while longer,' like I was a kid on a road trip," she said.
"I remember feeling physically ill, violated and scared," Berg said. In following months, she had nightmares, struggled to get out of bed and her grades plunged, she recalled.
After police began investigating, Simmons wrote her an apology letter, but he told investigators compiling sentencing recommendations that his crime had not affected him until Berg's report, according to prosecutors and the judge.
Simmons originally was charged with rape, a first-degree felony, and forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. As part of a plea bargain with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to sex abuse in October and the rape charge was dismissed.
On Monday, the judge also ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service, but said he would consider cutting some hours if Simmons spoke to peers about the dangers of sexually assaulting someone.
Simmons' attorneys sought a lighter sentence of about three months. They noted he has accepted responsibility, has no prior record, and a presentence investigation found he is not likely to reoffend.
"You didn't afford her any mercy or respect. But she's affording you that," the judge responded, noting Berg had approved the six-month jail term and the conviction carries a possible prison sentence.
A USU spokesman said the school suspended Simmons for two years after conducting its own review. He can reapply in 2020.
Berg, a former intern at the Deseret News, said Wednesday she believes the court and school penalties are appropriate.
"It's just been hard and a really long process and I'm glad to have it be over," she said.
The case came to a close as a trial got underway for former USU football player Torrey Green, who is accused of sexually assaulting seven women. A jury is expected to reach a verdict later this month.6 comments on this story
A string of high-profile sexual assaults have occurred at the Logan college in recent years. In 2015, a former fraternity president pleaded guilty to trying to sexually assault a woman while helping inebriated people at a party. A year later, a former student admitted he sexually assaulted two female USU students at his fraternity.
The university created a task force to address sexual violence in 2016. A campus survey conducted as part of the initiative found that 1 in 10 female students had nonconsensual sexual contact during their time at the school.