Three GVHS juveniles deny charges at court hearing
12-15 possible victims, including males and females, come forward
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—Three Gunnison Valley High School students charged with sexual assault on another student entered “denials” in 6th District Juvenile Court Tuesday.
The denials, comparable to not-guilty pleas in adult court, were somewhat pro forma because the boys hadn’t really conferred with their attorneys at the time of the hearing.
At the hearing, a different attorney was appointed for each youth, and the attorneys asked for time to review evidence and interview their clients, according to Wes Mangum, deputy county attorney and lead prosecutor in the case.
Since juvenile proceedings are confidential, the hearing itself was closed.
However, a “very, very active investigation” into an alleged string of sex assaults is continuing, said Officer Carl Wimmer of the Gunnison Valley Police Department and the school resource officer.
“We will continue to follow up on every victim who comes forward,” Wimmer said. “We are obligated by law to follow up” on every complaint.
Based on comments from Mangum and information gathered by various media, the case has grown more complex since Sept. 28, when a youth who is now facing multiple charges was arrested.
When the first charges were filed, the county attorney’s office reported that nine possible victims had been identified. On Tuesday, Mangum said additional victims had come forward, and KSL News reported there were now 12 to 15 alleged victims.
KSL said the possible victims had had been involved in incidents going back to October 2017. And Fox 13 reported the possible victims included both males and females.
The boys who participated in an assault on Sept. 17 that blew open the case included a 16-year-old sophomore football player and two brothers, ages 14 and 15.
Initially, the 16-year-old boy was charged with six counts of object rape, all first-degree felonies, and four counts of forcible sex abuse, all second-degree felonies. By Tuesday, a fifth count of sex abuse, a second-degree felony, had been added to his charges.
The 14 and 15 year old each face one count of forcible sex abuse. Those counts are also second-degree felonies. Those youths appear to be in significantly less trouble than the 16-year-old.
On Tuesday, Mangum confirmed that the two brothers had been charged in connection with only one incident, the Sept. 17 assault. All of the new alleged victims who have come forward in the past week have identified the 16-year-old as the person who assaulted them, the deputy county attorney said.
A petition to refer the 16-year-old to adult court is still on the table, Mangum said, but no decision has been made and won’t be pending further investigation.
In court, Judge Brody Keisel told the three youths facing charges not to talk to any of the victims face-to-face, over social media or through friends.
Mangum said if the youths are found guilty, they would not go to jail, “but there could be some type of confinement or removal from home to a program.”
Officer Wimmer said Gunnison Valley High School brought in crisis counselors last week. “It was very low key,” but the counselors were available for students who wanted to talk.
“Things are returning to normal,” he said, and students are turning their attention back to “enjoying school.”
The 14 and 15 year olds are due back in court Nov. 6, while the 16-year-old is scheduled to appear again Nov. 20.