Home Government County Sexual abuse jury trial stretches into its fourth day

Sexual abuse jury trial stretches into its fourth day

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During the fourth day of Scott Logan Gollaher’s aggravated sexual abuse criminal case in Morgan County’s Second District Court, the defendant presented the jury with his opening arguments and questioned five of his witnesses while representing himself.
Witnesses included two Morgan County residents, the grandfather of two alleged victims, a finish carpenter and the defendant’s wife.
At the conclusion of the witnesses’ statements on the stand Wednesday, the jury was dismissed until Monday as Gollaher attempts to gather more witnesses.  Gollaher asked the court to extend the trial in order to allow his witnesses to be subpoenaed, Judge Noel Hyde denied the request.
“The defense does not have the right, knowing a trial is set, to essentially reset the clock,” Hyde said, noting the case is scheduled to wrap up by Friday, Jan. 29.
Gollaher is battling four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.  Each charge carries the possibility of a five-years-to-life sentence as well as a $20,000 fine.  The trial began Jan. 8 after two days of jury selection.  Coverage of jury selection and the first three days of trial was published in last week’s newspaper and online at morgannews.com.
While the state prosecution called only four witnesses during the first three days of trial, Gollaher indicated early in the trial he may call as many as 35.  “This is what I am able to present with the knowledge I have and the tools the court has allowed me,” Gollaher told the judge Wednesday morning.  “This has been flying by the seat of the pants.  It is a piecemeal defense.”
Defendant delivers opening statement
In his opening statement he described as “nerve wracking,” Gollaher told the jury he didn’t have sinister intentions during the events of the two days in 2012 that have become the focus of this case.  “Normal contact is all the sudden sexual abuse.  Any touch is a bad touch because Scott Gollaher is a sex offender,” he said.
During his opening statement prior to calling witnesses, Gollaher gave some details about the five-story “mansion” with a six-car garage being built in Porterville.  Construction began previous to 2012 under a different owner with the last name of Pettit, who built a bunk house for his children to stay in while the house was being built.
Gollaher said that when several of the children unexpectedly removed their outer clothing during a visit to the property in 2012 in order to go swimming in a reservoir, he was worried.
“When I realized it, I asked them to put their pants back on,” Gollaher said.  One girl complied while the other didn’t.  “I notified my wife (by phone) that I was concerned about this.”  This was the same girl who had on “loose” pants one day while visiting the Morgan property.
“Her pants were midlevel on her back side.  I told her to get twine and put it through her belt loops” so the pants would stay up, Gollaher said.  “I said I could see her underwear and that she needed to elevate her pants.”
Later, Gollaher said he spoke with the noncompliant girl’s father “and explained to him the swimming, and his daughter.” Gollaher stated, “I said I would pray for him.”
First witness recalls interacting with alleged victims
Gollaher’s first witness was a Morgan minor who had played with the other children visiting the mansion. He said he remembered when the two alleged female victims visited Gollaher’s property in 2012, as well as several of the events during their visits.  He remembered playing in the bunk house, riding ATVs to the pond, having his tire blow out, jumping off the loft into a mattress, girls sitting on Gollaher’s knee, a hypnotizing game where the children were “supposed to laugh at whatever (Gollaher) said,” children doing back bends, trying to catch a salamander at the pond, and Gollaher carrying a girl to the pond.
“You did whisper into (the girls’) ears during the hypnotizing game,” that went on for a long time, the witness told Gollaher while Gollaher questioned him.  “But it was inaudible.  I don’t remember if (Gollaher) touched” the victims that day, the witness said.  But “I didn’t observe everything the defendant did that day.”
The witness identified more than a dozen images provided by the defendant of the road leading to Gollaher’s property, the guest house, garage, bunk house, a chair, loft, mattress, kitchen area, and the house’s main entrance.
The minor witness also testified that he never knew of Gollaher or any children staying the night at the property ever since he met Gollaher while trying to put out a field fire.
Second witness: Gollaher running a Neverland
In a surprise turn of events, Gollaher called a witness present in the courtroom but not previously subpoenaed for his testimony.  Morgan resident Clay Carter, the nearest neighbor to Gollaher’s Porterville “mansion,” took to the stand and testified he had not noticed the children visiting the property during the days in question.
On the witness stand, Carter recalled a conversation he had with a family member concerned that Gollaher was “running a Neverland like Michael Jackson.”
Later in the trial, Gollaher told the prosecutor and the judge, “I have had this experience my whole life” of being accused of running a Neverland.   “If you are nice, you are trying to molest kids.”
Third witness: Victims’ grandfather is also a therapist
Lyle T. Cottle, the maternal grandfather to both of the two alleged victims, was the third of Gollaher’s witnesses to take the stand Wednesday.  Cottle is currently retired but has a part-time counseling practice and a certificate through the Utah Occupational and Professional Licensing division.
Cottle said he heard of the alleged abuse when his granddaughter called him while he was on an LDS mission in Hawaii.  Gollaher asked if Cottle knew his brother who was an LDS temple worker in Hawaii, to which Cottle answered affirmatively.
Cottle said he had been meeting with his granddaughters as their grandfather “to assist them with their feelings,” and then wrote a letter to the Morgan court as a therapist asking that his granddaughters not be required to testify in court.
Gollaher pointed out that a state therapy board had questioned Cottle about the perceived duplicity of taking on clients that he was also related to.
“The ethics of the counseling regulations is to avoid dual relationships because there is a potential of influencing children,” Cottle testified.  “Not that I had done that, but that there was the potential.  I did not coach them what to say in court or while being interviewed” at the Children’s Justice Center in Ogden, he testified.  Further, he said he didn’t speak with his granddaughters before law enforcement or Children’s Justice Center interviews.
After the witness and jury had exited the courtroom, Gollaher told Judge Hyde, “I want the jury to understand there is a possibility there is undue influence here.  There is a relationship between this grandfather telling them it is abuse, and them believing it is.”
Fourth witness recalls ‘marathon day’
Glen Wendell Ingersoll Jr., a finish carpenter who had done some work on Gollaher’s Morgan home in 2012, was next to take the stand.  Ingersoll recalled seeing children at the home that day, but only “momentarily” during lunch.  He testified that Gollaher had assisted him with his work hanging doors and installing trim for a majority of the day.
“It was an all-day project,” Ingersoll said, noting he arrived between 8 and 9 a.m., when Gollaher was the only person in the home at the time, and left just before dark.  “It was a marathon day.  We even had lunch while working.”
Ingersoll said he knew when he arrived that day in 2012 that Gollaher was a convicted sex offender.
Fifth witness: Defendant’s wife
The fifth and final witness to be called Wednesday was Sharon Western Gollaher, the defendant’s wife of 12 years. Sharon, a paralegal by trade, recalled how she and her husband had a “policy” of not hanging out with families who had children unless they “knew of Scott’s prior history.”  She made it a point to inquire if the parents of the alleged victims knew of this “past” before visiting the Morgan property.
She recalled the group of children playing at the Morgan property during the days in question, but was busy “cleaning things up, organizing, moving things in the kitchen.”  She said she was present when the “kids inhaled the food” offered for lunch before running out to play, and then when she “made them all go sweep the house,” all five floors for over an hour.  “They felt like slave labor,” Sharon said.
Sharon recalls a phone call from her husband, who had taken all the children on an ATV ride that day.  “I got a phone call you were a little irritated the kids had decided to strip down and go skinny dipping,” she said.  When the children returned from the ATV ride, Sharon directed them to the bathroom to check each other for leeches instead of in the kitchen where one girl began to take her shirt off.
Sharon said she became “concerned” at the mess of chips and soda cans the children left in the bunk house and guest house and “frustrated” when the kids were playing with her husband instead of cleaning up.  She recalled the word “hypnotize” as well as the children “laughing, giggling, and pushing each other like puppies off the chair.”
One of the girls was “wearing low riders.  They were too big,” Sharon recalled.  “I told (her) to pull her pants up once or twice.”
Overall, Sharon testified, “there was no cause for concern that day.”  Sharon also said that her husband had no restrictions from being around kids and families at that time, and many other families had visited with the Gollahers at the Morgan property.
Prosecution and defendant agree to a piece of evidence
At the close of proceedings that day, Prosecutor Jann Farris and Gollaher agreed, memorialized in an evidentiary stipulation, to inform the jury of a piece of evidence that made it unnecessary to have to call future minor witnesses.  This included that three minor children, if called on to testify, would say they were present at all times relevant to this case and did not see any of the allegedly illegal conduct by the defendant.
Farris predicted early Wednesday that not all of Gollaher’s witnesses would be helpful, and some may actually be “hostile.”
Farris also took issue with Gollaher claiming state prosecutors were trying to sabotage the defense.
“We are not trying to un-level the playing field,” Farris said.  “Sometimes when the defendant argues, it makes it seem we are rawhiding him and just pushing him along.  But he has chosen in the last three and a half years” since the charges were filed.  “When he wants something done, it seems to happen.  In no way have we tried to win this thing by some kind of default or rushing the case.  At no point have we tried to hide witnesses or withhold funds.”

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