After two hours of deliberation that eventually required a do-over, eight jurors took two hours to deliver a guilty verdict at 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Scott Logan Gollaher aggravated sexual abuse of a child jury trial. They delivered a guilty verdict on all four counts in a trial that lasted six days’ time stretched over three weeks.
Second District Court Judge Noel S. Hyde set a sentencing date of March 23. Each of the four counts carries the possibility of a five-years-to-life sentence as well as a $20,000 fine.
In the summer of 2012, Gollaher abused two 11-year-old girls at a home he was building on over 24 acres in Morgan County at 246 East Woods Creek Road. Gollaher previously served a 16-year sentence, from 1996 to 2011, for child sexual abuse. Upon his release, he was a registered sex offender in Salt Lake County, but was not registered in Morgan County since he did not yet reside in the Porterville home. Neither of the victims were Morgan County residents.
Jury selection started Jan. 6 with 80 potential jurors and lasted two days. The 10-member jury was in the courtroom Jan. 8 to hear opening statements from two of the state’s witnesses: both victims. Jan. 11 brought testimony from Sarah Call Heaton, who had been abused by Gollaher in 1993 when she was 11 years old.
On the trial’s third day, Jan. 13, the state called former detective William Wentland to the stand and the jury viewed one-minute video clips of the victims’ initial interviews with investigators. On Day 4, Jan. 20, the jury heard Gollaher’s opening statements as well as testimony from five witnesses including two Morgan County residents, the grandfather of two victims, a finish carpenter and the defendant’s wife.
During the jury’s fifth day in Morgan’s Second District Court on Monday, Jan. 25, Gollaher called William Wentland, former Morgan County Sheriff Department investigator, to the stand. He asked Wentland if he had preserved any “touch DNA” evidence when he initially investigated the case in 2012. Such evidence would have scientifically proven if Gollaher had indeed touched the clothing of the alleged victims, the defendant claimed.
Judge Noel Hyde said Wentland had not been called as an expert witness, so the line of questioning involving touch DNA could not be continued. Wentland said he preserves evidence usually only if there is blood splatter and, in rape cases, when bodily fluid is collected. Wentland also said he did not check an ATV left on the property to see if swimming suits were found in the storage compartment.
Wentland said he personally interviewed three witnesses of the seven or more present at the Porterville property during the days in question.
Gollaher complained about his lack of access to phone or email because of a lockdown at the Salt Lake jail facility where he has been in custody. He said he had to enlist several people in finding witness addresses and had a request for discovery before the court. This “has complicated matters,” he said. At one point, the bailiff had to remind Gollaher to keep his voice down while addressing the judge.
“This trial date was set six months ago,” said Dean Saunders, a chief deputy with Weber County Attorney’s criminal division who assisted Morgan County Attorney Jann Farris with the case. “He has been representing himself for two months. This trial has been going on three weeks. He had the ability to find people. We gave him all last week to find witnesses.”
“The mischaracterization is disingenuous,” Gollaher said.
Gollaher also asked Judge Hyde to allow the taped interview of a minor who had been present at Woods Creek Ranch on the two days in question. The taped interview was needed, Gollaher argued, because the minor witness could not be found in time to testify at his trial. While Gollaher had not yet viewed the taped interview himself, he requested access to it simply because he had been denied access in the past.
“I know there was a great effort to keep this interview from me,” Gollaher said. “The state is talking about (interviews) I have never received.”
Gollaher also said the minor’s “view of circumstances is slightly different” than those shared by the two alleged victims earlier in the trial. “There was more seen and heard by (her). She did not claim to see anything improper” and the interview was conducted by a more “senior” interviewer, Gollaher said.
Outside the hearing of the jury, Saunders noted that the minor had been “told to lie” during the interview in question, and that she had, in fact, provided details of Gollaher taking photos of minors while they swam at a pond as well as indicated that she, herself, had been abused by the defendant.
“He can’t have his cake and eat it, too,” Saunders told the judge about Gollaher. “The defendant told her to lie, and that he had erased photos on his phone.”
Gollaher said the state’s representations should be grounds for a mistrial.
Hyde ruled that the interview would not be permitted as evidence since it was not testimony given at trial, hearing or deposition, which meant that it was not available for direct cross- or re-examination. Further, both the prosecution and defense had earlier agreed per an official stipulation that many other minors had been present during the days in question, and none had seen anything inappropriate.
The judge discussed the jury’s ability to perform their civic duty without discussing the case until their upcoming deliberations. It came to the attention of the court that one juror’s LDS visiting teacher had inquired about the case. Because the juror did not continue to “engage” in the discussion, the judge ruled that the juror could continue serving.
Gollaher was not so sure.
“Another church member out soliciting information may be innocent, or it may be sinister,” he said.
On Wednesday, the jury heard the defendant’s last witness as well as closing arguments from both the state and the defendant. Mark Evans, who had been assisting with managing the Porterville property, took to the stand to testify in general how children would be situated on an ATV with an adult driving. Gollaher had used Evans’ ATV at the property while transporting the alleged victims.
Gollaher did not choose to testify as a witness in his own case.
After the final witness was dismissed, Farris asked if those previously excluded from being able to sit in the gallery because they may be called as potential witnesses could now be present.
Both victims, along with several family members, entered the courtroom to hear closing arguments. The state’s, delivered by Farris, was 20 minutes long. Gollaher’s was much lengthier as he reiterated word by word prior testimony of the witnesses, along with his commentary about their testimonies. Judge Hyde called Gollaher’s closing an “unnecessary use of time,” and “an abuse of the patience of the jury and court.”
State makes closing statements
“This case is not about the details, how big the house was, how tall the loft was, the color of the ATV, if the children had a fun or bad time, if they were happy or sad. It is not about how many workers or children were there, or how many training hours Detective Wentland has. It doesn’t matter if 50 people were present. It is not about that,” Morgan County Attorney Jann Farris said in his closing statements. “It is about two 11-year-old girls, about the sexual abuse that happened to them from the defendant.”
While the state charged Gollaher with four counts, Farris said the state provided evidence of eight or more times the defendant illegally touched two children. Farris called the state’s evidence “a smorgasbord of illegal touching and indecent liberties.”
“He was rubbing their backs and commenting he could feel their bras. He asked repeatedly if their bony bums were O.K. and commented on the color of their underwear,” Farris said. “This is just part of the entire story, just the extras, just frosting on top of other illegal things he did, just a window dressing.”
There were two illegal touches when Gollaher had two female minors sitting on both of his knees while simultaneously touching them in their crotch areas, Farris related. There was another “offense” when the defendant carried a child “with his hand between her legs” over stickers to a pond. Another occurred when the defendant repeatedly moved a child back into his crotch while she rode in front of him on an ATV. Yet another illegal touch was during the “spanking game” when the defendant had one hand on top spanking and the other inappropriately touching a child in her crotch area the whole time. While “being Mr. Helpful,” Gollaher pulled two girls by their belt loops upward out of a backbend, looking down their pants while he did so, Farris said.
“There is not a question that a lot of the kids were having fun that day, but it doesn’t negate what happened between the fun,” Farris said. “A 55-year-old man, a convicted sex offender, spends his weekends playing children’s games. Every time he gets a chance, he puts someone on his lap. There was a lot of lap-sitting. There is no other adult present on ATV rides. There is talk of some workers and wife being present, but not when these offenses and illegal touching were actually happening.
“The defendant would have you believe it was a mistake, accident or misunderstanding,” Farris said. “It doesn’t matter how giggly and silly they were that day. If he is touching them illegally, that is a problem. That is why we are here. The defendant knew exactly what he was doing while he was having fun with them. I propose the state has met its burden on all four counts.”
Farris commented on Gollaher’s prior conviction, where a jury found him guilty of molesting an 11-year-old girl in 1993.
“The defendant didn’t learn his lesson from 1993,” Farris said. “He is still up to his old tricks. It is clear what the defendant has a strong tendency to do. Prior actions help show that propensity is to illegally touch young female children. Scott Logan Gollaher’s list of victims stops today.”
Defendant offers closing statements
During his closing arguments, defendant Gollaher said he provided the best defense he could with the information provided to him, but that facts had been twisted and changed.
By representing himself, Gollaher said he hoped he provided “contextual framing” to the events in question. “Context is critical,” he said. “Only when placed in context, the framing of what was really going on, can you understand the circumstances. If you can place it context, you can understand how things are potentially construed.”
For example, a child riding in front of an adult steering an ATV had been misconstrued as illegal touching, Gollaher said.
“At least two of the jury members ride ATVs. Each juror should understand a child can be sitting, bumping back and forth (into the driver), even on smooth gravel roads,” Gollaher said. “You can call Scott Gollaher an idiot for letting a child ride on the front rack. I have looked back and thought that was really stupid to allow a couple of children on the front rack as we proceeded to the pond.”
But that momentary lack of judgment should not be transformed into a sexual crime, Gollaher proposed. Because both victims knew of Gollaher’s past conviction, they were “concerned, uncomfortable and apprehensive” prior to visiting his Porterville “mansion,” he said.
“Nothing bad had happened at that point, but any touch or statement would be sinister at that point. Any action that day was perceived as sinister, and somehow bad,” he said. “But the state wants to make an arm lift a crime, to sentence me for a child riding in front of me.”
He said that if all people were held to the same standard, “When you hug your 10-year-old, when your granddaughter sits on your lap, when you tickle, wrestle, swim, anything,” you are committing a crime. “Any contact, no matter how innocent it is, would be considered a general element of touch point.”
Gollaher said he did not “isolate” himself with just one child any time. “The children testified I was working all day. Does that sound like someone who was planning to sexually touch a child, to molest a child?”
Further, the child victims didn’t actually identify that the defendant had touched their genitalia, but rather their legs, laps and lower parts of their abdomens, he said.
“It does paint me in a bad light,” Gollaher admitted of the alleged victims’ testimonies. “If I did or didn’t do it, I don’t know. But I won’t be with any children unless their parents know of my prior situation.”
Gollaher said that three years after the fact, his alleged victims could only recall a “chronology of bad acts” and nothing else and their families had had undue influence on them. “It just goes to show you memories aren’t that great. There is no question children are inconsistent,” Gollaher said. But interviewers with a “predetermination of guilt shaped their testimonies.”
He said Detective Wentland should have interviewed more than three witnesses.
“If you want to put away a convicted sex offender, keep the evidence to a minimum, keep the facts elusive, don’t interview anyone timely,” Gollaher said. “There are lots of victims in this case created by the state through poor investigation. If we had kept an open mind, if we had asked questions and investigated things, I don’t think we would be here, nor would I.”
He said his prior conviction shaped the allegations in this most recent case.
“You can hate me because I was convicted in 1996. I already got the label, my scarlet letter. I will be wearing it my whole life. I have lost a family, but I have people who love me. Some support me, and some may not. I don’t move that scarlet letter. I am telling about my past. I am letting them know that this is about proving my innocence the best I can. Whether it was smart to tell parents, to be second-guessed forever, I think it is the parents’ right to know where I have been, what I was accused of, the claims that were made. That is my duty. I know a lot of people who have gone to prison who hide in the shadows. I don’t. If I was honest with the parents, that is all I can do.”
And to tell his side of the story, Gollaher said he found it necessary to represent himself.
“I am a lousy attorney,” he said. “You have seen me step on my tongue a few times in this case.”
But his attempt has taught him something, he said during closing arguments.
“My eyes have been open clearer that people are absolutely scared of me,” he said. “If this is a popularity contest, I lose.”
After Gollaher finished his lengthy closing statement, Farris was given a chance to reply.
The victims’ lack of describing exactly where they had been touched was not evidence they had not been touched, Farris said.
“This case is not about verbiage,” he said. “I’m sorry the victims weren’t more graphic. When she talks about the crotch area, it is a nice way of not saying words she may not even know.”
Victims remembering a chronology of only the bad things is understandable, Farris said.
“If the (victims) came in and mostly remembered the bad things, maybe there is a reason for that. Abuse is something they never forget,” Farris said. “They may spend the rest of their lives trying to forget it.”
After hearing closing arguments that concluded around 5 p.m. Wednesday, two alternate jurors were released. However, those two were called back again two hours later when it was determined two other jurors had had a hard time hearing the victim’s testimonies on the first day of the trial. Deliberations had to start back at square one beginning at 7 p.m. that evening.
Judge Hyde instructed the jury that they must follow the rules of law he made known to them, “regardless of what you think the law is or ought to be. Even if you do not like the laws, you must use them. It is your duty to determine facts and weigh evidence, giving your sincere judgment and honest deliberation.” Hyde said the jurors could determine which witnesses had greater believability and credibility, but that they must not return a verdict simply because they were angry with or sorry for anyone.
The judge also said it would be improper for him to hint to the jury which verdict they must return. “I do not prefer one verdict over another, or believe one witness over the other,” Hyde said. “You are the exclusive judges over the facts and evidence.”
The jury was charged with returning a verdict on four counts of “whether the defendant did intentionally or knowingly touch the anus, buttocks or genitalia of a child, breast of a female child, or taken indecent liberties with a child with the intent to cause substantial emotional pain to any person, or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.” Gollaher’s prior conviction of a sexual offense, or if he performed the above on two or more victims at the same time or in the same course of conduct, would satisfy the “aggravated” portion of the charge, the judge advised the jurors.
In this case, a child is defined as under the age of 14, and touching even accomplished over clothing would meet the definition of “indecent liberties,” the judge said. The judge said the jurors should not concern themselves with the defendant’s motive, but merely his state of mind. To be found guilty, the defendant must intentionally and knowingly have committed the alleged crime.
After taking their dinners in the jury room while continuing deliberations, the jury unanimously agreed on four guilty counts. The jury was polled while the defendant stood to hear the verdict, allowing each juror to audibly confirm they agreed with the verdict presented by their foreman.
Gollaher, who stood along with his stand-by counsel while the verdict was read, showed little emotion on his face. His wife, Sharon Wester Gollaher, sat behind him in the gallery.
The two victims received embraces from family members, who were all smiles.
“Justice prevails,” Farris told the victims at the conclusion of the case late Wednesday evening.