Home Government County County attorney: Slow and steady fight taught patience in Gollaher case

County attorney: Slow and steady fight taught patience in Gollaher case

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After three years of intense preparation, Morgan County Attorney Jann Farris is breathing a sigh of relief that a jury found Scott Logan Gollaher guilty of four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.  While his job prosecuting the case may be finished, he is still busy preparing for the sentencing hearing on March 23.
“Getting four guilty verdicts was very, very rewarding, but not the jump-up-and-down, doing jumping jacks rewarding I thought it would be,” Farris said.  “It made me feel all the time and energy was worth it.” But the “sad situation” of young children being subjected to sexual abuse still haunts him, he said.  “It is sad we had to go through all that to get these girls some justice.”
The situation involved charging Gollaher with aggravated sexual abuse over three years ago, followed by voluminous motions filed by the defendant with the aid of his paralegal wife as he went through six different attorneys and the trial date was delayed.
“He thinks he is smarter than all his six attorneys,” Farris said.  “He wanted it both ways.  He was wanting an attorney, but he wanted to do all the talking.
“This thing has been stalled and stalled and stalled.  He had three and a half years to prepare for this.  He has tried to muddy the water.  He threw us all kinds of curve balls and allegations,” Farris said.  “It was a slow, steady fight all along.  It was very exhausting.”
All the while, the clock was ticking.  Utah law protects juvenile victims from having to testify on the stand if they are 14 years old or younger.  “The goal was to be to trial before they had to testify,” Farris said.
Unfortunately, by the time the trial began both victims were 15 and therefore had to testify in open court while being questioned and cross examined by their abuser.  The trial was first scheduled to begin six months earlier when the victims could have testified remotely, equivalent to being Skyped in.
Years’ worth of stalling has kept Gollaher in jail rather than prison, Farris said. “I guess any time he can stall prison to him is a victory.”
Farris said he has been impressed with the two victims and their families, who have “never been vindictive” and do not “harbor hate” even after years of living in the wake of abuse.
“They have tried to move on in a positive direction,” said Farris in his office a week after the trial concluded.
In the three years leading up to the trial, Farris said he had to refrain from getting emotionally involved in the case.
“A prosecutor’s job is to seek justice,” he said.  “It should just be about the facts and where the facts lead.”
In fact, Farris used the “just the facts, Ma’am,” line reminiscent of the Dragnet television series in his closing arguments.  He told the jury that unlike the movies where prosecutors quote some eloquent line from Shakespeare in their closing statements, he was just trying to stick to the facts.
The facts, as some jurors found out, were often gut-wrenching in the case.
“The stakes were so high that it put a lot of pressure on me,” said Farris, who has been the county attorney for almost a decade.  “I put pressure on myself to protect this community and get a conviction.  My client is the citizens of Morgan.  One thing everyone can agree on is people don’t want people like him in Morgan.”
Even after the jury delivered a guilty verdict on all counts, Farris is expecting Gollaher to attempt to find holes in the case so he can appeal or ask for a mistrial.  Farris told the victims to expect it.
“The defendant has talked about appeals for years, even before he was convicted,” Farris said.  “He is a desperate person going to desperate measures.  In my opinion he is very narcissistic.  He thinks he knows more than the judge, more than myself, and probably the board of pardons.”
Patience
Farris said that Judge Noel S. Hyde conducted the trial and the preceding years full of motions and hearings as meticulously as possible in order to avoid a mistrial.
“The judge was more than patient with him.  He was patient to a fault,” Farris said.  “He let (Gollaher) go any direction he wanted to go to exonerate himself.  The judge was very accommodating and handled it very well.  He was hyper careful.  The judge had a tough job.”
The last three years has taught Farris patience, he said.
“I never want to rush someone into not fully defending themselves.  I don’t keep track of wins and losses.  I don’t need notches in my belt.  We did not want to do anything to step on his rights.  We bent over backwards to make sure we didn’t have to go through this again,” Farris said.  “If there was any gray area, we stopped and got it right.”
Farris said the 10 jurors who sat through the trial were very patient as well, although they only saw about a third of what went on in the courtroom.
“We can’t say everything we want in front of the jury,” Farris said.  “We were often hashing things out without the jury present.”
When that was happening, the jurors were often left sitting in a separate room for hours on end, unable to even talk to each other about the case and many of them missing work. But the service provided by the jury was invaluable, Jann said.  Without their verdicts, sentencing could not take place.
At the March 23 hearing, Gollaher could be sentenced for up to 15 years for each count, perhaps consecutively rather than concurrently.  Aggravated first-degree felonies are just below murder when considering sentencing, Farris said.
“I feel strongly we need to have the maximum sentence,” Farris said.  “That is not a secret to Gollaher or the judge that I intend to seek that.”
Farris said that if Gollaher is found guilty of the charges he faces in Salt Lake County, those sentences could be tacked on to the end of the Morgan sentences.
Team effort
Farris said he had the support of the whole building—all the county employees.  The seven-member county council put some things on hold until Farris could conclude the trial.  Many of the employees popped in to watch trial proceedings.  Many stayed in the building until the verdict was read at 9 p.m.
“It was a team effort,” Farris said.  “I have had a lot of encouragement from everyone in the building.”
The case was “big” enough that Farris welcomed help from Dean Saunders, who has worked as a Weber County justice court prosecutor for 24 years.
“I didn’t need all the glory.  I was not arrogant enough to think I can do this all myself,” Farris said.  “I needed another set of eyes.  Dean was invaluable in that.”
Over the last years, and even after the verdict was read, many other agencies and alleged victims of Gollaher’s have reached out to Farris saying they would be willing to assist any way they can.
“More things could come out.  (Gollaher) has made a life of this.  He can call it what he wants, but my goal is his list ends with these two victims” highlighted in the Morgan case, Farris said.  “He is a predator.”
Morgan’s facilities lacking
Before Gollaher was charged for the events that took place in Morgan County in 2012, a search warrant was served simultaneously at his Salt Lake residence as well as the five-story Porterville “mansion.”  Gollaher’s Salt Lake trial resulting from that search warrant is still pending.  Since those charges, Gollaher has been housed in a Salt Lake County jail.
Farris said that has saved Morgan County money, to the tune of $60 a day if Gollaher had been held in the Weber County jail on behalf of Morgan County, which lacks a jail facility.  The savings mounts to $75,000 over three and a half years, Farris estimated.
As the jurors discovered on the first day of the trial, the courtroom lacked an amplification system, so jurors had to strain to hear witness testimonies.
Heating and cooling the courtroom was also compromised, as jurors could not hear the proceedings because the system was too loud.  In addition, parking and seating was scarce for the 80 potential jury members who showed during the two days of jury selection.  The Sheriff’s Department was short on manpower because several deputies were serving as bailiffs during the trial that stretched on for three weeks.
Jury trials are rare in Morgan County, but Farris said that trend may not continue as Morgan grows.

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