Prominent Utah Republican Fundraiser Arrested On Rape Charges
A prominent Republican fundraiser has been arrested on numerous rape charges in Salt Lake City.
Gregory Nathan Peterson, an active fundraiser for conservative politicians in Utah, was charged Wednesday with a number of violent crimes, including 21 charges of rape, forcible sexual abuse and battery, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, one charge of assault and one charge of felony burglary, court documents reveal.
The charges stem from alleged attacks on four women between March 2011 and April 2012. Two of the alleged attacks occurred at the cabin where Peterson, 37, held political fundraisers.
One woman listed in an affidavit filed by the Salt Lake City DA's office says she met Peterson at a church activity, where he invited her to see a movie. However, she alleges, Peterson drove in the opposite direction of the theater, and told the woman he was taking her to his cabin in Heber, in a neighboring county. He told her he had a gun, and hit her when she rejected his sexual advances. Once at the cabin, the woman says Peterson raped her throughout the night, and drove her to her car the next morning.
Peterson met the other three alleged victims online, according to court papers. He took one of the women to his cabin, and then to his mother's house; he allegedly raped her at both places. The other two women told authorities Peterson raped them in their own homes.
"The allegations of these four women are more than sufficient for us to move forward with charges against Peterson," Sim Gill, Salt Lake City District Attorney, told ABC News.
Peterson has been active in fundraising for Utah Republican candidates for years, including Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, Gov. Gary Herbert, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz and others, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. He was listed as an event chair for a 2007 Mitt Romney campaign event, held at the Romneys' Utah home, and has donated thousands of dollars to Romney's campaign. Peterson is a Nebraska native, and Brigham Young University alum, ABC News affiliate ABC4 reports. He currently owns and operates Peterson Wealth Management.
The cabin where the alleged rapes took place was the site of the Rocky Mountain Conservatives Convention and Barbeque, which Peterson called the "CPAC of the West," according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Last year, the second year of the event, nearly 300 people attended.
Politicians who may have benefited from Peterson's fundraising are distancing themselves from him now, ABC4 reports:
"Mr. Peterson was not involved in the campaign or in getting him elected," Sen. Mike Lee's office said in a statement.
"Mr. Peterson has no formal affiliation with the Governor's campaign, nor has he ever," Governor Gary Herbert's office said. "In fact, the Governor declined Mr. Peterson's invitation this past spring."
Peterson presented himself as a "close personal friend" of the Romney family. Photos of Mitt Romney and Peterson together show they have met, and Peterson claimed to have befriended two of Romney's sons at BYU, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:
In a statement, the Romney campaign denied Peterson is close with the candidate.
"We are appalled at this situation," the Romney campaign said. "He hasn't been associated with our campaign since 2007. And you can believe he won't be, going forward."
There had been rumors circulating of improper conduct on the part of Peterson several months ago, a Utah state delegate told the Salt Lake Tribune. Brandon Beckham, who had worked with Peterson, told the paper he had warned GOP candidates to stay away from Peterson after he learned of the allegations months before any charges were filed.
Another conservative activist who knew Peterson, Darcy Van Orden, told the Salt Lake Tribune she found the allegations disturbing, but isn't surprised.
"I believe in innocent until proven guilty," Van Orden told the paper, "but having talked to several people and heard a lot of allegations about this for basically the last six months, I was kind of waiting to see this thing play itself out."
Gill, the district attorney prosecuting the case, told ABC News one of the alleged victims previously reported the rape to authorities in a neighboring county, where the cabin is located. The other women had also made reports to various law enforcement agencies, where the allegations were in different stages of investigation before the DA's office began its investigation.
"Once we began looking into one case, we noticed a pattern in cases reported to other agencies," Gill told ABC. "The strength of each woman's corroboration of each other's allegations, despite none of them knowing each other, helped us make the case."
There were initially five women who came forward, but, Gill said, the DA's office felt they could only meet the burden of proof for filing charges in four of the cases.
"What we have is at least four women, maybe more, who have suffered serious trauma," Gill told ABC, "and that's the important thing here. I don't care if you're a Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Communist, whatever, we will prosecute you if you engage in criminal acts like this in this county."
It is unclear whether Peterson has a lawyer yet. He is currently being held on $75,000 bail, and is due in court on Monday.