Update October 19th: Greg Peterson released on $2 million bail in the Salt Lake case, and his next court hearing is scheduled for November 2nd.
A prominent Utah County GOP activist and fundraiser has been arrested and charged with 23 different felonies associated with the kidnapping and raping of four different women during a 13-month period. Prosecutors say Gregory Nathan Peterson kidnapped and raped women that he met online. He had profiles on at least two online dating sites, LDSSingles.com and LDSLinkup.com, but prosecutors have not disclosed which online services he used. This is a major story with reports published by the Salt Lake Tribune and KSL Channel 5 and KTVX Channel 4 and two stories by the Deseret News (the crime and his political ties). KSL news video embedded below:
The incidents took place on March 26th, July 2nd, and December 11th, all in 2011, and the most recent on April 21st, 2012, each one with a different victim. The July 2nd incident was the most serious. Prosecutors say Peterson arranged to go to a movie and dinner with a woman he met online. He allegedly drove the woman from Sandy to his cabin in Heber City against her will, displaying a handgun and threatening to have the woman deported because of an expired visa if she did not cooperate. Peterson the allegedly held the woman hostage at his cabin overnight and sexually assaulted her. The next day, he took her to his mother's house in Lewiston, Cache County, where she was held hostage for two days and repeatedly assaulted. Then Peterson followed the same woman to her Salt Lake County home and sexually assaulted her again.
Here's the list of charges:
-- Seven counts of rape, a first-degree felony
-- Three counts of object rape, a first degree felony
-- Two counts of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony
-- One count forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony
-- Nine counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony
-- One count burglary, a second-degree felony
-- One count assault, a class B misdemeanor
-- One count sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor.
The rape and kidnapping charges are first-degree felonies that carry sentences of up to life in prison. He's currently being held in Salt Lake County Jail in lieu of $750,000 bail.
On the surface, Greg Petersen, an active LDS member with a temple recommend, seemed like the ideal Mormon, making all the right stops at the right times. He served a full-time mission in Venezuela, he earned a bachelor’s degree in global economy from BYU and an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship from the Marriott School of Management at BYU, where he was a dean’s scholar, and he has been a certified financial planner and owner of Peterson Wealth Management in Orem since 2007 as well as Smartstocks.com, an online trading website. Many LDS members along the Wasatch Front have taken a similar path to success, although his marriage flickered along the way, almost ending in 2006 and finally terminating in 2009.
In addition, his political star was rising and shining. He became an activist and fundraiser for the Republican Party, hosting a fundraiser for Mitt Romney in 2007. On July 1st, 2011, Peterson hosted about 300 Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Gov. Gary Herbert, at his Heber cabin for the Rocky Mountain Conservatives annual convention and barbecue. After learning of the charges against Peterson, Gov. Herbert distanced himself from him, saying that Peterson had never been formally affiliated with any of his campaigns. The Romney campaign also distanced itself from Peterson, saying he's not been associated with them since 2007 and won't be in the future.
The LDS Church does not customarily disclose what, if any actions, are taken against the membership in this situation. If they follow past patterns, they will observe the presumption of innocence and take no action against Peterson's membership until he's convicted or decides to confess. Excommunication is the most likely form of Church discipline. But the Atonement still covers Peterson, and with sore repentance, he can recover from this. This type of character flaw could not be uncovered in the spirit world, where the immediacy of celestial law serves as a stern deterrent. Only mortality could force this character flaw to the surface.
Public Reaction: Some people are complaining about the use of the term "GOP" in the headlines. It's because it's a material part of the story; it doesn't imply that the GOP is more prone towards this behavior than Democrats. One person knew Peterson during his childhood in Omaha:
gdubs July 19th 21 minutes ago (Tribune):
I've known this guy since elementary school and graduated with him. Always was a strange bird. If he worked at the post office, he would of given meaning to "going postal". Had a facebook run in with him about two years ago and he freaked out on me because I had a different political view and then blocked me. This isn't suprising at all.
gdubs July 19th 9 minutes ago (Tribune):
He used to be this skinny, little, hyperactive, kid. He was a rarity as a mormon in Omaha, Nebraska. Came from a pretty large family. Just always a ball of energy waiting to explode. At least thats how I remember him. Never saw him after high school, as he obviously went on to BYU and then stayed in Utah. I feel sorry for his family. I cant imagine what they're going through.
hercules40 posted 8 hours ago (KSL):
I was at the church function where the first victim was taken, many people know who this guy is... and yet he is able to continue behaving this way... Sometimes gossip can save lives when the gossip is true!!!!!!
thurthunder posted 2 hours ago (KSL):
Oh man! My husband and I knew this guy back in college! He's been in touch a few times over the last 10 years but we couldn't stand his arrogance and so we declined his offer to take our family to his cabin and receive financial advice from him! My husband originally knew Greg from the MTC in Provo...he was one of my husband's teachers there. If these allegations are true, how sad that he's turned himself into a freak...
Arelius July 19, 2012 3:13 P.M. (Deseret News):
I was Greg’s roommate at BYU and, somehow, this recent development doesn’t surprise me. Greg seemed to have a dull conscience back in those days.
HOPEFUL61 posted 1 hour ago (KSL):
The first victim and three after her did call the police, they were told there was not enough evidence. Four women called the police all told the same. It was not until more even women came forward the police realized they may have enough evidence to arrest him.
I went through the same thing. I was assaulted and was told the guy would remain a rape suspect until more women come forward and then they will prosecute him.
No one should EVER blame the victim. I am sure they are thinking the same thing you are saying. We are taught to never go with strangers but when you meet someone at a church function there is a level of trust...