Feature | Just Stop: How far will the Utah attorney general’s office go to silence Rachel Guyon? | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

February 27, 2008 News » Cover Story

Feature | Just Stop: How far will the Utah attorney general’s office go to silence Rachel Guyon? 

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On Nov. 11, 2006, Utah’s top lawyer, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, received an e-mail from an escort agency called the Doll House. It thanked him for subscribing to its newsletter.

“I did not subscribe,” Shurtleff wrote back. “Remove me from your list!”

Someone had set up a fake e-mail account to make it appear he had solicited information. The Doll House e-mailed again, asking him to confirm his subscription.

“This is the Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and you WILL remove my name … I will not go to your Website—even to ‘unsubscribe.’”

According to an e-mail written by his deputy attorney general, Kirk Torgensen, Shurtleff was “pissed” about a series of unsolicited e-mails he’d received. The focus of Shurtleff’s displeasure was, and remains, 25-year-old Rachel Guyon. More than a year ago on Jan. 26, Guyon learned what it meant to incur the wrath of the man who counsels Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. on legal issues. Shortly after hanging up from talking to her mother at 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon in late January 2007, Guyon answered a knock at her apartment door in downtown Salt Lake City.

Two investigators from the attorney general’s office, Rachel Guyon recalls, Jessica Eldredge and Dave White, arrested and handcuffed her. On the drive to the Salt Lake County Metro Jail, the investigators informed Guyon she was being charged by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office with five counts of stalking, a class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail. By December 2007, four of the five stalking charges were dropped and replaced by 11 class B misdemeanors, namely three counts of criminal defamation and eight of electronic communication harassment.

Guyon was released on her own recognizance at midnight the same day due to jail overcrowding. Later this year, on April 21, Guyon will stand trial before 3rd District Judge Vernice Trease. Fifteen witnesses from the attorney general’s office will testify against her, including Mark Shurtleff and nine other men the state claims are her victims. Although the attorney general’s office arrested her, they won’t be prosecuting. That responsibility they turned over to Salt Lake County’s District Attorney’s Office.

Guyon is accused of conducting an 18-month sexually themed e-mail campaign dating back to February 2006, against top attorneys general, most notably the chief deputy Torgensen, and even Shurtleff himself. Torgensen—along with fellow attorneys general Scott Reed, Patrick Nolan and recent retiree Mike Wimms—teaches a Weber State University extension course on criminal justice at Salt Lake Community College. Torgensen taught Guyon criminal and constitutional law. She aspired to be a cop. “My degree was in irony,” Guyon says.

Like Michael Pare and Willem Dafoe in the climatic fight scene of Walter Hill’s classic 1984 action flick Streets of Fire, for almost two years, according to the state and her defense attorneys, Rachel Guyon and the attorney general’s office have swung sledgehammers at each other. Guyon’s sledgehammer, the state claims, was her use of fake e-mail accounts and sexual messages. The attorney general’s sledgehammer, her attorneys say, was their use of all the investigative power and resources brought to bear once they decided she was the e-mailer bent on spreading salacious rumors about their staff around their own office and Weber State. Each side claims the other is a menace to public safety. Dig into the documents at the heart of the case—in particular, a recently filed synopsis of 150 e-mails—and what emerges is less a story about the bizarre antics of at least one hyperactive and emotionally disturbed e-mailer than it is just how desperate and exasperated the e-mailer’s alleged victims have become. Given the sheer magnitude of the attorney general’s investigation—700-plus pages of discovery so far and counting—the question that finally emerges is whether or not the attorney general’s investigatory heft and the subsequent prosecution fit the crime.

Shurtleff says his staff investigated the case involving its own employees, with the aid of his offices’ Internet-crime investigation resources, which he has often lauded in the press.

“We pretty much determined the e-mails came from one source, though she’s consistently changing her Website and her e-mail address,” Shurtleff says. “Then, it was appropriately turned over to someone else to screen and decide whether to go ahead with charges. Nothing wrong with that.”

There is something wrong, Guyon’s defense argues, with the way Shurtleff’s office handled the investigation prior to turning it over to the district attorney. It is telling how these e-mails rattled Shurtleff and Torgensen, Guyon’s co-counsel, Kristine Rogers, argues, that the attorney general’s office tracked down Guyon with tactics that are, at least in one example, “at best improperly unauthorized, at worst illegal.”

She points out that Shurtleff’s investigators served 10 U.S. Department of Homeland Security summons on various information networks, including Yahoo! and MSN, along with Weber State University. The summons were issued at the end of 2006 and early 2007 to secure the Internet and scholastic records of Guyon and another student suspect later disregarded.

In a recent court filing, Guyon’s lawyers asked Judge Trease to suppress evidence gathered from the summons as it was “unlawfully obtained.” They wrote the attorney general is not authorized “to use Homeland Security to investigate misdemeanor violations.” Rogers argues that the attorney general’s office should have used state investigatory subpoenas to obtain information used to indict Guyon. “For that, you have to get court approval,” she says. “They did not.”

At issue was not only the attorney general’s office highly questionable use of summons to get personal information it wasn’t entitled to without court oversight, Rogers says, but it also interfered with Guyon’s work and employment. “Even if she did write those e-mails, what they’ve done to her pales by far in comparison.” The attorney general office’s tactics, Rogers says, reveal grave concerns about how far it will go to silence someone it is convinced is harassing its staff.

“[The attorneys general] are the big guys with the big boots who can stomp on people,” she fumes.


It started with one e-mail.

“Here’s something you probably didn’t know,” “Raine Anderson” e-mailed Kirk Torgensen at 6.30 p.m. on Feb. 27, 2006. “She” then alleged that, in the fall semester, one attorney general-Salt Lake Community College adjunct professor slept with two female students. Another attorney general professor “got a girl pregnant, had an abortion like a week ago. Go figure.”

Torgensen wrote back instantly. “Ever heard of something called defamation?” Five minutes later, “Anderson” replied, “It’s not defamation if it’s the truth.”

Mike Chabries, Weber State University (WSU) off-campus coordinator for the Salt Lake Community College campus, received copies of several e-mails from “Anderson” and a “Jeimmy Doe” containing similar allegations. Torgensen e-mailed Chabries that the allegations were “horseshit.”

The list of people “Anderson” was e-mailing about her allegations grew. “Her claim is now that you, me and WSU are doing nothing about it,” Chabries e-mailed Torgensen, who responded, “If this were me, I would sue her.” But “she” had yet to be identified. Weber State conducted an internal investigation, calling in Torgensen and other assistant attorneys general for interviews. No progress was made. The attorney general’s office wanted Salt Lake Community College to hand over its Internet records, Rogers says. They refused. Representatives of the college declined to comment for this story, as did the district attorney’s office. Torgensen also would not comment, except to acknowledge that Guyon was in his class and that there was no relationship between them whatsoever. Nor, it should be added, is there any evidence or allegations there was one. Shurtleff spoke to City Weekly on his deputy’s behalf.

Mid-June 2006, a new name joined the fray: “Jordan.” She e-mailed a fourth attorney general teaching at the college that one student was an independent escort whose boyfriend was abusing her. He responded sympathetically, asking what he could do to help. His concern earned the following from “Jordan”: “When was the last time you had sex??? I know someone who is willing to satisfy your every need and desire. Nobody has to know.” Torgensen received a more detailed offer from “Jordan,” suggesting drinks first and then a visit to a hotel.

Chabries spoke to several criminal-justice classes, telling them there would be no retribution if the e-mailer came forward. “Anderson” e-mailed him: “So given up then on trying to figure out who I am???”

The mysterious e-mailer came up with new ways to torment the attorney general’s office. A series of e-mails from fake accounts were sent to Allure Escorts under the names of various attorney/professors, so it appeared they had solicited information. The e-mails asked about an escort named Rachel. One of Torgensen’s students had indeed worked as an escort: Rachel Guyon.

Guyon is slender, almost willowy. She initially declined to be interviewed for this piece, but agreed to be photographed. Before the camera, she’s restrained but seductive, her schooled features one moment arrogant, the next almost Lolita-plaintive. Tears render her eyes glassy at times, but they never fall.

After the shoot, she requested to sit in on an interview with Rogers and her co-counsel, Rachel’s uncle and attorney, Peter Guyon, for this story. Her lawyers ended the interview once she got into details about what happened during her interrogation by attorney general special agent Eldredge.

Her counsel are not sure quite what to make of her. To her uncle, Rachel Guyon is “oblique, like a stealth bomber, nothing sticks to it.” At first, Rogers says, “I probably thought she was a willful kid who was in a lot of trouble.” Equal parts vulnerable and tough, immature and worldly, Guyon’s slight smile has odd, enigmatic hints of Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat.

Born in Oklahama in 1982, Rachel Guyon moved to Salt Lake City with her family when she was a year old. Her mother, Peter Guyon says, is a strict Mormon. She and Rachel’s father are divorced.

Rachel Guyon attended Cottonwood High School, graduating in 2000, according to her MySpace page. On that page, she describes her occupation as “Smartass Troublemaker!!!!” She works as a teacher’s aide at James E. Moss Elementary in Granite School District, earning $10.86 an hour. A request to Granite School District for comment on Guyon’s past and present employment went unanswered.

Guyon joined the escort trade to make more money, Rogers says. She worked as an independent escort in the spring of 2006, according to a police report filed after she had submitted an application to Salt Lake County for a sexually orientated business license. She told the officer who interviewed her for the license application that she’d advertised herself on the Internet. According to the officer’s report filed after the interview, she attracted the attention of a would-be pimp. He allegedly threatened Guyon when she turned down his business offer. She told the interviewing officer, “He said he would kill a bitch before he went to jail.”

Such experiences did not deter her from the escort trade. In August 2006, Guyon secured an Ogden business license for a “personal services” business. That same month, for two weeks, Guyon also worked for Allure Escorts, a spokesman for the agency confirmed. He wouldn’t comment on what she did there. Inquiries from the attorney general’s office to Allure resulted in her permanent suspension, the spokesman added.

Guyon’s stint in the escort business not withstanding, apart from working as a teacher’s aide with "little people" as she calls children in a blog on her MySpace.com page, the rest of her young life seems to have been dedicated to pursuing higher education. In 2001, she started taking criminal justice classes with, she laughs harshly, “an emphasis on corrections.” She says she did not have a crush on Torgensen. She does, however, admit to setting up the e-mail address k_torgensen@yahoo.com.

“That whole summer was bad from beginning to end,” she says about 2006. She was at home on a Sunday, angry and frustrated that she had to do a class assignment reading case law. “I did it on a whim,” she says about setting up the fake account. But, she says she never used it. “I knew setting it up, I’d done something wrong.” Instead, she asked some friends to get rid of it. “I had no idea how to delete anything.”

In late October 2006, the e-mail synopsis filed in court reveals Torgensen confronted Guyon in the classroom. “I told her she better come clean and fast or the criminal investigation was going to continue,” he e-mailed Chabries. While Guyon admitted to setting up the fake e-mail address, Torgensen didn’t believe her claim she hadn’t written the e-mails. “A total lie,” he e-mailed Chabries.

She forwarded Torgerson five e-mails from that account, that, Torgensen said in an e-mail to Chabries, “came from me supposedly and they were love notes to Rachel.”

The “notes” are almost blushingly romantic in comparison to the earlier tirades. In gentle, at times more strident, tones, the writer says, “You need a man to treat you the way you deserved to be treated, not a boy …”

Torgensen e-mailed Chabries that Guyon was now in even worse trouble. She had upset the boss. “She probably sent an e-mail from Mark Shurtleff to Allure Escorts asking for a date,” Torgensen e-mailed Chabries. “He is pissed.”

By this point, the attorney general’s office was actively investigating. Torgensen seemed almost committed to going to court. “It is possible that it will lead to criminal charges,” he e-mailed Chabries. “She has simply pushed this too far.”


However hard Guyon may or may not have pushed, Shurtleff’s office knew how to push back. In fact, the only e-mails with a discernibly threatening tone are those from Torgensen to Guyon. “I do not want this to ruin your life but it has to stop,” he wrote at the end of October 2006. He told her he could track down the genesis of every e-mail. This was her first and only chance. He wanted her to put on paper “everything that has happened and by whom.”

Guyon e-mailed she was worried what she told him would be used against her. “I cannot tell you that it will not be used to clear this up,” he replied. “I will tell you that I will use my position to make sure that things go better for you.” If she did not comply, “a full-blown investigation is going to continue not only about the e-mails but the escort service as well […] If you do not cooperate then things are going to get bad for you and others.”

“She is quite scared right now rightfully so,” Torgensen e-mailed Chabries. The WSU man e-mailed his supervisor, Kay Gillespie, “Looks like things are coming together and maybe resolved soon.”

They were not. The e-mails do not reveal whether Guyon gave Torgensen the requested explanation. What did occur around that time was that Shurtleff received the Doll House e-mails. After blasting off his replies, Shurtleff forwarded the offending communications to his chief investigator Ken Wallentine.

Special agent Eldredge called Guyon in to the attorney general’s office for an interview in November 2006. At the end of that month, Torgensen phoned Chabries. Torgensen told Chabries that “Guyon has admitted to sending all the e-mails and really has no remorse except that she was caught.” Chabries relayed this to his boss, Gillespie, adding that Torgensen told him, “They intend to prosecute her.” Whether “they” referred to the attorney general or the district attorney was not made clear.

In mid-November 2006, “Jordan” appeared again, e-mailing Torgensen that she sent some of the fake e-mail accounts. She wanted to get Guyon fired from the escort agency. “She has a thing for you, think she still does,” the e-mailer wrote.

Guyon e-mailed Torgensen before Christmas, nervously asking, “What’s going on with everything?” If he replied, it did not make it to the e-mail synopsis in the file. Rather, the reply she received came in two parts.

First, Eldredge called her in for a second videotaped interview which lasted four and a half hours. At Eldredge’s urging, Guyon wrote a letter of apology to Torgensen. Rogers says admiringly that her client never wavered under Eldredge’s badgering. “Usually, my clients break after 40 minutes,” Rogers says. Eldredge warned Guyon not to contact any of the attorneys general again.

The second reply a few days after the interview was more explicit: a knock at Guyon’s door and a pair of handcuffs.

Judge Robert Hilder on July 25, 2007, found that Rachel Guyon had violated a no-contact order entered by the court in March that year, prohibiting her from having any contact with the victims or witnesses. In addition to the court-imposed restrictions Guyon already lived under, notably a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6.30 a.m. and being unable to use a computer except in her family home under her mother’s supervision, Hilder ordered a psychological evaluation.

Regardless of Guyon’s legal problems, the e-mails kept on coming. In September 2007, a “Maya Parker” e-mailed an attorney general/professor: “Hey hottie think about you all the time. You know how bad I want to fuck you in your office in the middle of the day?? Very very badly I wont tell if you wont.”

Others were more toxic. Several e-mails from a female student claimed two attorney/professors had raped her.

“Even when you try to stop it like we have in this case with protective orders, they just disregard the protective order,” an exasperated Shurtleff says. “And it gets even more nasty and prolific when you try to use the law to stop it.”

On Oct. 25, 2007, Rogers says Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office investigator Robbin Wilkins photographed Guyon logging on to Match.com in a computer lab at her college. Rogers says it appears that Guyon is under government surveillance 24/7.

“It makes you paranoid,” Guyon says angrily, almost in tears. “They know everything about you; you know nothing about them.”

The government’s interest in her life has had an impact. With only 30 hours left to finish her degree, she was indefinitely suspended by WSU-supervised Salt Lake Community College for, “violating state, local and federal laws,” according to a letter Guyon says she received from the college around the time of her arrest. She had to repay $900 in tuition fees to a financial aid agency for classes the expulsion meant she could not attend. She’s currently finishing her degree at Utah Valley State College.

Her apartment roommate moved out. Guyon moved in with her mother. On her MySpace.com page, Guyon describes moving back home her “biggest nightmare.” A phone call from an attorney general investigator to Allure Escorts also ended her employment there, Rogers says.

Somehow, in spite of state scrutiny, Guyon, or whoever was responsible, continued the e-mail campaign. Last year, new names entered the arena, with new allegations and in some cases different writing styles and tones. One e-mail was from a “Karl,” claiming he and Torgensen were “proud and gay” lovers. Rogers theorizes some or all of the e-mails could be an “exquisite corpse”—referring to the parlor game in which each participant adds a squiggle to a drawing or a line to a story.

On April 21, prosecution and defense will weigh in on whether or not the state can prove the e-mails came from Guyon. On the stalking charges, the state also must prove that the e-mails were threatening and caused the victims emotional distress. None of the e-mails, Guyon’s lawyers argue, are threatening. The state also has to show that the victims suffered emotional distress. Rogers and Peter Guyon subpoenaed the victims’ medical records only to be told by Assistant Attorney General Kristine Knowlton, Rogers says, “We concede we haven’t been damaged.” But, in an interview Shurtleff counters, “There is clearly emotional damage and that will be presented at trial.”

For Shurtleff, such “horrific allegations” as those made against his staff has had a devastating impact on the men and their families. “I cannot overstate the impact this has had on Kirk.”

Whether stalking is proved or not, the charges involving defamation and communication harassment, Rogers argues, are unconstitutional. Even if Guyon did write the e-mails, she says, “They are First Amendment-protected speech. We are allowed to gossip.”

Last week, the district attorney asked the judge to impose a gag order on Guyon, her lawyers and witnesses. The motion aimed at stopping Guyon and her team from raising any free speech or constitutional arguments with the jury or the media before or during the trial. The prosecution argues discussing the case with the media will contaminate the jury pool. Shurtleff spoke to City Weekly several weeks before this motion. As of press time, the gag order had not been issued.

Kristine Rogers believes this case could have been avoided if Kirk Torgensen or any of the attorney general’s staff caught up in the e-mail debacle had simply pressed the “delete” key on their computer.

Shurtleff vehemently disagrees. “It’s almost impossible to ignore,” he says. “You know these horrific allegations are out there, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.” He continues, “What does that do for a normal citizen out there who’s been victimized the same way? How frustrating it is, how awful it is to feel powerless to be able to stop it from going on. That’s the story. Not blame the government.”

In theory, the average citizen has access to attorney general’s investigative resources. How readily available they are is another matter. Torgensen and his colleagues had instant access to state resources as they sought to protect their reputations.

The alleged victims—the attorneys—were referred to in most court documents only by their initials. The court custom is to do so only with juveniles or victims of sexual abuse. Ask Shurtleff to explain the break with custom and he says: “Nosy reporters, I don’t know.”

The five victims in the attorney general’s office were all represented in early pretrial hearings by Assistant Attorney General Kristine Knowlton who works in the Children’s Justice Division. When the defense complained that an attorney general could not act as a victims’ representative, Knowlton withdrew and was replaced by Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic director Heidi Nestel. Victims’ advocates, Guyon’s lawyers argue, are for those too traumatized, too fragile or too young to attend court. Not some of the state’s top lawyers. Shurtleff disagrees. “Just because you’re a high-profile, experienced prosecutor doesn’t mean you’re not a victim and don’t need the victims’ service.”

Guyon, however, is not spared her blushes. Peter Guyon keeps quiet during most of the interviews for this story. He allows his co-counsel Rogers to speak for him. Dealing with the intimate issues of his niece’s past have not been easy. He learned things, he says, “I never wanted to know.”

Somewhere, somehow, the Rachel Guyon affair spiraled out of control. Whether Guyon or others wrote the e-mails, the more the state dug into them, the worse things got for all concerned. “It never was meant to become a major issue,” Shurtleff says. “It was always, ‘Hey, it’s a problem. Can it get resolved?’ Somehow, it couldn’t.”

How far the state went to resolve the problem might prove to be a sticky issue when Guyon stands trial. The 10 Homeland Security summonses arguably offer the defense a sizable stick with which to beat the state. The summonses state they are “to determine the liability for duties, taxes, fines, penalties or forfeitures and/or to ensure compliance with the laws or regulations administered by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” No reference to stalking or e-mail harassment appears. Summons recipients are instructed not to disclose the existence of the demands. Failure to comply with them, they are warned, will result in “proceedings in a U.S. District Court.”

In addition, one of these U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement summons to Qwest Communications also cited “a matter involving the sexual exploitation of a minor.” Several summons for member information faxed to MSN and Excite Network also referred to “Child sexual exploitation investigation.”

If the attorney general’s office effectively bypassed the courts to get the information it wanted on Guyon’s Internet records, it also clearly was not above using hot-button issues, namely child sexual predators on the Internet, to twist the arm of information networks like Yahoo! and MSN to cooperate with them promptly. Even if such an investigation was, to quote the defense in one filing, “imaginary.”

All Rachel Guyon wants is for the up-close lesson in criminal justice to come to an end. All Mark Shurtleff wants is for the e-mails to stop. “Just stop it; just stop,” he says, adding sentiments that Guyon, too, might echo in so many ways. “We wouldn’t be here today if it just stopped.”


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