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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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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