Opposing attorneys fired heated blows and accusations at each other Wednesday during a hearing to decide whether a former teacher can be charged a second time with sexually abusing a former student.
"They have pride and ego on the line, especially in a community where there is an obsession with sexual offenses," defense attorney Jo Carol Nesset-Sale said, referring to those prosecuting DeMar W. Nilson, 51.Prosecutors said they are pursuing charges because they believe the former middle school teacher is an "extremely dangerous man" who may have abused several other young men.
"We have a pedophile of the first degree who is a dire threat to the youth of this (community)" said Salt Lake County deputy attorney Rod Ybarra. "The public will be safe only when this defendant is behind bars."
But Nesset-Sale said the county attorney's office is abusing its power and believes the forcible sex abuse charge against Nilson is a "knee-jerk reaction" designed to harass and intimidate her client.
"They have a lot at stake and they look really bad," she said. "They're putting forth ludicrous arguments in order to save face and to look good in the press."
The original sex abuse charge against Nilson was dismissed during a trial last month after a 17-year-old boy changed his mind about when the fondling allegedly occurred. During the third day of trial, the boy insisted the abuse occurred in 1990, and not in 1989 as he had earlier maintained.
Ybarra dismissed the charge after a judge refused to allow him to amend the date on the complaint. He re-filed the charge - with the 1990 date - hours after the jury was sent home. Nesset-Sale argues that Nilson cannot be tried twice for the same offense.
But Ybarra said the defense's arguments were nothing but "florid rhetoric" and lashed out at her for accusing him of abusing his power. He argued that changing the date of the criminal complaint makes the charge a different offense, and therefore the defendant is not being tried twice for the same offense.
"There were two separately charged offenses rising from the same act," he explained. One of the charges was incorrect and was dismissed. The other should go to trial, he said.
Nesset-Sale argued that the charge is based on one event that Nilson denies ever occurred - an evening when he allegedly asked the teenager to sleep with him in his bed and fondled him during the night.
"Their claim that it is not the same offense is a ludicrous claim made without any support," she said. The defense attorney also shot down some of Ybarra's cited case laws, indicating that they had been overturned by higher courts.
Both accused the other of improper conduct and of not preparing for the case. Each attorney asked 3rd District Judge Richard Moffat to impose sanctions against the other. Moffat took the double jeopardy motion under advisement and will issue a written decision within the next week.
But whatever his decision, both sides have indicated they will likely appeal.
Nilson pleaded no contest to a sex abuse charge in Davis County while teaching there in 1981. The case was later expunged and he was hired three years later as a teacher in the Jordan School District.
Ybarra said Wednesday that six other "young men" had recently indicated to him that Nilson also sexually abused them. No additional charges have been filed, however, and he would not comment further.
Nesset-Sale said the new allegations were a "continuation of what I think is inappropriate conduct" and were designed to make the judge believe Nilson is "some kind of monster."