The attorney for a man accused of raping a 16-year-old runaway girl at a Salt Lake party is seeking the girl's mental-health records.

Third District Judge Dennis Frederick rejected defense attorney Janet Conway's petition to see confidential records from the state Division of Child and Family Services.However, the Utah Supreme Court recently stayed Robert Daniel Pliego's trial and agreed to hear the challenge.

In December 1995, the girl accused Pliego and another man of raping her two months earlier.

"There are no witnesses, there's a delayed reporting and no corroborating evidence," Conway said. "You need to see if there is some sort of delusional situation or a pattern of lying."

On the other hand, a ruling for Pliego "would substantially violate the rights of victims by requiring them to expose confidential communication and other private and privileged information whenever there is the possibility that it may contain exculpatory information," Assistant Attorney General Christine Soltis wrote in court filings.

Before the alleged attack, the victim's family had placed her in foster care because of her ungovernable behavior. By October 1995, she was placed in a Kearns mental-health facility, according to court records.

She ran away in early December and eluded police for a month. She met Pliego at a downtown Salt Lake mall on Dec. 28, 1995. That night, Pliego claims, they had consensual sex at the home of Christopher Wickham during a party. Pliego and the girl exchanged phone numbers and parted on good terms, Conway wrote in court filings.

The next morning, the victim, who was wanted on a juvenile pickup order, called her sister for a ride home. She told the sister she had been raped. Two months later, the girl told doctors treating her for genital irritation that she had been raped. Prosecutors charged Pliego and Wickham each with two counts of aggravated sexual assault.

Pliego, 24, was arrested last November in Washington state. While he fought extradition, Wickham was convicted last January. He was sentenced to life with no parole for at least 20 years.

Wickham's attorneys did not seek the victim's mental-health records.

"I didn't think it was an issue because Mr. Wickham's defense was, `I wasn't there,' " said Wickham's court-appointed lawyer, Paul Quinlan. "It came down to an issue of identity. All she heard was Danny (Pliego) saying, `Chris, come in here and help me.' It was dark. There was someone else named Chris at the party."

Utah's "rape shield" law generally prohibits admission of evidence pertaining to a victim's prior sexual history. Defense attorneys may subpoena mental-health records only upon a showing they contain relevant information.

Conway contends the records may go to the heart of the defense theory that the girl "feared repercussions from her actions and therefore made up the allegations against Pliego to make herself out as a victim."