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W. Jordan woman says she had prior sexual contact with officer

SHARE W. Jordan woman says she had prior sexual contact with officer

A West Jordan woman testified Wednesday she had a sexual relationship with a police officer months before he allegedly raped her.

But prosecutors are not sure how that testimony will affect the credibility of the woman's allegations against Bruce Eric Ballenger, 32, a West Jordan police officer charged with two counts of rape, a first-degree felony, and two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony."My position is that this (evidence) is not relevant," said Deputy District Attorney Marsha Atkin at the conclusion of Wednesday's portion of Ballenger's preliminary hearing.

Under Utah's "rape shield law," victims generally don't have to submit evidence about their sexual history.

But after hearing arguments last month from Atkin and defense attorney Ron Yengich behind closed doors, 3rd District Judge Ronald Nehring ruled that "prior consensual sexual contact between the defendant and the alleged victim within a period of 12 months is relevant in the context of this case."

The woman testified she met Ballenger during a call to her apartment in March 1997. Ballenger offered to help her with a protective order, and the two continued to see each other over a six-week period.

"He kept coming over from the beginning," she said. The two would mainly spend time together at her apartment, where he stayed for the night on about five occasions.

The woman said that she and Ballenger had sex during about half of the times he slept at her house. "The very last time (they had sex) I didn't want to go through with it, and I stopped it," she said.

About two weeks into the relationship, the woman started to become "very cynical about him." She did not end the relationship immediately, but she began to avoid him by staying out late.

About four weeks into the relationship, she "told him flat out that I couldn't do this anymore," she said. The visits became more sporadic until she told him to stay away in May 1997.

Except for three separate times she saw Ballenger in traffic, the woman did not have any contact with him for about 10 months. Then on March 12, 1998, he left a note on her car.

"The note read nice, like he was not upset at all," she said.

That evening, they spoke on the phone. The next evening he dropped by her apartment unexpectedly. She was surprised to see him in street clothes but invited him in because "I really didn't know what to do," she said.

She agreed to drive him to a nearby convenience store to get a newspaper. Since most movies were starting later, they rented videos and bought some wine.

"I wish I would have told him to leave," the woman said. But she didn't because "he wasn't a threat at that point."

Later that night, the woman testified that Ballenger pulled her down on the couch and began fondling her. Then used his body weight to hold her down and rape her.

She was not able to get out from under him until the following morning. Before Ballenger left, however, she gave him a jump because the battery of his vehicle was dead. She also later called Ballenger the following night "to tell him how I felt about what he'd done to me," but she couldn't do it.

She didn't tell anyone about the rape until she called the Rape Crisis Center from work two days later. "I just wanted to deal with it, get over what I was feeling."

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue Aug. 28.