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Girl's injuries 'consistent'

But doctor says wounds not necessarily from rape

A Sandy teenager who says a group of former Brigham Young University football players raped her in August 2004 suffered injuries consistent with her story, two medical experts testified Wednesday in Provo's 4th District Court.

Dr. Sandra Garrard said she found bruises, scrapes and small lacerations on the girl the day after the alleged rape.

But under cross-examination Garrard conceded the injuries also could have resulted from consensual sex.

"So it's up for grabs isn't it?" defense attorney Dean Zabriskie asked.

"Absolutely," Garrard answered.

The case against former players B.J. Mathis and Ibrahim Rashada all but wrapped up Wednesday, and the case could go to the jury as early as Thursday afternoon.

Utah County prosecutors may call the alleged victim back to the stand, and defense attorneys say they will call one, maybe two, witnesses today.

Mathis and Rashada, both 19, are accused of raping a 17-year-old girl last August in a Provo apartment. They have been charged with aggravated sexual assault, providing alcohol to a minor, dealing harmful material to a minor and obstruction of justice. If convicted they could serve up to life in prison.

But defense attorneys say they are confident the eight-member jury will acquit. One alternate juror is also hearing testimony

"Name one witness who has helped (the prosecution)," Mathis' attorney Jere Reneer said. "None have."

Garrard was the first of three medical experts to testify Wednesday. She said she observed a small bruise and a cut on the girl's right thumb, a scrape on her left knee, three raised red marks on the left side of her chest and microscopic lacerations in the pelvic area.

She said the girl also complained her neck and abdomen hurt. She told Garrard that she had blacked out after drinking, and that when she awoke she was being raped by several men.

"The physical evidence was consistent with her story," Garrard said.

Under cross-examination, Garrard said she had no way of knowing how old the bruises and lacerations were, or how they were caused.

"If we eliminate her explanation and substitute in for it that it was consensual, was there anything you found that was inconsistent with consensual activity?" Reneer asked.

"No," Garrard said.

Garrard's rape examination was later reviewed by Susan Chasson, a sexual assault expert who also testified Wednesday. Chasson supported Garrard's findings, and agreed that the injuries could have come from either rape or consensual sex.

"Finding slight trauma is consistent with sexual assault," Chasson said. She also testified that she had conducted between 120 and 140 sexual assault exams and the behavior Garrard reported in her findings — that the alleged victim was calm and at times tearful — was also consistent with that of other sex crime victims.

The day's final witness was Susan Rasmussen, a forensic toxicologist who testified that the girl could have drunk enough alcohol to black out, a key part of the prosecution's case.

Because the girl was dehydrated the day of the rape exam, nurses were unable to take blood or urine samples. As a result, Rasmussen could not comment specifically on the girl's blood alcohol level.

Instead she answered hypothetical questions about the likelihood of an alcohol- induced blackout. She said blackouts — in which a person maintains motor skills and consciousness but loses short term memory — are most common among adolescent women who drink a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.

She said weight, body fat, the amount of food in the stomach, and the body's ability to metabolize alcohol — which varies from person to person — are also factors.

"But to offer direct and relative testimony you would need to know the individual, medical background, history of drinking and history of blackouts, isn't that right?" Zabriskie asked.

"Yes," Rasmussen said.

Four former BYU football players were originally charged with aggravated sexual assault in connection with the alleged incident.

The first of two players to accept a plea deal, William Turner Jr., 18, pleaded guilty to forcible sodomy Monday in 4th District Juvenile Court. Turner, who was 17 at the time of the incident, was referred to juvenile court for disposition of the charges in exchange for his testimony against Mathis and Rashada. He is scheduled for a Nov. 8 disposition hearing (sentencing).

On Tuesday, Turner made good on his pledge, testifying that he, Mathis and Rashada took advantage of the barely conscious girl. But like Karland Bennett, who is awaiting sentencing on his plea agreement and who testified last week, he insisted nothing that occurred was forced.


E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com