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Jury still out in American Fork sex case

Chiropractor awaits decision on 6 felonies of sexual assault

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Grant Hildreth<BR>   </I>

Grant Hildreth

AMERICAN FORK — After nearly eight hours of deliberating, an eight-member jury retired for the night without a verdict in the case of Grant Joel Hildreth, an American Fork chiropractor charged with six felonies for allegedly sexually touching four of his female patients during routine chiropractic procedures.

During closing arguments in 4th District Court in American Fork on Monday, prosecutor Alex Ludlow spent more than two hours going over the weeklong case for the jury — reviewing testimony from the four alleged victims, then attacking the defense's case, witness by witness.

He called the defense tactics "red herrings," and a "shotgun approach" and questioned the various references to Hildreth's children and his family's participation in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of Hildreth's first comments on the stand was that he has a son on an LDS mission.

"The defense wants you to look at everything but what the issue is, the issue is, 'Did Grant Hildreth do these things?"' Ludlow said. He told the jury to carefully consider each of the four victims, who gained nothing from coming forward with the sexual abuse allegations.

"If you believe these four women, you cannot believe what has been presented to you by the defense," Ludlow said. "He is trying to shroud within his chiropractic skills and his practice, a crime."

However, defense attorney Carolyn Howard took only 20 minutes to present a different picture to the jury.

She asked them to consider the criminal code — the state had to prove that Hildreth intended to not only cause emotional or bodily harm but sexually arouse himself or the patients — neither of which he did, Howard argued.

She referred to one alleged victim who, on her intake form, wrote large X's on top of her breast area, indicating that her chest was troubling her — although she later claimed Hildreth had inappropriately touched her breasts.

"(The woman) said she admitted, she actually appreciated Dr. Hildreth's examinations," Howard said, adding that the woman had also referred her husband and grandparents to Hildreth. "Clearly in this case it was consensual by (her) own writing on her intake form."

Other women complained that their gowns had slipped or fallen, leaving them naked and exposed.

"It could have been bad bedside manner," Howard said. "In the 9,000 office visits, he's not always watching if the gowns are falling. If that happened, so be it, but it doesn't make Dr. Hildreth a criminal."

One of the witnesses admitted during the trial that she had a hard time telling the truth. Howard told the jury this alleged victim previously testified in a preliminary hearing that she had been assaulted nine times during a full-body massage. But while on the stand at trial, the woman said the alleged genital brushing happened twice, she said.

Yet, Ludlow said these attacks weren't imagined by these victims, nor were they within the scope of regular chiropractic work — especially for one alleged victim and former secretary, who testified about Hildreth's application of medical gel for an infection.

"He testified he knew that he was not allowed under the rules of Utah to perform any (vaginal) treatment procedure," Ludlow told the jury. "He knew he was not, and yet he did. If you have a professional license and you had to work hard to get it ... are you going to jeopardize that license and your livelihood by performing treatment because it's a friend?"

It was a dumb decision, Howard asserts, but it was a requested, procedure for a cash-strapped friend and employee.

"Does Dr. Hildreth belong in front of the chiropractic board for a sanction? Yes he does," Howard said. "But we're not before the chiropractic board today. We're in a criminal court (where the state) is trying to say that Dr. Hildreth assaulted her, and it's just not the case."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com