PROVO — A man accused of committing a series of gropings on or near the BYU campus entered into a diversion agreement with prosecutors Tuesday.
The agreement means that the case against Nathan Eric Fletcher, 23, is on hold and the criminal charges against him will be dismissed in 18 months if he fulfills the required terms.
“This is an agreement where there is no plea, which made it more palatable for him,” attorney John Allan said of his client, who maintains his innocence. “It was a continuance of the case upon the conditions as stated in the diversion agreement.”
The agreement requires Fletcher, who is charged with two counts of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, to undergo a psychosexual evaluation and any counseling that evaluation may recommend. If Fletcher completes those requirements and doesn’t violate any other laws — other than minor traffic violations — for 18 months, the case against him will be dismissed.
The diversion agreement filed in 4th District Court also notes that completion of the terms will mean no future prosecution for 14 other “counts investigated but not charged.” If Fletcher violates any of the agreement's conditions, however, the case returns to the pretrial stage of prosecution.
Assistant Provo City Attorney Marcus Draper said the agreement was offered for several reasons, including the fact that both victims are now serving LDS missions. Draper said he spoke with the women before offering the agreement, which he said "was in the best interest of all involved.”
“Mr. Fletcher is young, without a criminal history,” Draper said. “Presumably he can be rehabilitated, so our feeling was, for protection of society, him receiving treatment was extremely important. … I do think it’s a good resolution given his lack of criminal history and the desires of the victims.”
He said as part of the psychosexual evaluation, Fletcher will be required to take and pass a polygraph test.
“It’s there to make sure that he’s forthright and honest in his evaluation,” Draper explained. “If he isn’t able to or willing to admit to what he did, then it’s going to be hard for him to progress in treatment.”
Draper said the agreement was not influenced by a motion that was scheduled to be argued on Tuesday. Fletcher's attorneys argued that police investigators used flawed tactics to identify Fletcher in connection with the assaults. Allan said the identification process was tainted, because investigators showed surveillance video of an assault to as many as 150 BYU track team members at once during a meeting.
Allan argued that team members' conclusions that Fletcher was the man in the video, based on his clothing and running gait, was the “product of group thought” after some mentioned his name and made comments about him.
The defense attorney agreed that the diversion agreement had less to do with the motion than other factors in the case. Fletcher has maintained he is innocent, but also saw the benefit in avoiding a trial.
“I think Nathan was taking into consideration that two of these ladies were on missions and Nathan served a mission himself. I think he was indicating, ‘If I can avoid the girls having to come back and testify, this may be a win-win situation for everybody,’” Allan said.
Plea agreement discussions took place long before Tuesday’s hearing, Allan said, but other options, such as a plea in abeyance, were difficult for Fletcher because they required that he plead guilty or no contest before an eventual dismissal.
“That, he was not willing to do,” Allan said.
Police believe that in January, February and March, Fletcher groped or swatted the breasts and buttocks of several women who were out walking or jogging around BYU’s campus. In many cases, police believe Fletcher was dressed as a jogger himself and would often grope an unsuspecting victim without saying a word as he jogged by.
Sixteen women reported being groped by a jogger during that time, but Fletcher was only charged with two incidents because investigators said they did not find sufficient evidence to file charges in the other cases.
Fletcher was listed on the BYU track team's 2012-13 roster and was a star track runner for Timpview High School.