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Ex-Utah youth symphony director wants old sexual misconduct case dismissed

Brent E. Taylor is accused of sexual conduct with three boys who came forward in their 30s and 40s

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Brent E. Taylor, former director of the Utah Valley Youth Symphony, stands with defense attorney Cara Tangaro during his initial appearance before 3rd District Judge Keith Kelly at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. Taylor, who is accused of sexually abusing three boys about 30 years ago, was ordered Monday to wear an ankle monitor.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

AMERICAN FORK — The defense attorney for a former Utah youth symphony director facing decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage boys is asking a judge to toss one criminal case against him.

Attorney Cara Tangaro says the victim of the alleged crime, a former symphony work crew employee, didn’t properly identify Brent E. Taylor, as his abuser. She argued Monday in American Fork’s 4th District court that prosecutors also failed to correct an apparent error indicating the teenager was actually an adult at the time of the alleged sexual conduct.

“I think you should quash the bindover and this case should be done,” Tangaro told Judge Roger Griffin in the hearing held by video conference. Her client, who has remained at home in Colorado with an ankle monitor ahead of trial, appeared in a jacket and tie.

The orchestra has previously said it does not tolerate sexual abuse and encourages anyone with knowledge of misconduct to inform authorities.

Griffin declined to decide the issue Monday, saying he would take it under advisement and rule at a later date.

Prosecutors allege Taylor, 72, engaged in sexual conduct with three boys at separate times during his roughly 40-year tenure with the Utah Valley Youth Symphony. They say he victimized two boys in Salt Lake County and one in Utah County.

The criminal charges in both counties followed a 2018 Deseret News report detailing allegations of misconduct against Taylor from six different men, including the two in Salt Lake County. In Utah County, the former musician and work crew member came forward to police following the article, reporting Taylor victimized him from 2002 to 2006.

Taylor was ordered to stand trial there last year on a charge of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony.

Instead of testifying in court, the alleged victim, a man now in his 30s, opted to submit a written statement chronicling how he said Taylor used a “masterful, calculated process of grooming” that involved them touching each other sexually, with one instance of oral sex.

Tangaro called the sworn statement “very sloppy” in court and noted in a court filings that it presented no chance for her to cross-examine the alleged victim.

She argued the statement doesn’t clearly identify her client as the same Brent E. Taylor who engaged in alleged sex acts with the then-teenage boy, and no police officer testified to that end in court.

Deputy Utah County Attorney Julia Thomas countered that there’s no question who the accused is. She emphasized Taylor was at the helm of the prestigious youth orchestra and had a role of special trust as its director and the boy’s boss, a factor that raises the severity of the alleged crime.

The written testimony says the former work crew member engaged in oral sex with Taylor that occurred during the 2013-14 school year, rather than a decade earlier, when he was actually in high school. But it also clarifies the incident happened when he was 15 years old, Thomas said.

“We don’t dictate to victims what to say in their statements,” Thomas said. “We just don’t. I think we would be derelict in doing that.” 

A judge in West Jordan in June rejected a similar bid from Tangaro, who sought the dismissal of child abuse charges there based on an uncertain timeline for the alleged abuse of one boy. Third District Judge Kristine Johnson said prosecutors met their burden of probable cause but a jury may reach a different decision based on the higher standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Taylor returns to court in American Fork Nov. 17.