SALT LAKE CITY – A prosecutor in Utah told jurors Tuesday that a young girl's testimony about being raped by three men while her mother was in a nearby garage smoking methamphetamine should be sufficient to find them guilty.
The testimony of the girl, who was 9 at the time of the alleged assault and is now 11, was consistent, clear and damning, Uintah County attorney Mark Thomas said in a Salt Lake City courtroom during closing arguments.
"This is not someone who's making up a story," he said after the five-day trial. "There was no motive for this child to make this up."
Last week, the girl testified via video link that the three men raped her after a 2016 Easter egg hunt at a rural home then threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone. The Associated Press generally does not identity people who say they were victims of sexual assaults.
Defense lawyer Loni DeLand argued that the rape was fabricated by the mother, who was paranoid from smoking meth and angry at one of the defendants, former boyfriend Jerry Flatlip, 31.
"That's pretty strong motive," DeLand told jurors.
The other defendants are Larson RonDeau, 38, and Randall Flatlip, 28. All three men face felony charges of rape and sodomy of a child. They have denied the allegations.
Prosecutors did not offer any physical evidence such as blood or hair showing the girl had been assaulted.
If prosecutors are relying solely on testimony from the girl and her mother, "I don't think you or any reasonable juror could conclude that that's sufficient evidence or proof beyond a reasonable doubt," DeLand told the jury.
The mother has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor child abuse charge for leaving the girl while she used drugs, and was sentenced to jail and drug treatment. The Associated Press is not naming the mother to protect the identity of the child.
The girl is now in the care of her Native American tribe, authorities have said.
Thomas compared the girl's testimony to that of women who leveled sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby.
"Bill Cosby has been convicted by the testimony of somebody who claimed to be his victim," he said. "No other evidence" was necessary.
Cosby was convicted of drugging and molesting a woman in 2004.
The three defendants in Utah sat largely stone-faced during the proceedings, though Jerry Flatlip seemed to become emotional as his lawyer made the final appeal to the jury. Flatlip rocked in his chair, sniffled and wiped his nose with a tissue.
Charges were initially filed against a fourth man but dropped when the girl's mother could not be found to testify at an evidence hearing in 2016.