Judge issues stalking injunction against Gov. Herbert's son

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PROVO -- After hearing almost two days of witness testimony, a judge signed a three-year civil stalking injunction against Gov. Gary Herbert's son, banning Nathan Herbert from any contact with the woman.

Fourth District Judge James Taylor upheld the injunction on Wednesday after two separate days of testimony from both Herbert and Aiona Butters, who accused Herbert of stalking her for more than a year at various locations in the Provo-Orem area.

Taylor said that while both Butters and Herbert had weaknesses in their testimonies, Butters was "more credible" than Herbert.

"I didn't want it to be public," Butters said. "It's been embarrassing, and to be made out to be overly sensitive to somebody looking at me, it's been a nightmare and I'm just grateful it's over, and I hope it's done, I just want it to be done!"

Herbert and his mother, the First Lady of Utah, were both critical of the judge's decision, saying while Herbert told the truth, the justice system failed him.

Nathan Herbert said,"If a girl can just walk into court and make up stories out of whole cloth and if just her testimony alone gets a stalking injunction in effect, if they can use the law as a sword instead of a shield, I think there needs to be some course correction in the justice system."

"It's very difficult in that, like he said, all of this started with a wrong accusation that has just perpetuated," said First Lady of Utah Jeanette Herbert. "We believe in Nathan 100 percent, we always have."

The judge said Butters was also "more emotional" than most who appear in court. But Herbert — with a look the judge described as a "direct, almost unblinking, intense stare" and body language that he said smarted of arrogance — consistently minimized his behavior and was "not credible" in his sporadic memory of events.

Mrs. Herbert said,"I think this judge had decided before this case ever started how he was going to judge, he judged on body language. This isn't a beauty pageant, this isn't something that you say are you acting arrogant, that was unbelievable to me, he would state that."

Herbert, 40, who was supported at Wednesday's hearings by a number of people, including his mother and siblings, took the stand Wednesday morning to emphatically state that he did not know Butters, the woman who accused him of stalking her. He said without hesitation that he had never met her or contacted her in any way.

He testified he didn't even know who she was until one day in August when he was at the gym, noticed her and gym employees looking at him and thought she may be the younger sister of a girl he'd dated years before.

Due to a then-five-year history he had with Butters' family that included a prior stalking injunction and an assault charge stemming from allegations that he choked Butters' sister, Herbert said he wanted to "get ahead of" what he thought may be coming and went to the police.

"The history of this family, sadly to say, has been extreme paranoia and dishonesty," Herbert said.

While at the police station, he was told Butters was filing a complaint. He was later informed that a stalking injunction had been filed and Herbert made the decision to challenge the injunction.

"This case is the first time Mr. Herbert has fought," Herbert's attorney, Scott Card, said. "He's had enough and it's time the truth be told and he took the stand and told that truth."

Herbert testified that he dated Butters' sister "briefly" and "casually" in 2004 while she was on medical release from her mission. He said she told him she wanted to focus on her mission, and he said he was fine with that.

"I had no real, strong inclination or desire to date her at all," he said.

The woman returned to her mission and the two didn't see each other. In July 2005, he said he pulled up alongside her in a parking lot and was trying to joke with her, but the woman remained "stoic." He said he "jostled her shoulders" in an effort to get the woman to loosen up.

"She seemed alarmed," he said. "She wasn't responding to my clownish gesture or humor."

The woman testified earlier that she thought Herbert was choking her. He was charged with simple assault and the case was later dismissed after he entered into a plea in abeyance.

The woman also succeeded in getting a three-year stalking injunction implemented against Herbert. Apparently unbeknownst to Herbert, her sister's name was on the injunction as well.

In the middle of this, Herbert pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, a class B misdemeanor that was amended to an infraction, stemming from an incident at a Nordstrom department store where witnesses said they saw him fondling himself while staring at a Nordstrom employee.

Herbert adamantly denied these allegations and said he only ran from officers in the mall and pleaded no contest to the charges because he wanted to stay out of jail and, he hoped, media reports.

"I was scared," he said of why he ran. "I was in the middle of a political campaign, and I was my Dad's son and campaign manager, and I felt like I was being set up. I was in a bad situation and my instinct was to get out of it."

Card said this incident was crucial and would later become the "poisonous tree" that would taint Herbert's reputation.

"All of a sudden Mr. Herbert became a monster," Card said. "He becomes sick. He becomes perverted. So this is the image in (Butters and her sister's) mind when they see him. He's a sicko stalker."

Butters took the stand last week and recounted, often tearfully, her numerous run-ins with Herbert that left her crying, scared and mortified. She said she feels like he is "raping (her) with his eyes" when he looks at her and said that he had circled her vehicle both on foot and in his car, chased her from a library and consistently leers at her.

In arguments before the judge, Butters' attorney, Stephen Quesenberry pointed out that while Butters' had a number of neutral witnesses to corroborate her stories, Herbert didn't have any. He said Herbert tries to dismiss numerous allegations that have led to him being banned periodically from Utah Valley University, BYU and the University Mall as "misunderstandings."

"He's repeatedly in these kinds of situations," Quesenberry said. "It's hard to believe it's all just a mistake."

Quesenberry noted that the alleged stalking incidents started after the previous injunction ran out and escalated in their boldness. He asked that Taylor even go so far as to make the typically three-year injunction a permanent one.

"I don't understand why the court doesn't make this permanent," he said. "Barring this man from even coming close to my client ever again."


Story compiled with contributions from Sam Penrod and Emiley Morgan.

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