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WEST JORDAN — They were best friends in junior high who spent much of their time at a neighbor's house in the mid-1980s.
They didn't know until last year that he had abused them both repeatedly in his Sandy home.
That was the testimony Monday of two men whose decades-old reports of misconduct led to criminal charges against their former neighbor, a longtime youth orchestra leader.
After hearing their separate accounts, 3rd District Judge Dianna Gibson ruled there is enough evidence for Brent E. Taylor, 71, to stand trial on two counts of sodomy upon a child, a first-degree felony, and two counts of sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony.
"Honestly, my thought is other kids. If it'll help somebody else, if it'll stop him from hurting somebody else, fine," one of the men, Scott, said after the hearing.
"This wasn't my fault," he continued. "I don't have to hold on to this burden of shame anymore."
Taylor, who retired in June 2017 after more than four decades with the Utah Valley Youth Symphony, faces another criminal count in Utah County where prosecutors say he engaged in sexual behavior with a then-teenage musician from 2002-06.
Each charge follows a 2018 Deseret News report detailing allegations of misconduct against Taylor from six different men, including the two who testified Monday.
Over the course of his career, some 3,000 to 5,000 students played in the symphony, Taylor's former attorney has said. The organization's leaders have previously told the Deseret News they condemn sexual misconduct and hadn't heard any such accounts firsthand.
On Monday, Scott and his childhood neighbor Jeff — who later worked for Taylor on a symphony work crew — identified Taylor as their abuser. Sporting a black suit and red tie, Taylor did not speak at Monday's preliminary hearing and declined comment afterward.
His attorney, Cara Tangaro, asked the judge to enter pleas of not guilty on her client's behalf.
"He maintains his innocence," Tangaro said. Her client has worn a court-ordered ankle monitor at his home in Denver and as he commutes to Utah for court appearances.
The Deseret News does not typically identify those who come forward as victims of sexual abuse, but Scott and Jeff agreed to use their first names. On Monday, they testified separately that at first, Taylor gave them back rubs and messages.
"From there, it blossomed," Scott said. Both men said the physical contact eventually progressed into Taylor touching their genitals and performing oral sex on them.
Scott told police that Taylor, his Sunday school teacher for a time, began abusing him when he was 12 or 13 years old and continued "over the course of a couple years." Taylor introduced him to pornography, encouraging him to walk around or watch television naked, charges say, and Scott "felt he and Taylor were in a relationship."
Scott first got to know Taylor through Jeff and would hang out at Taylor's home while his friend worked in the yard, he recalled.
Jeff, a former employee of the symphony, said he began mowing Taylor's lawn as a child after Taylor moved in across the street. He estimated their sexual encounters happened weekly from the time he was 13 to 18 years old, but couldn't recall exactly when they began. They had happened multiple times, however, before he became an Eagle Scout the spring following his 14th birthday, he testified. He was born in late December.
Jeff recalled a time when he said Taylor touched him sexually in a motor home parked in Taylor's driveway. Scott was present, but Jeff didn't believe his friend saw what happened.
"I assumed was either half asleep or half awake," Jeff said. Scott also testified he did not believe Jeff ever spotted Taylor touching him.
Though close as children, the friends fell out of touch and hadn't spoken in a decade until their accounts were published in the Deseret News, Jeff added.
Police first took Jeff's report in 2005 and calculated that the statute of limitations had timed out, but prosecutors reviewed the case anew and filed charges in December.
Taylor's defense homed in on the timeline, noting Jeff would have to be 13 or younger in order for Utah's child abuse laws to apply and for the clock to remain ticking on the statute of limitation.
He "cannot narrow down his age, and that's a very significant piece of this case," Tangaro said.
"I take your argument that it gets a little bit murky between 13 and 14," Gibson replied. Even so, there's probable cause for Taylor to stand trial, she said.
Jeff said after the hearing that telling his story has been liberating.
"The reality is that it happened and they're going to fight the statute of limitations, and we're just going to present the truth," he said.
In Utah County, the former teen musician came forward in April 2018, disclosing that other youth musicians "were involved in these sexual activities sometimes," court documents say. Taylor is next due in court June 10 to answer the charge of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony.