WEST JORDAN — A judge has declined to dismiss a set of criminal charges against a former youth symphony orchestra director accused of decades-old sexual misconduct with teenage boys.
Third District Judge Kristine Johnson ruled late Monday that prosecutors in Salt Lake County have met their burden of proof, a preponderance of the evidence, at the early stage in the case against Brent E. Taylor, a former longtime director of the Utah Valley Youth Symphony.
Attorneys have focused their attention on the nitty-gritty of Utah’s statutes of limitation and whether they provide Taylor a defense to allegations from a former teenage employee who worked for him in the 1980s.
No one disputes that the charges will hold up only if the boy was legally a child — age 13 or younger — at the time the alleged sexual abuse began. While the defense says the evidence fails to prove his age, prosecutors contend it strongly suggests he was not yet 14 years old.
Taylor, 72, has been ordered to stand trial in separate cases in both Salt Lake and Utah counties. Prosecutors allege he inappropriately touched three boys at separate times during his roughly 40-year tenure with the youth symphony, during which thousands of students played in the orchestra.
The victims of the alleged crimes in Salt Lake County, Jeff and Scott, were childhood friends who lived in Taylor’s Sandy neighborhood. They have agreed to be identified by their first names.
Taylor has pleaded not guilty to two charges of sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony. Scott’s allegation was not a part of the timeline debate because he was younger, either 12 or 13 years old, at the time of the alleged abuse.
The criminal charges follow a 2018 Deseret News report detailing allegations of misconduct from six different men, including Jeff and Scott. The orchestra said it does not tolerate sexual abuse and encourages anyone with knowledge of misconduct to inform authorities.
Last year, Scott and Jeff testified separately that Taylor gave them back rubs and massages before the physical contact eventually progressed into Taylor touching their genitals and performing oral sex.
Scott said he felt he and Taylor, his Sunday School teacher for a time, were in a relationship. Jeff testified that he began mowing Taylor’s lawn as a child before joining a symphony work crew that sorted music and set up for performances.
Jeff said Tuesday he believes the case is strong and although it is moving slowly in court, he has faith in the judicial system.
“The value in this to me is that other people have been able to find closure,” he said. “It’s something that I wasn’t able to address earlier in my life. And if I had, maybe there wouldn’t be as many victims as there are. Coming forward has allowed me to find some closure in that.”
The value in this to me is that other people have been able to find closure.
Defense attorney Cara Tangaro emphasized in a June 29 hearing supporting her motion to dismiss that Jeff previously testified he could not be sure how old he was when the sex acts occurred.
Prosecutor Brett Keeler countered that according to Jeff’s testimony, the incidents happened several times before he became an Eagle Scout in the springtime following his 14th birthday in winter, and were “very much involved” at the time he was awarded the badge.
Tangaro pointed out the abuse could have begun after Jeff’s birthday and before the Eagle Scout ceremony. She did not return a message Tuesday but has previously maintained her client’s innocence.
Taylor appeared over video in a jacket and tie from his home in Colorado, where he was ordered to wear a court-ordered ankle monitor ahead of trial.
In her Monday order, the judge found the state made a “sufficient showing” that the incidents occurred before Jeff was 14, under the standard of a preponderance of the evidence, meaning more likely than not.
But Johnson noted the finding could change under a higher standard of evidence at trial. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the the threshold for a criminal conviction.
In Utah County, a former teen musician came forward in April 2018 as a victim of Taylor from 2002-2006, disclosing that other youth musicians “were involved in these sexual activities sometimes,” court documents say. Taylor was ordered to stand trial there on a charge of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony, in American Fork’s 4th District Court.
The court order comes amid a renewed debate over statutes of limitation after the Utah Supreme Court threw out a 2016 state law allowing new lawsuits over decades-old abuse. Critics of the decision, including many who said they survived childhood sexual abuse, have called for a ballot measure allowing voters to bring back the law.