Attorneys give closing statements in Moser trial
By Trudy Balcom
RAWLINS — Judge Wade Waldrip opened the proceedings of the third day of the trial of Jonathon Moser with sober instructions to the jury.
The “careful and thoughtful deliberation and sincere effort to work towards a just verdict,” according to law, he said was their task.
“The jury is the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses,” Waldrip said.
In a case where the testimony of the witnesses was the only evidence presented, the credibility of those witnesses became paramount.
Jonathon Moser, 34, is being tried this week on three counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in Carbon County. He faces additional sex abuse charges in Converse County.
Moser was a special education teacher and girls volleyball coach during the 2014-2015 school year at Rawlins Middle School. His alleged victims include former students.
The attorneys for both the prosecution and defense pointed to the witnesses’ credibility in their closing statements.
Carbon County Prosecutor Dawnessa Snyder opened her closing statement with a quote from Nelson Mandela — just as she did with her opening statement: “Teaching is the most powerful weapon to change the world.”
Moser, she said, had abused that power.
“Every chance he had to influence those students, he did, for his own sexual gratification,” Snyder said, noting that some of his alleged victims were special education students.
“How does the state provide proof of sexual gratification? Nine students testified — that shows a pattern of behavior,” she told the jury.
Noting that it was “ironic” how Glenrock and Rawlins were linked in this case, Snyder pointed to the similarities between the testimony of girls who were far apart and knew nothing of each other.
Moser is also facing sex abuse charges in Converse County related to alleged incidents that occurred when he taught at Glenrock High School, after he left Carbon County School District No. 1.
“How would students in Glenrock know about Jonathon Moser’s pattern?” she asked.
As to the credibility of the witnesses, many of whom denied being inappropriately touched by Moser when they were first interviewed, and did not report the alleged incidents, Snyder asked the jurors a question.
“What benefit did any of these girls get by coming into the courtroom? Having to tell your family, strangers, about the most embarrassing, humiliating moment of their lives?”
“The state has presented evidence in every element to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. You should return a guilty verdict,” she concluded.
The defense responds
Cotton called the witnesses liars, just as he did in his opening statement.
“This case is about lies and damn lies,” he repeated.
His closing from then on closely resembled a civics lecture. Using a video monitor to review the law in the case, he reminded the jury at every opportunity that the benefit of any doubt in the case must fall to Moser, according to law.
“Mr. Moser does not have an obligation to convince you,” he explained.
Cotton called the “similar acts” evidence — testimony from alleged victims of his abuse for which he is not being charged — a “smokescreen”
“You may not use this evidence in the consideration of guilt,” Cotton reminded them.
Getting to the credibility issue, Cotton outlined the interview history of the two primary witnesses in the case M.G. and A.C.
The charges Moser is being tried on relate to incidents of alleged abuse perpetrated against these two girls.
Cotton emphasized repeatedly, as he did when cross-examining the witnesses, how many opportunities they had the report Moser to various school and law enforcement officials over the course of a year. But they did not.
He focused on the testimony of A.C., telling the jury that she is not reliable. He reminded the jury that while on the witness stand A.C. denied talking to anyone after she was interviewed by Carbon County Deputy Tom Lakia about Moser in 2015. But in his testimony, Lakia agreed with Cotton’s statement that A.C. “told everyone” at school.
Cotton also pointed to problems in Lakia’s investigation, saying that his interview methods were flawed because he made suggestions to students, during some interviews. Lakia acknowledged breaches of interview protocol while on the witness stand.
Cotton said that Lakia “suggested inappropriate behavior when it wasn’t there.”
“Tell yourself a lie often enough and it becomes the truth,” Cotton said.
Snyder took the stand again for a rebuttal of Cotton’s statement.
“Would it take you awhile to tell someone about the worst day of your life? They told you the details of the worst day of their life,” Snyder added in her final comments to the jury.
“He sees these students as sexual objects. These children have nothing to gain,” she concluded.