Glenrock students testify on opening day of Moser trial
Editor’s Note: The minor witnesses in our reporting of this trial will only be identified by their initials to protect their privacy. Readers may find their testimony disturbing; it is sexually explicit.
By Trudy Balcom
RAWLINS — The trial of Jonathon Moser on four counts of sexual abuse of a minor opened Tuesday morning at the Carbon County Courthouse.
Moser is charged with three counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
Moser is a former special education teacher and assistant girls volleyball coach at Rawlins Middle School. His alleged victims include former students.
Prosecutor Dawnessa Snyder and defense attorney Timothy Cotton worked to identify and eliminate jurors who might have a conflict of interest or a bias that would affect their ability to perform as an impartial juror.
60 people from across the county were called as potential jurors.
“This is a sensitive case that involves a sensitive topic — sexual abuse,” Snyder said.
Snyder asked jurors about their relationships to witnesses in the case, and any personal experiences or strong feelings that might create a conflict for them personally. She also asked them if they had a problem with young people as witnesses, or the fact that the case may not involve direct physical evidence.
Some jurors openly discussed their potential conflicts in the courtroom and some were excused. A handful, some who have had some kind of personal experience related to sexual assault, requested to speak privately in chambers to the attorneys and Carbon County District Court Judge Wade Waldrip.
“We are looking for jurors that will be a good fit for this case,” Cotton said.
“When you came in here and you heard what the charges were, how many of you struggled with it?” Cotton asked. A few hands went up.
Cotton seemed to want to prepare the jury for what is likely to be difficult testimony.
Cotton said that sometimes he might have to “get after” witnesses, even if they are young girls.
“Who here wants to hear from Mr. Moser?” Cotton asked. Again, some hands were raised.
Cotton advised that even if Moser does not testify, the jury couldn’t use that against him.
Snyder also reminded the jury that the state bears the burden of proof in the case and Moser does not have to prove anything.
“In a criminal trial, we have the highest standard, I, we, the State of Wyoming, has to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.
Witnesses from Glenrock
Opening statements from both the prosecution and defense were relatively brief. Once complete, three students from Glenrock High School, in Converse County where Moser faces similar charges, opened testimony in the afternoon.
A clothed female mannequin was placed at the front of the courtroom.
Snyder gave a preliminary overview of some of the information witnesses would share. She also reminded the jury of the special duty of teachers.
“Teachers have a position of responsibility and trust,” she said.
Cotton told the jury what they would hear from the witnesses included “…lies and damn lies.” He told the jury that the case was about two girls.
“The state will try to muddy up the water. They have to prove their case on two girls,” he added.
Three alleged student victims from Glenrock High School — all girls — testified against Moser. Their testimony bore some similarities.
Two of them told the jury that they were in a teacher’s classroom near Moser’s and they were either in detention or getting some extra help with a test. Moser, they said, stepped in to supervise when their regular teacher had a reason to leave the classroom.
One student testified that she was walking past Moser’s classroom when he pulled her inside.
All the girls testified that Moser caught them alone.
J.B. told the jury that Moser waited for her in the recessed doorway of his classroom and yanked her toward him as she walked by, then pulled her inside the classroom.
“(He)…started kissing me, French kissing me, right in front of his door, then he just kind of took me in his classroom, then he pulled me to the side where the counter was…he started to dry hump me and touch my boobs,” J.B. said.
While J.B. remained calm during her testimony, the next witness, C.S., was tearful, but spoke forcefully, telling the jury he sat next to her while after her regular teacher left to use the restroom.
“That’s when he touched my leg, for about 20 seconds, he touched my crotch,” C.S. said, visibly breaking into tears as she recalled the alleged event.
C.S. said she told him to stop.
“He gave me a dirty glare and walked out,” she said.
The final student testimony was given by B.P. She told the class that Moser stopped by the special education classroom where B.P. was taking a test and asked her teacher if she needed help. The teacher stepped out and asked Moser to look after the classroom.
Moser sat down close next to B.P. and asked her if she needed help with her test, then touched her leg sliding his hand under her skirt to her crotch, B.P. said.
She told the jury she got up to get away from him, but he followed her.
“He pinned me against the counter…he inserted his finger into my vagina,” the tearful girl said.
None of the girls immediately told a teacher or parent.
Cotton briefly cross-examined the girls, asking each of them why they didn’t tell someone.
Each said they were scared.
“I was scared no one would believe me. They always take a teacher’s word over a student’s word,” she said.
“I didn’t feel comfortable to tell anyone. The only one I told was my counselor, and I didn’t know she reported it,” B.P. said, noting she didn’t even tell police the whole story.
The prosecution plans to call an additional eight witnesses on Wednesday.