Case against New York couple accused of sexual assault will go to trial
The couple allegedly assaulted a Utah woman during last year’s Sundance Film Festival
January 20, 2017
A 3rd District Court judge last week ordered a New York couple to stand trial on sexual assault charges in connection with an incident involving a Utah woman at their Park City hotel during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Anne M. Hardcastle and Michael Taylor are each facing one count of object rape and forcible sodomy, both first-degree felonies, and forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. A first-degree felony, the most serious charge, carries a potential sentence of five years to life in prison upon conviction.
On Friday, Jan. 13, Judge Kara Pettit determined that there was enough probable cause against the defendants to bind the case over for trial on all three charges. Hardcastle and Taylor are scheduled to appear for arraignment before Judge Paige Petersen in Summit County's 3rd District Court at 8:30 a.m. on March 6.
"I am satisfied and pleased with the judge's decision to bind the case over," said Joy Natale, a Summit County prosecutor.
On Jan. 26, 2016, a Park City police officer was dispatched to Park City Hospital to meet with the alleged sexual assault victim, described as a woman in her early 20s. According to court documents, the woman appeared to be under the influence of drugs when she arrived at the hospital. She was also reportedly covered in more than 20 injuries, including scratches, bruises, and suction and bite marks.
The victim told the police officer she went to a Main Street bar the night before to listen to a band with some friends, documents state. Hardcastle and Taylor, who were in town for the Sundance Film Festival, allegedly approached the victim while she was at the bar and bought a round of tequila shots before they invited her to a nearby after-party.
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On the way to the party, the couple and the victim stopped at the couple's Park City hotel, documents state. The victim alleges Hardcastle and Taylor then gave her more alcohol and a drug she presumed to be ecstasy when they were in the hotel room.
In the court filing, the victim said the couple began suggesting they all have sex, but then claimed "everything went black" shortly after she had texted a friend for a ride. She said she woke up the next morning in bed with the couple and ordered an Uber driver to pick her up.
After the alleged incident, the women began communicating on Instagram. When the victim asked what caused her to have bruises and scratches on her body, Hardcastle allegedly replied, "You said you liked it rough and so I gave you what you wanted."
A special taskforce arrested Hardcastle and Taylor in New York City in September. They were held in jail without bail for 12 days until they waived extradition. Hardcastle and Taylor were released from the Summit County Jail on Sept. 22 after they each posted a $20,000 cash-only bail. They remain out on bail.
Both Hardcastle and Taylor have retained attorneys from the Salt Lake area to represent them. Tara Isaacson, who has been hired to represent Hardcastle, said in an email to The Park Record, the burden for the prosecution is "very low" at the preliminary hearing, adding "almost all cases are bound over for trial."
"We look forward to presenting the case to a jury," Isaacson stated. "We believe that the evidence will show that this was a consensual encounter."
Ken Brown, Taylor's attorney, echoed Isaacson's statements. He said no plea bargains have been discussed because "we look deeper into it, it becomes even more evident it was absolutely consensual." Taylor said while Hardcastle and Taylor are not married, they remain together.
"We intend to vigorously defend the case and prove it was consensual and we have every belief that we will get a fair trial in Summit County and that's what our intent is," Brown said.
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