Cases dismissed against New York City couple accused of sexually assaulting woman
Couple faced felony rape and sexual assault charges
Summit County prosecutors dismissed on Thursday charges against a New York City couple accused of sexually assaulting a woman at their Park City hotel during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, less than a week before the trial was set to begin.
Anne M. Hardcastle and Michael Taylor were charged with object rape, a first-degree felony, and forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. Hardcastle, 27, also faced an additional felony charge of forcible sodomy. They faced a potential sentence of five years to life in prison if convicted of a first-degree felony.
The state prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss all charges against Hardcastle and Taylor,45, “in light of evidentiary issues that have arisen in the case,” according to a press release from the Summit County Attorney’s Office. It stated prosecutors did not believe there was a “reasonable likelihood” of conviction if the cases were to proceed to trial.
Ken Brown, a Salt Lake attorney representing Taylor, said his client has always maintained his innocence.
“We have said all along that this encounter was consensual,” Brown said. “I think there were some credibility issues involving some of the witnesses and I think the prosecutors realized that and, in fairness, looked at it objectively and concluded that they couldn’t prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Brown said Taylor is now left with attempting to reconstruct his life, having lost his job when charges were filed.
“At the end of the day, he is not guilty of these charges, but he is left with having to piece his life back together and he is somewhat emotionally frustrated about that,” Brown said. “He is happy, but just frustrated he had to go through the process.”
Tara Isaacson, Hardcastle’s attorney, said in an emailed statement to The Park Record, “we appreciate that the state was willing to take another look at the case and make the decision to dismiss.”
“From the beginning, we have taken the position that this was a consensual encounter,” Isaacson wrote.
On Jan. 26, 2016, a Park City police officer was dispatched to Park City Hospital to meet with an alleged sexual assault victim, a Utah 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 scratches, bruises and bite marks.
The accuser told the police officer she went to a Main Street bar the night before to listen to a band with some friends, documents state. She claimed Hardcastle and Taylor approached her while she was at the bar and bought a round of tequila shots before they invited her to an after-party, documents state.
On the way to the party, the couple and the accuser 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 accuser 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 Hardcastle and ordered an Uber driver to pick her up.
After the encounter, the woman claims Hardcastle communicated with her on Instagram for more than six months. Prosecutors had said the correspondences would play a primary role during the trial.
Arrest warrants were issued for the couple on Sept. 9 and they were held in jail without bail in New York City until they waived extradition. Hardcastle and Taylor were released from the Summit County Jail on Sept. 22 after they each posted $20,000 cash-only bail.
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.