Snyderville Basin man convicted of raping massage client
Merga Jeffrey Kennard, 35, was found guilty of five counts in 3rd District Court
A Snyderville Basin man accused of raping a female client during a professional massage was convicted by a jury on Thursday.
Merga Jeffrey Kennard, 35, was found guilty of five counts in 3rd District Court at Silver Summit stemming from incidents that occurred in April 2021. Kennard was charged with two first-degree felony counts of object rape, two first-degree felony counts of rape and one second-degree felony count of forcible sexual abuse, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said the incident occurred when a woman visited an establishment and received a massage from Kennard. He began massaging the woman after she disrobed and laid down on the table. Then, Kennard began touching the woman. According to court documents, she was shocked and didn’t know what to do. Kennard then raped the woman, prosecutors said.
Jurors on Thursday found Kennard guilty of the most serious crime charged in all five counts, rather than a lesser included offense of that crime.
“We’re disappointed in the verdict, but we appreciate the jury’s time,” said Jarom Bangerter, a court appointed attorney representing Kennard.
Kennard was accused of rape in April 2021 after two women came forward and alleged he sexually assaulted them during separate massages.
Prosecutors said the second woman accused him of touching her genitals without her consent and making comments about her breasts during a massage in March.
At the time, the Summit County Attorney’s Office requested Kennard be held without bail and alleged he would be a substantial danger to others or the community. They also said he would likely flee if released.
Kennard was arrested and appointed a public defender after a 3rd District Court judge found him to be indigent. He pleaded not guilty on June 18 to a second-degree felony count of forcible sexual abuse in the case.
A second-degree felony conviction carries a possible prison term of up to 15 years and a first-degree felony could mean a possible life sentence. Kennard’s sentencing is scheduled for August 1, which is the same day as a pretrial conference for the alleged March assault.
While the governor touted state initiatives, members of the public questioned what Cox is doing to help with issues such as the labor shortage and affordable housing, open space, water and education.
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