GREENFIELD — It all started with a call to 911.
Ryan Nutter, having heard a teen accuse him of sexually assaulting her, told a dispatcher he needed to talk to an officer because he wanted to “get out in front of” the allegations.
A recording of the 911 call was the first thing jurors heard Tuesday morning at the start of the 30-year-old Nutter’s trial in Hancock Circuit Court, where the Greenfield man faces one Class C felony count of child molest.
Prosecutors say Nutter’s words are evidence of his controlling nature; that Nutter sought to slant investigators’ opinions of the victim in hopes it would keep him out of trouble. But Nutter’s defense attorney said his client was simply trying to clear his name and protect himself from the false accusations of a disgruntled teen.
The defendant called police in November 2015, saying he wanted to speak to an officer after seeing text messages on the girl’s cellphone stating he harmed her, court documents state. When officers arrived at Nutter’s home, he denied any inappropriate interactions with the girl, police said.
Nutter was arrested in February and charged with two Class C felony counts of child molest; one of the counts was dismissed prior to trial after investigators determined the incident corresponding to that charge occurred outside of Hancock County, officials said.
A few months after the first report of abuse was made, a second girl came forward alleging Nutter had sexually assaulted her as well. Nutter was arrested a second time and charged with six felony counts of child molest; he will appear before a separate jury on those charges at a later date, officials said.
This week, prosecutors will try to convince jurors that Nutter repeatedly took advantage of the teen girl. Nutter kept the girl from reporting the abuse by monitoring the text messages she exchanged with friends, said Deputy Prosecutor Georgeanna Teipen, who is presenting the state’s case.
Christopher Isom of Greenfield, Nutter’s defense attorney, will attempt to paint the teen as someone who wanted friends’ attention and used lies about Nutter to gain her peers’ sympathy.
The victim took the stand Tuesday afternoon, telling jurors Nutter forced her to touch him inappropriately on several occasions, usually when they were alone together in the garage of Nutter’s Greenfield home and once when they were camping on vacation.
The girl admitted she couldn’t remember exact dates or even how old she was at the time of the incidents, but she told the jury she believed she was in fourth grade when the abuse started, and it lasted until she was in at least seventh grade, she said.
Teipen told jurors in her opening statement that the victim had confided in her young friends about the abuse years before the report to police was made, as early as April 2014. The girl talked with her friends about the abuse in person or through social media messages she knew Nutter wouldn’t see, Teipen said.
But last fall, the girl sent a text message to a friend referencing the allegations, angering Nutter and leading him to involve the police a week later, Teipen said.
“He knew all these years that she had the potential to come forward — and she tried several times,” Teipen said to the jury, “… but he wanted control of the situation, just like he wanted to control (the victim).”
Prosecutors presented hundreds of pages of text messages as evidence Tuesday that showed the conversations the girl had with friends and Nutter, all of which referenced the allegations.
Most of the girl’s testimony Tuesday focused on one message that was sent from the victim’s phone to a friend’s. The message said the girl had lied about the abuse.
The girl said Nutter sent the text on her behalf in an effort to clear his name, but Nutter’s defense team said it was evidence the girl had changed her story.
Isom told jurors the girl was going through break-ups in April 2014 and October 2015 when she told her friends about the abuse, that she only did so to earn their pity. He told the jury even the police officer who took the initial report seemed skeptical about the girl’s story, noting in his report that the victim was smirking and smiling as she related her tale.
Nutter is expected to take the stand Wednesday when trial picks up again at 8:30 a.m. The jury is expected to render a verdict by Wednesday afternoon.
Proceedings are open to the public.