Jury: Weston not guilty of sexual assault
Still facing charges of attempting to sexually exploit children
EVANSTON — An Evanston man was found not guilty in Third District Court on Wednesday, April 4, on charges of sexual assault relating to an incident that occurred in February 2017.
Sean Wayne Weston faced charges of inflicting sexual intrusion upon someone who he knew or should have known had a mental illness, deficiency or developmental disability such that she did not understand her actions, and of using his position of influence and authority as her personal trainer to cause her to submit to sexual acts.
A jury of seven men and five women found Weston not guilty in the case that centered on Weston’s involvement with a female client who had hired him as a personal trainer. The woman had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, which left her with a significant learning disability.
Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson argued in court that the woman’s learning disability prevented her from fully comprehending her actions, that Weston should have known she was incapable of comprehension and, further, that Weston’s position as her personal fitness trainer, or teacher, enabled him to exert such influence on the woman that she submitted to his sexual overtures.
However, defense attorney Elisabeth Trefonas argued it was a case of consensual sexual acts between adults, that the woman in this case did possess the capability to understand her actions, that Weston had no knowledge of her learning disability, and that a relationship between a personal trainer and a client did not create a position of sufficient influence to cause someone to engage in unwanted sexual acts.
The state’s case was based on testimony of both the woman involved and Uinta County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Andy Kopp, as well as multiple pages of Facebook messages between the woman and Weston over a several-week period in early 2017.
The woman testified she solicited Weston’s personal trainer services through Facebook messaging after seeing an ad he had posted. The two first met at the Evanston McDonald’s to discuss details of training and pricing. The woman had limited income, so an agreement was reached that she would pay Weston $125 for five sessions, with a sixth session free and an option to arrange for more sessions at a later time.
Facebook messages between the two documented flirtation, including sexual talk, beginning almost immediately following the first training session. The woman told Weston in the messages that she had never engaged in sexual activity and she planned on saving herself for marriage. At one point, she even told him she had gotten back together with her ex-boyfriend in an effort to explain why she didn’t want to engage in sexual activity with Weston.
However, she said in court she enjoyed the flirting and attention from Weston because she had never gotten much attention from men. Facebook messages also included photos the woman had sent to Weston of herself in lingerie-type outfits. She further said she didn’t confront him about the sexual talk, even though it made her uncomfortable, because she didn’t want to lose the money she had already paid him for the training sessions and didn’t want those sessions to be awkward.
The flirtation continued until the night of Feb. 10, 2017, when the woman performed oral sex on Weston in her car in the upper parking lot at the Evanston Recreation Center. Although the woman testified that Weston had initiated the sexual contact and instructed her on what to do since she had never done anything like that before, Weston, who waived his right to remain silent and chose to testify in his own defense, said the encounter was mutual, but that they both felt badly afterward — she because she wanted to save herself for marriage and he because he had a girlfriend at the time.
The woman visited a doctor shortly after the incident because she was concerned about sexually transmitted diseases; she also confided in a friend. It was that friend who alerted law enforcement.
While the state’s case attempted to show the woman had a disability that had required her enrollment in special education classes and impaired her comprehension, the defense pointed out the woman had actually graduated high school, had a job, lived on her own and was able to negotiate the training sessions and pricing, and was therefore fully capable of understanding her own actions. Further, Weston testified that he had no idea the woman had suffered any kind of brain injury and had no knowledge of her enrollment in special education classes.
Ultimately, after a deliberation of slightly more than two hours, the jury returned with a not guilty verdict on both charges.
Weston’s legal troubles are far from over, though, as investigators said inspection of his Facebook and phone records in this case revealed additional messages with other individuals. Weston faces two separate charges of attempted sexual exploitation of a child stemming from his alleged interactions with two teenage girls, with a pretrial conference set for April 10.