Thursday, October 25, 2012

In The Cabin

I can see the beehive awaken at the assignment desk, as the 10 PM producer, the assignment editor, and the executive producer, begin to buzz and weave.  "The Desk," as it is known, is similar to NASA's mission control.  Everything goes through it.   Assignment editors listen police scanners farm the fax machine and email, and field calls from viewers.
Greg Peterson with Senator Mike Lee
Just 15 minutes before the 6 PM newscast, someone anonymously calls to say Greg Peterson, a well-known political activist and fundraiser has killed himself.

Peterson is a successful financial planner, with ties to many top Utah lawmakers, as evidenced by the chummy video he shot and narrated of freshman Senator Mike Lee, waking golf balls into the grassy abyss of acreage owned by Peterson in Heber, Utah.

Despite efforts by some politicians to downplay his importance, Peterson $400,000 cabin in Heber was a frequent stop for seekers of higher office looking to raise quick cash.  Pictures show a proud Peterson, microphone in hand, lording over dozens of campaign donors, perched high above them on his elevated porch, speaking confidently about politics, politicians, and power.
Peterson speaks to donors at his Heber cabin

Peterson also counts Mitt Romney as a "friend," and with money influence, and infinite confidence, the smiling power broker is living the proverbial "Life of Riley,"

That "life," begins to unravel, as one woman after another accuses Peterson of raping and sexually assaulting them, often in the same cabin in which he has been raising money for politicians.

In his mugshot taken after his arrest, Peterson wears a smirk swelling with the confidence of a man whose Rolodex is bulging with Utah's power players.  Minutes after he is booked, those power players,   one by one, step quickly away from the man who had helped them raise thousands of dollars for their political campaigns.

Peterson spent months in the Salt Lake County Jail, awaiting his trial, and finally managed to bail out last Friday.

"We're hearing Peterson killed himself," the 10 PM producer utters to me breathless, as she turns and barrels to her desk.  That means "start making calls," which I do.

"Hello," Cara Tangaro breaths wearily into her cell phone, Tangaro, is Peterson's tough, outspoken attorney.  "This is Chris Jones from 2 News, Cara how are you?"  I say urgently, "I've been better," she answers, "we'll be issuing  a statement soon," she interjects without allowing a question.  

She thinks I know that Peterson has taken his own life, but all I have is an anonymous tip, and with 10 minutes to airtime, I need to hear the words from her mouth, before we can report anything.  "So is Greg dead?" I ask bluntly.  Not wanting to be the person who confirms the sad news,  she back tracks, "I can't say anything about that."  She sternly bucks up and walks away from her previous comments.  "Was his body found in his cabin?  That is what we are hearing,"  I press.  "I can't confirm or deny that," she says briskly. "When will you issue the statement?" I ask..."hello"...silence...she's hung up, I am likely the first media call she's received and doesn't want to have her name attached to confirming her clients death.

While I talk to Tangaro, assignment editor Mehul Asher is doing the same with the Wasatch County Sheriff, and fellow reporter Kristina Flores is trying to get in contact with the man who brought many of the rape charges against Peterson, District Attorney Sim Gill, but he  doesn't answer his phone.

I finally contact Gill, who confirms,  that Peterson is dead, and has likely killed himself with a single gunshot to the head.  Suicide, just days after his release from jail.  Found dead in the same cabin that housed his proudest moments, and possibly his darkest, now revealed secrets.

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