Utahn says judge raped her while prosecuting 1981 murder trial in which she was key witness

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal Judge with Utah ties retired Wednesday after being named in a civil lawsuit alleging that he repeatedly raped a Utah teenager 35 years ago while she was a witness in a trial he was prosecuting.

The judge, Richard Warren Roberts, was a lawyer at the time. The alleged victim, Terry Mitchell, was the key witnesses in the murder trial of a serial killer Roberts was prosecuting.

“This has been more difficult than anybody can imagine for Terry Mitchell,” said Mitchell’s attorney, Rocky Anderson.

In 1980, Mitchell saw two black friends get shot and killed at Liberty Park. Joseph Paul Franklin was charged with the murders. During that time, Roberts, who was 27, was the federal prosecutor in the case, while Mitchell, who was 16, was the key witness.

According to the Utah Attorney General's report:

"Mr. Roberts did indeed engage in sexual relations with Ms. Jackson-Mitchell on multiple occasions under the guise of 'witness preparation.'"

“Confused, vulnerable, frightened, and then she is forced into sex,” Anderson added. “And he tells her that you can’t tell anybody because if you do, there will be a mistrial and Joseph Paul Franklin will walk free. She knows he’ll kill again.”

So for more than three decades, Mitchell kept silent. Then in 2013, Franklin was executed. Roberts began contacting Mitchell, and she recorded a phone conversation between them. Mitchell gave that recording to the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

“Judge Roberts admits that the relationship occurs, he disagrees with Terry on the timing of it, but he does admit that it happened during the federal trial,” said Chief Deputy Spencer Austin of the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

The Utah Attorney General's office says at the time of the alleged crimes it was only considered a class b misdemeanor. The law doesn’t allow people to be extradited for misdemeanor offenses, and Roberts was the U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia.

“The decision was made not to file any criminal charges, but that did not end the inquiry, we felt that we had ethical and administrative obligations to report the conduct as we saw it,” Anderson said.

Roberts could still pay in other ways. Mitchell is seeking $15 million in damages in the civil suit against him.

“She just wants justice, she wants accountability,” Anderson said. “But she doesn’t want a perpetrator like this to ever get away with it again.”

Mitchell remains a Utah resident, where she works as a real-estate agent.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee oversees federal judges. Chairman Jason Chaffetz issued this statement.

“Our initial review of the allegations has caused alarm and distress over their serious nature...We will work with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to determine next best steps to ensure justice is served.”


  • bob

    Can you imagine the can of worms this will open up? Every case he’s been involved with for 40 years is on the table again.

    You KNOW what he was thinking: “The little s**t is into black guys. Who’s going to believe her?”

    But I look at it this way: She just watched her friends brutally murdered, AND she’s into black guys…..so why would she enter a consentual relationship with a WHITE lawyer when she’s just been through that kind of trauma? Obviously she was coerced. Duh.

    If it was consentual it was barely even a crime, by Utah standards. Did you know that you can have sex with a 16 or 17 year old in Utah as long as you aren’t more than TEN YEARS older than them? He was 11 years older. Even today that’s barely even a misdemeanor in Utah. Kind of makes you proud, doesn’t it.

    • bob

      Oh, wait…..he IS black. Sort of.

      So what he was thinking was “Goody, a little white girl who is into black guys! My lucky day!”

      Disgusting. Typical predator. Anybody want to lay odds he’s got a long string of victims behind him?

    • Boo

      Was is necessary and relevant for Fox13 to mention her friends as “black”? Might as well go back over to KSL. Sigh.

      • laytonian

        Joseph Paul Franklin targeted blacks who were with whites.
        So yeah…it IS part of the case. If you’ve never heard of Franklin, maybe you should learn.

  • west Martin

    Bob it seem you were part of black killers since you were 7yrs old that time.it is part of a merican culture to tell the truth and I am sorry for this poor lady why it take her that long to come up now ?We see her as a another bill Cosby accuser and if I were the judge I could dismiss her case and any case that is longer then 10yrs. I can see from look she need money,money.

    • Jim Beck

      So… you didn’t pay attention to the report, huh? She didn’t come forward for so long because she didn’t want to cause a mistrial, which would’ve set a serial killer free. It looks like you could use some money for a little reading/listening comprehension.


        “she didn’t come forward for so long because she didn’t want to cause a mistrial ….”?? After 35 years I guess the time is right.

    • Karma

      Your an idiot … If it was about money then why would she not have done this long ago … Read the original story before you run your mouth … And FYI.. Terry is financially secure in her own right … Educate yourself so you don’t look so stupid


        Waiting 35 years to come forward permitted this judge to continue his criminal behavior with other victims. Always nice to “keep silent”.

  • Boo

    At age 16, she knew what she was doing. Perfect timing…real estate is slumping, again. Also, this judge is a total creep and disgrace to the Bench. What a dirt bag. Liberty park seems to attract the most unsavory characters. Seems like a mess, all the way around.

    • Jim Beck

      You’re a jackass. By the time she was 16, she had been abused multiple times… and was told that if she said anything, a killer would go free. You’re just as bad as the judge, and would probably have no problem taking advantage of a little girl.

      • Karma

        Jim I appreciate your comments… I am the other “white” girl with her when Franklin murdered our friends… I was there front and center when this was happening…. We were children…. Roberts was scary … She’s a survivor !!! We both are !!!


        Terry kept her mouth shut and denied Joseph Paul Franklin a fair trail. Nothing to be proud of Karma.

    • Karma

      I agree !!! Your a jackass .. The reason she filed a civil suit is because no criminal charges were going to be filed and this creep needs to be held accountable … I know this because I was the other “white” girl with her when Franklin murdered our friends.. We were children when this happened… Asshat


        Always nice to hold someone accountable after 35 years. Were there any other victims that Terry enabled the perpetrator to victimize? Well at least she didn’t wait 50 years.

  • A Harris

    Rape is not the description of a relationship.
    More people knew of the situation and should share the crime.

    • Karma

      Really ?? I knew about it but I was 16 years old too and Roberts scared us both …. U can’t speak unless u suffered it jerk

  • Larry Hazard

    Just one more reason to have capital punishment for murderers. This story would have never come to light without Mitchell being put to death. How many more stories are not being told because of fear of retribution from a killer who could be set free for any number of reasons.

    • Karma

      Are you serious you fricken jerk ?? YOU and people like you are what’s wrong with America… None of this would have happened to Terry Mitchell if it weren’t for some dumb ass white jerk ( like you) that murdered our friends


        Your potty mouth describes the kind of person you are. And no, potty mouths don’t impress decent people.


        I don’t know anything about Terry but Karma is about as refined as your typical garden variety junk dealer.


    Do Terry a favor and keep your mouth shut. You’re not doing her any favors, and your desire to jump on her bandwagon is disgusting. There is nothing honorable in Terry keeping her mouth shut 35 years. It doesn’t speak highly of her and now you want your day in the lime light.


    I see that Terry got Ross Anderson, a liberal’s liberal, as her attorney. That can only mean one thing ….. MONEY!!!!


    Terry Mitchell is seeking $15 million in damages in the civil suit against him. I’m sure money is not her motive.

  • Chris M

    Looks like a nice looking woman.
    Frankly, it would have been difficult not to if she had given him the come on… Who knows..
    There, but for the grace of god go I

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.