FARMINGTON -- A 17-year-old girl testified it was the announcement that 19-year-old women can serve missions for the LDS Church that helped her get out of a sexual relationship with the man who was her former science teacher and basketball coach.
The girl, who is not being named because the Standard-Examiner has a policy of not identifying victims of sexual crimes, was the only witness who testified in a 90-minute preliminary hearing for Stephen Paul Niedzwiecki, 33, of Kaysville, in 2nd District Court on Tuesday.
"He said if I tell anyone, my life would be over," the girl said. "He said no one would want me."
But when she heard President Thomas Monson announce during General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that women age 19 and older can serve missions, she decided "that was my out," the girl testified.
She then texted Niedzwiecki and told them she did not want to see him anymore.
She went on to say she had felt trapped in the relationship from the first time Niedzwiecki kissed her, on May 30, 2011, at the end of her ninth-grade year when she was 15.
Judge Michael Allphin ruled there was enough evidence to bind the case over for trial. Niedzwiecki is charged with eight counts of forcible sodomy, one count of attempted rape, all first-
degree felonies; and two counts of forcible sexual abuse, second-degree felonies.
A felony arraignment hearing is set for June 3.
Niedzwiecki had been a basketball coach and taught at Jefferson Academy in Kaysville, where the girl attended school and played on the basketball team. He also tutored her in the summer of 2011, police said.
At the time of his arrest, Niedzwiecki was teaching at Quest Academy and was also an adjunct anthropology professor at Weber State University. He is no longer teaching at either facility, officials said.
Niedzwiecki's attorney, Cara Tangaro, argued that her client should not be charged with first-degree felonies because he was not the girl's teacher or basketball coach when the sexual relationship started.
Before the girl took the stand, Allphin had everyone, except the attorneys' staff and media, clear from the courtroom. The girls' parents, her family members and friends had to wait in the hallway for the hearing to finish.
Deputy Davis County Attorney Cristina Ortega said after the hearing that the girls' parents, family members or friends potentially could be called as witnesses if a trial is set.
The girl's attorney, Heidi Nestel, was allowed to stay in the courtroom.
The girl testified that Niedzwiecki treated her differently from other students. He gave her extra credit and would stay after school to help her with assignments. He also sent her emails.The emails at first were about her assignments, but they gradually became more personal. Niedzwiecki even asked her opinion about his relationship with his wife, whom he later divorced. He also told the girl in March -- about the time of her 15th birthday -- that he did not think of her as a student.
The girl testified she would go with Niedzwiecki to his home with her parents' knowledge on the pretext of getting help on a research project, helping him clean or shop. They were unaware anything inappropriate was going on between the two. Niedzwiecki did ask her parents' permission to date her a few months before her 16th birthday, she said. But they said no, the girl said.
The girl said she consented to allowing him to perform sex acts because, "If he didn't get as much sex as he wanted, he would withdraw his love, and that hurt."
She testified she felt worthless when he was angry with her.
Kathy Carter, a spokeswoman for the family of the 17-year-old girl, said after the hearing that, when Niedzwiecki was charged in December, "we were devastated and completely shocked. He was part of the family. We felt so betrayed."
She said the girl decided to tell what actually happened in her relationship with Niedzwiecki after she saw he was in contact on Facebook with another young girl.
"She decided it needed to stop with her," Carter said.
Carter said all parents should be extremely cautious when a person who is a coach or teacher shows interest in their children. She said:
"Be so very aware of who your loved ones are associating with."