PROVO — The girlfriend of a Provo police officer who accused him of putting a gun to her head in October recanted her statement shortly after making it, prosecutors said Monday.
"She was so drunk that whatever statement she made was incorrect," prosecutor Robert Church explained.
Despite the changing story, Mark Allan Petersen, 46, pleaded to reduced charges Monday and was ordered to serve a year of probation.
Petersen, her common law husband, was originally charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a class A misdemeanor, for allegedly twice pointing a gun at his girlfriend and lying about driving his police car while off duty.
On Monday, Petersen pleaded no contest to the class A misdemeanor and to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor.
Church said the Petersen and his girlfriend got into an argument Oct. 17 when the woman found a message and pictures of another woman on Petersen's phone. She left their home in Orem to go to her sister-in-law's house in Provo, according to an affidavit filed in Provo's 4th District Court. When Petersen couldn't find his phone, Church said, he headed over to where his girlfriend was and they restarted the argument.
Initially, the woman told officers that Petersen "took his handgun out, cocked it and pointed it at her head next to her right temple," the affidavit states. After leaving the home and upon getting to his police car in front of the house, Petersen pulled another gun out and pointed it at her, she said.
She later told investigators, however, that Petersen did not display any guns. But another witness said he did display a gun but it was not his service gun and that he only pointed it at the ground.
Prosecutors said they feel confident that Petersen did push his common law wife that night, as she was seen "flying across the room and hitting a shelf" and he was the only one in close proximity to her. Church said there was a lot of discussion about reducing the charges.
"It was a big drop, and we didn't take it lightly," he said.
The other charge of driving his police vehicle while off duty and then lying about it to investigators remains.
Judge Claudia Laycock sentenced him to a 30-day work-division program with the Utah County Jail. He will also be required to set up an appointment with the Division of Child and Family Services, where Laycock said he needs to get an evaluation and follow the counselor's recommendations. Additionally, he will be on probation for one year.
"I am not going to preach at you, Mr. Peterson," Laycock said. "You know as well as the rest of us what this has done to you and your career."
Petersen's attorney, Mike Petro, said that while his client is on disciplinary leave, the city has not yet decided what disciplinary action to take. He said shortly after his charge, Petersen did send the mayor a letter of resignation. And Petro said he thinks the mayor was going to wait to see what happened in court.
After the sentencing on Monday, Petersen's girlfriend asked that the no-contact order be lifted, and she was seen hugging and kissing Petersen after the court hearing was over.
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