Nikola founder Trevor Milton’s cousin alleges he sexually assaulted her after their grandfather’s funeral, when they were teenagers (NKLA)

  • Aubrey Smith, a first cousin of Trevor Milton, the founder of electric-truck maker Nikola, alleges that he sexually assaulted her in 1999. She was 15 at the time and Milton was 17.
  • Through a representative, Milton denied each of Smith’s claims about their interactions before, during, and after the alleged assault.
  • CNBC reported that a former employee of one of Milton’s early companies has also alleged that he sexually assaulted her.
  • “At no point in his life has Mr. Milton ever engaged in any inappropriate physical contact with anyone,” a representative for Milton told Business Insider regarding CNBC’s report.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Nikola‘s founder and former chairman, Trevor Milton, is facing allegations of sexual assault from a family member and a woman who worked for one of his early companies.

Aubrey Smith, a first cousin of Milton, alleges that while giving her a massage, he removed her bra without her consent and groped her. At the time she was 15 and he was 17.

Through a representative, Milton denied each of Smith’s claims about their interactions before, during, and after the alleged assault.

Smith made the allegations public — first reported by The Wall Street Journal — in a series of Twitter posts on September 21, shortly after Milton resigned as Nikola’s chairman and gave up his seat on the board of the company, which recently went public.

Milton’s departure came less than two weeks after a short-seller published a scathing report alleging he had a history of making exaggerations and misrepresenting the electric-truck maker and his earlier companies. Milton and Nikola have denied most of these allegations, calling them “false and misleading.”

Smith told Business Insider that the alleged assault occurred on September 12, 1999, after the funeral of their grandfather, Edward Milton. An obituary in a Utah newspaper confirms that the grandfather in question, Edward Milton, died on September 8 of that year.

The obituary says his funeral was held on September 13, but mentions a September 12 gathering reserved for family and friends. The obituary lists Milton’s father and Smith’s mother as his children.

Smith said she wasn’t close to Milton during her childhood and generally tried to stay away from him. Years before the alleged assault, Milton once repeatedly whipped her face with a wet towel while she was swimming in the pool at his home, she said.

After the funeral service, family members returned to Smith’s uncle’s home, where some of them watched “Driving Miss Daisy” in the bedroom of another cousin. After the other family members left the room, Smith and Milton were alone, and Milton asked if Smith wanted a back massage, saying he had been taking a massage-related class in school, Smith said.

After Smith agreed to the massage, she said, Milton asked her to remove her shirt, saying his teacher always told students to do so.

Smith said that she felt Milton’s tone implied that she’d be “stupid” or a “prude” if she didn’t comply, and she took off her shirt. Milton then asked her to take off her bra, Smith said, adding the girls in his class did the same. While making the request, Milton removed Smith’s bra without her consent, Smith said.

Smith, who grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church, described her upbringing as “sheltered” and said she was not then familiar with the concept of sexual assault. She “froze” during the next few minutes, she said, while Milton groped the front of her body.

“I was absolutely shocked,” Smith said. “My mind could not make sense of what was happening.”

The alleged assault ended when someone knocked on the bedroom door, at which point Smith left the room. Smith said she told her local bishop, Taylor Manning, about the incident a few months later, and that the bishop contacted Milton’s bishop and father. Neither Smith nor Manning reported the alleged assault to law enforcement at the time, Smith said.

“My bishop and my religion were everything to me,” she said. “It never occurred to me to report it to authorities.”

Smith said she reported the alleged assault to the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake on September 26.

Manning and Milton’s father did not respond to a request for comment, and Business Insider could not determine the identity of Milton’s bishop before this story was published. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not respond to an inquiry about Milton’s bishop.

A Unified Police Department representative confirmed to Business Insider that a report was made to the department on September 26 alleging that Trevor Milton sexually assaulted a woman in 1999. The representative said she could not disclose the name of the alleged victim.

In interviews with Business Insider, two people close to Smith said that she had told them about the alleged assault in the months after September 1999. A third person who’s close to Smith said she couldn’t remember exactly when Smith told her about the alleged assault, but said it was about 20 years ago. In a 2017 Facebook post, Smith recalled being assaulted by a male cousin when she was 15, though she did not name Milton.

Four years after the alleged 1999 assault, Smith said she saw Milton at the funeral for his step-mother. There, Milton acted as if he didn’t recognize her, asking what her name was, Smith said. The encounter bothered her, and a few months later she arranged to meet with him to say his behavior upset her. At Smith’s apartment, Smith said, Milton told her he was sorry about his actions during the alleged 1999 assault, but said he felt compelled to offer an apology only because Smith was his cousin.

“If you were anyone other than my cousin, I would tell you to f— off and stop being crazy,” Smith says Milton told her.

A longtime friend of Smith’s told Business Insider she remembered Smith telling her about the incident at the step-mother’s funeral and the encounter in her apartment. A separate friend of Smith’s said she remembered Smith telling her that Milton had once acted as if he didn’t know her name at some point after the alleged 1999 assault, but this friend couldn’t recall any other details Smith may have described about the exchange. Smith appeared to reference the apartment meeting in her 2017 Facebook post.

“When I confronted him years later and he ‘apologized,’ he told me that he wouldn’t even bother apologizing about it to anyone else, that anyone else would be crazy to even bring it up, and he was only apologizing because he was my cousin,” she wrote at the time.

Smith said she has tried to avoid Milton in the years since that meeting. “I’d see him periodically at other family functions,” she said. “And I would leave.”

CNBC reported Monday that a second woman has also accused Milton of sexual assault.

The woman, whose name was withheld from CNBC’s report and a news release issued by her attorney, told CNBC that the alleged assault occurred in 2004, when she was 15 and Milton was 22.

At the time, the woman was reportedly working as an office assistant for one of Milton’s early companies, St. George Security & Alarms.

The woman alleges that Milton groped her and penetrated her digitally one evening at the St. George Security & Alarms office, CNBC reported.

“He was in a position of power and he would give me a ride home from that job and this happened at the end of one of the days that I worked there and I was somewhat at his mercy because I couldn’t even go home until he was going to give me a ride home,” the woman told CNBC.

Craig Johnson, the attorney representing Milton’s former employee, told Business Insider that he reported the alleged assault to the St. George Police Department on September 25. The St. George Police Department did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

CNBC spoke with two people, a former friend of Milton and a friend of the alleged victim, who said they had knowledge of the alleged assault. The former friend of Milton, Tyler Winona, told CNBC that Milton had boasted to him about the alleged assault a few years after it happened.

“He told me he fingered her,” Winona told CNBC. “He kept going on, saying I like young girls and I like virgins because they are naive.”

Winona told CNBC that he was no longer friends with Milton.

Milton had also displayed a romantic interest in the friend of the alleged victim, the friend — whose name CNBC did not disclose — told the network. Milton attempted to cuddle and kiss her before inviting her on a trip to Puerto Rico when she was 16 and Milton was in his early 20s, CNBC reported.

The friend told CNBC that Milton made her uneasy when he raised the possibility of their taking baths together in Puerto Rico, and she decided against joining him on the trip.

“Mr. Milton strongly denies these false allegations. At no point in his life has Mr. Milton ever engaged in any inappropriate physical contact with anyone,” a representative for Milton told Business Insider regarding CNBC’s report.

Do you know Trevor Milton? Do you have a story about him you’d like to share? Contact this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com, on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address mmatousek@protonmail.com.

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