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Disciplinary Actions Taken Against 28 Utah Police Officers for Assault, DUI, Other Criminal Charges

Disciplinary Actions Taken Against 28 Utah Police Officers for Assault, DUI, Other Criminal Charges

More than two dozen Utah police officers were disciplined on Wednesday, September 21 at a quarterly meeting of the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST).  POST is a division of the Department of Public Safety whose role is to impose sanctions on officers who violate Utah’s Peace Officers Standards and Training Act.  The violations covered at Wednesday’s meeting ranged from minor infractions to serious criminal offenses like DUI – and in several cases, officers were stripped of their badges. Assault, DUI, Domestic Violence Lead to Disciplinary Actions for Utah Cops and Deputies In Utah, standards for police officers are consolidated under the Peace Officers Standards and Training Act, which is found under Title 53, Chapter 6 of the Utah Code pertaining to public safety. Utah Code § 53-6-211(1) gives the POST council the right to “suspend or revoke the certification of a peace officer” if he or she commits certain acts, or engages in certain practices.  For example, under Utah Code § 53-6-211(1)(c), an officer can be suspended from the force, regardless of which town or city’s police department they work for, if they are addicted to drugs or alcohol.  To give another example, Utah Code § 53-6-211(1)(f) prohibits any sort of “sexual conduct while on duty.” On Wednesday, the POST council invoked its authority to take disciplinary measures against 28 officers – just a small portion of the officers waiting to be disciplined in a backlog that stretches back to 2013. “I accept full responsibility for what I did,” said Justin J. Butler, an ex-cop who formerly served on the Payson Police Department in Utah County. ...
Couple Charged with Rape, Sodomy, Other Sex Crimes after Utah Sundance Film Festival

Couple Charged with Rape, Sodomy, Other Sex Crimes after Utah Sundance Film Festival

On September 21 a New York couple was extradited to Utah to face felony criminal charges including object rape, forcible sodomy, and other sex crimes arising from an alleged incident that prosecutors say occurred during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City in January.  The couple was not arrested at Sundance as no charges were filed until this September, more than half a year after the festival and alleged crime occurred. Pair Charged with Felony Sex Crimes Following Sundance Film Fest in Park City, UT The Sundance Film Festival is a major event that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Utah every year.  While most festival-goers leave with fond memories, attendees are occasionally arrested and charged with crimes such as drug possession, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct. Earlier this September, a New York couple was charged with several sex offenses stemming from a crime that allegedly took place at Sundance 2016.  Both Michael Taylor, 45, and Anne Hardcastle, 27, were extradited from New York City to Utah, where the crimes allegedly occurred.  The charges against Taylor and Hardcastle include forcible sexual abuse and object rape, while Hardcastle is also being charged with forcible sodomy. Prosecutors assert that Hardcastle and Taylor forced a female festival attendee into a non-consensual “threesome,” during which the victim was allegedly given ecstasy and alcohol before passing out, later awakening to find her body marked with scratches, bites, and bruises.  The victim also reported experiencing vaginal pain. The case came to the attention of criminal investigators after Hardcastle communicated with the victim through Instagram, a popular app that allows users to share and edit...
Doctor Convicted of Murder in Utah Seeks New Trial, Citing False Testimony

Doctor Convicted of Murder in Utah Seeks New Trial, Citing False Testimony

At the culmination of a high-profile 22-day trial that ended on November 9, 2013, Utah physician Martin MacNeill was convicted of murdering his wife, Michele MacNeill.  The cause of death was determined to be fatal heart arrhythmia trigged by a lethal combination of four drugs – OxyContin (0xycodone), Ambien (zolpidem), Valium (diazepam), and Phenergan (promethazine) – which MacNeill requested a plastic surgeon to prescribe to Michele prior to her death.  MacNeill, who in a separate 2014 case was also found guilty of forcible sexual abuse charges, is now seeking a retrial, saying jurors were not provided with information which may have led to a different verdict. Utah Physician Found Guilty of Murder After Wife Dies of Lethal Drug Overdose On April 11, 2007, daughter Alexis Somers found her mother, age 50, unresponsive in the bathtub of the family’s Pleasant Grove home.  The autopsy report initially determined MacNeill’s cause of death to be natural causes related to cardiovascular disease, and described the death as accidental. However, Alexis was suspicious of the circumstances of her mother’s death, alleging that several days earlier, Michele had confided that she believed Martin was trying to kill her by causing her to overdose on medication while she recovered from cosmetic surgery.  According to Alexis, Michele said, “If anything happens to me, make sure it wasn’t your dad.” In September 2007, Michele’s sister, Linda Cluff, sent a letter to then-Governor Jon Huntsman, as well as the Utah County Attorney’s Office, requesting a deeper probe into the causes of Michele MacNeill’s death. The request led to a renewed investigation, after which Dr. Todd Grey – who retired...
What Are the Consequences if an Inmate Tries to Escape from a County Jail in Utah?

What Are the Consequences if an Inmate Tries to Escape from a County Jail in Utah?

No one wants to find themselves in jail.  Some inmates, like the man who attempted to break out of Utah’s Tooele County Jail last month, decide to gamble on an escape.  No one would deny that jail is an unpleasant place to be, but escape attempts can result in even worse consequences for the inmate or detainee. Man Charged with Resisting Arrest After Attempted Escape from Tooele County Detention Center The Tooele County Detention Center, better known as the Tooele County Jail, houses inmates who have been convicted of felonies and misdemeanors. In August, inmate Michael Lee Richards, 42, who was incarcerated for violating a protective order in Utah, was temporarily released from the facility in order to attend a court-ordered medical appointment.  Richards disappeared from his mother’s home while out on release for the appointment. When Richards failed to return from his trip to the bathroom, his mother alerted the Tooele County Sheriff’s Department, leading to an hour-long search effort that ended when the Department, working with Tooele County police officers, received a tip via phone. According to Lieutenant Ron Johnson, who serves on the Tooele County Sheriff’s Department, “A resident of Pine Canyon, which is about two miles east of Tooele, called and said there was a subject, a suspicious male subject going into a house there.  There was a deputy close by,” Lt. Johnson reported.  “He responded and actually got into a foot pursuit with the subject and called out his name, asked him to stop.” The deputy continued pursuit in his vehicle, quickly overtaking the fleeing Richards, who was still on foot. “When the subject...
What to Do if You Get Arrested at a Protest in Salt Lake City

What to Do if You Get Arrested at a Protest in Salt Lake City

Several protests have taken place in Salt Lake City this summer.  One occurred on August 23, when demonstrators gathered to protest Rocky Mountain Power’s plan to sue the EPA.  Another took place on August 10, when supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement assembled to protest the February shooting of Abdullahi Mohamed by the SLCPD.  A third occurred on July 9, when about 200 people met at the Public Safety Building to protest police brutality following the shooting deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  While most demonstrations resolve without incident, protesters are frequently charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and other crimes.  This article offers tips on what to do if you or a loved one is arrested at a political protest in Utah. What Types of Crimes Do Protesters Usually Get Arrested For? Protesters have been arrested for a wide variety of criminal offenses, most of which are misdemeanors of varying degrees of severity.  Some examples of criminal charges that can arise out of protests and demonstrations in Utah include: Criminal Trespass Statute – Utah Code § 76-6-206 Class – Class B Misdemeanor; Class A Misdemeanor Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail; up to 1 year in jail Fine – Up to $1,000; up to $2,500 Disorderly Conduct Statute – Utah Code § 76-9-102 Class – Infraction; Class C Misdemeanor Sentence – None; up to 90 days in jail Fine – Up to $750 Disrupting a Meeting or Procession Statute – Utah Code § 76-9-103 Class – Class B Misdemeanor Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail Fine – Up to $1,000...
What Happens if You Are Placed Under Citizen’s Arrest in Utah?

What Happens if You Are Placed Under Citizen’s Arrest in Utah?

The vast majority of arrests are conducted by police officers.  However, everyone – including you – has the power to make an arrest by conducting what’s called a “citizen’s arrest.”  Citizen’s arrests are uncommon compared to arrests by law enforcement, but when they do occur, they can have serious legal consequences – for both parties.  If one of your family members is in custody at the Salt Lake County Jail or another county jail in Utah because they were arrested by a private citizen, you should contact an experienced criminal attorney right away for legal assistance. When Can a Private Person Make a Citizen’s Arrest Under Utah Code 77-7-3? Put simply, a citizen’s arrest is any arrest made by a person who is not a member of law enforcement.  The arresting citizen could be a cashier, a salesperson, a business owner, or any person you encounter on the street. Every state has slightly different laws addressing when, how, and under what circumstances citizen’s arrests may be performed.  In Utah, the relevant statute is located at Utah Code § 77-7-3, a short and plainly-worded statute that provides, in full, the following: “A private person may arrest another: (1) For a public offense committed or attempted in his [or her] presence; or (2) When a felony has been committed and he [or she] has reasonable cause to believe the person arrested has committed it.” In other words, anyone may make a citizen’s arrest in Utah as long as they either: Witness a misdemeanor or felony crime taking place. Have reason to believe that the person committed a felony. Some examples of...
Is it Legal to Record the Salt Lake City Police Department?

Is it Legal to Record the Salt Lake City Police Department?

Violent, sometimes deadly clashes between police officers and civilians have been a major national topic during the past few years.  While some departments have taken steps toward mending community relations, many Utahans are still dissatisfied with the level of transparency surrounding arrests and police stops, especially in places like Salt Lake City, Saratoga Springs, and other cities that have experienced recent police shootings.  With Gallup polls reporting confidence in law enforcement at its lowest point since 1993 — the year after the L.A. riots — many concerned Americans have gained interest in filming police activities.  Here, Utah disorderly conduct lawyer Darwin Overson explains whether it is legal to film the police — and what to do if you get arrested for recording an officer in the Salt Lake City Police Department. Glik Ruling Protects Your Legal Right to Record Members of Law Enforcement The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that civilians have the right to record police officers in Glik v. Cunniffe (2011), a case which arose after Simon Glik, a resident of Massachusetts, recorded Boston police officers conducting an arrest at a public park. Glik was immediately placed under arrest for recording the incident, and, after being criminally charged with wiretapping and other offenses, filed a lawsuit against Boston and his arresting officers, asserting the police had violated his Constitutional rights by arresting him for filming.  In a victory for civil rights, the court unanimously held that Glik’s rights had indeed been violated, noting that “a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in...
Does Utah Have Stand Your Ground Laws?

Does Utah Have Stand Your Ground Laws?

Utah belongs to a majority of states which have “stand your ground” laws.  These laws, which became a subject of renewed controversy after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, grant the right to use potentially lethal force against an attacker or home invader who poses an immediate risk of death or severe injury.  Here, Salt Lake City assault lawyer Darwin Overson explains how stand your ground laws can impact defendants who have been charged with violent crimes in Utah. Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman Spark Controversy over Stand Your Ground Laws Stand your ground laws entered the national spotlight near the end of February 2012, when Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old resident of Sanford, Florida, was fatally wounded by George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman, 29, fired a Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol at Martin’s chest after becoming suspicious that the teen was planning to commit a break-in. Zimmerman was subsequently detained and questioned by police, and eventually, charged with murder.  After a heavily publicized trial which lasted from June 10 to July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted (found not guilty) by a jury of six. The verdict, which received a tremendous amount of media coverage, ignited a national conversation about the legality of shooting in self-defense.  However, stand your ground laws actually predate the case by several decades.  Utah, for example, has had stand your ground laws since 1994, long before Florida adopted them in 2005.  Utah’s law originated in a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Barth (D-Salt Lake City), HB13, which was drafted with the intent to help domestic violence victims protect themselves. In July 2009, an incident similar to the Martin...
Faulty Evidence Leads to New Trial for Orem Man Convicted of Murder

Faulty Evidence Leads to New Trial for Orem Man Convicted of Murder

Nearly four years ago, Conrad Truman was charged with the murder of his wife, Heidy Truman, in the couple’s Orem home.  He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison, and the case appeared to be over.  However, the recent emergence of new information has thrown a wrench into key evidence used to convict Truman, leading Judge Samuel McVey to order a new trial, setting aside the original guilty verdict.  Salt Lake homicide attorney Darwin Overson explains how new evidence is turning the Truman case on its head. Conrad Truman Convicted of Wife’s Murder, Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison On October 1, 2012, 911 dispatchers received a frantic call from 32-year-old Orem resident Conrad Truman. “She was in the shower,” Truman panicked, “she came out of the shower, I heard a ‘pop,’ and there’s blood, it’s her blood.” Medical personnel arrived at the house to find Truman’s wife, 25-year-old Heidy Truman, lying dead on the floor of the couple’s kitchen.  The cause of death was a gunshot to the head – and police were certain it was Conrad Truman’s finger that had pulled the trigger. “Conrad threatened to kill Orem officers and EMS workers as they attempted to help his wife,” the police report stated.  “Blood was found on Conrad’s person, and blood was found on the stairs, front entry way to the home, several walls and in the living room on the couches, bedroom wall and bathroom wall.” Police officers were also suspicious of Truman’s conflicting accounts of Heidy’s death.  After initially describing the death as a suicide, Truman then suggested the death was a murder. ...
Salt Lake Prosecutor Calls for Tougher Penalties for Hate Crimes in Utah

Salt Lake Prosecutor Calls for Tougher Penalties for Hate Crimes in Utah

Many crimes can be charged as hate crimes in Utah, including simple assault, criminal trespass, theft, and making threats with dangerous weapons.  Though hate crimes are currently subject to sentencing enhancements — a topic we explored in our article on Utah’s hate crime laws — some prosecutors and lawmakers are now advocating for tougher penalties. D.A. Wants Utah’s Hate Crime Law to Include Felony Sentencing Enhancements Nearly 1,300 hate crimes have been reported in Utah during the past two decades, recently including an alleged assault by two Wyoming men, Chad Doak and Eric Johnson, on two gay men, Maxwell Christen and Rusty Andrade, at Club JAM, a gay bar in Salt Lake City.  The week before, Judge G. Michael Westfall rescheduled the trial of a married couple, Mayra Dinora Casas and Mohamed Fathi Mohamed Qanaw, who were charged with assault, robbery, and criminal mischief against a gay resident of St. George. There have been numerous prosecutions of defendants charged with hate crimes, but few convictions under Utah’s existing hate crime law, which Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill described as an “[un]workable statute.” On August 4, Gill appeared on a panel of activists and police officers to discuss Utah’s need for legislative reforms before a crowd of roughly 50 attendees.  At the panel, which was hosted by the NAACP and the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission, Gill described the existing statute as a “toothless tiger.” The “toothless tiger,” which is located at Utah Code § 76-3-203.3, creates sentencing enhancements for misdemeanor hate crimes, allowing a Class C misdemeanor to be charged as a Class B...