Need timely resolution to Sheriff, deputy charges
DUST IN THE WIND
by Bill Boyle
A cornerstone of our civilization is the assumption that we can trust our law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and the judicial system.
When doubt is cast on any of these pillars of our society, it demands immediate and serious action.
San Juan County is in the midst of a crisis. Sheriff Rick Eldredge, Chief Deputy Alan Freestone, and Deputy Robert Wilcox face charges related to their conduct in office.
The charges were filed by Attorney General Sean Reyes, the chief law enforcement officer in the state. The charges are extremely serious, and the resolution will require the best efforts of our judicial system. The men are innocent until proven guilty and have the right to a trial before a wise judge or a jury of their peers.
However, I am extremely frustrated by what appears to be the snail’s pace of progress on the case.
The charges were filed on May 10. The initial appearance is scheduled for July 25. Scheduling the first hearing 76 days after the charges are filed is entirely unacceptable from my perspective.
In contrast, standard procedure is an arraignment within a week and an initial appearance within two weeks.
I understand the busy schedules of attorneys, prosecutors, defendants and judges. I understand the long distances. I understand the complicated logistics to coordinate three defendants.
However, the needs of 14,000 county residents are compromised every day this is delayed. Because of the realities of a small department and a massive county, the officers remain on active duty.
At the pace this case is moving, it may be November before it is brought to trial. Add more months if the venue is changed.
If that is the case, we would have months with a cloud of uncertainty over our law enforcement community. That is not good for the law enforcement community, the judicial system, or the residents of San Juan County.
In addition, it is not good for the three men, who have accusations of misconduct hanging over their heads after decades of service to San Juan County.
I assume the Utah Attorney General would not have filed such serious charges unless he felt totally confident of a conviction. If that is the case, let’s get on with it.
Make no mistake, the stakes in this case are very high. At many levels, this could mean only two things: 1– we have corruption in our law enforcement community, or 2– we have incompetence in the prosecutor’s office.
Either scenario is unacceptable and having an unnecessarily long and drawn out resolution to the charges only makes it worse.