Update July 14th: Case continued until Sept. 15th; Rep. Carl Wimmer getting involved. See updated post HERE.
A Payson city councilman says he confronted two teens who were tagging his truck, but Ali Ludlow and Cody Baumann say there were standing in the shade on the side of a building in Payson last month when someone grabbed their necks from behind and attacked them. Full story published June 20th, 2008 by the Provo Daily Herald. Supplemental report in the Deseret News. See my previous post for more background.
Councilman Scott Phillips (pictured above left) was charged on Monday June 16th with two counts of simple assault, a class B misdemeanor. Phillips claimed he used only restraining force to stop Ludlow and Bauman from tagging his truck. But no charges have been filed against Ludlow, 18, or Baumann, 19.
And Salem city prosecutor Christine Johnson explained on June 19th why no charges were filed against the teens. "No charges were filed because there was no damage to support a charge. There was no damage done to anything, and so no charges were filed", Johnson said. Johnson also acknowledged that Ludlow and Baumann suffered no injuries at the hands of Phillips and required no medical treatment. Salem authorities are handling the case to avoid any potential conflicts of interest within Payson
Phillips now says he and the people he was with that day made Ludlow and Baumann clean the graffiti from the building, the ground and his truck before police arrived. The two teens called the police after the graffiti was removed.
The teens were using a marker or "marker tape," not spraypaint. The councilman was not sure how they removed the graffiti. "They peeled it off somehow. I don't know how they got it off. They got it off somehow," he said. "I know what I saw and it was graffiti markings and it was some kind of a gang sign on the ground, on the building."
Ludlow claims he and Baumann have never done any tagging in their lives. He said he had a small piece of tape, no bigger than a nickel, that he was sticking to things and peeling off while they waited for Baumann's sister to pick them up. But he was not putting up any graffiti, he said.
After Phillips grabbed them, the teens said he was trying to knock their heads together and push them to the ground. Baumann said Phillips pushed him face-first into a trailer on his truck and punched him three times in the back. The teens said Phillips and his friends yelled at them, calling them hoodlums, saying they were worthless and telling them to "Get out of my city," Ludlow said. They said Phillips continually used racial slurs against Ludlow, who is black. Ludlow said Phillips took numerous swings at him but didn't connect on any punches. "He was being pretty racist about the whole thing," Baumann said. "He was, like, actually targeting Ali more than he was me." [Ed. Note: Typical - another black who plays the race card when he gets into trouble.]
Ludlow said he deliberately lied and told Phillips that he was only 17 years old in an attempt to defuse the situation. He thought Phillips would be less likely to hit him if he thought Ludlow was a minor. Once the incident ended, the teens said they called the police on Baumann's cell phone. When Phillips saw them talking to the police on the phone, they said, he left the scene.
Phillips said he did not punch anyone and did not use any racial slurs. He did not have his fists clenched during the incident, he said. He just wanted them to not vandalize his truck and to clean up the graffiti. "From where I stood up in the window, I know what I saw," Phillips said. "If that was my kid I hope somebody would do the same."
Phillips's arraignment is set for 10 A.M. July 3 at Spanish Fork's 4th District Court, at which time he will enter a plea. Assault carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Update: On June 24th, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that the mayor of Payson states that these charges will have no impact upon Phillips' continued service on the city council, and that the council doesn't intend to address it at this time.
Analysis: In reviewing the public comments to this previous KSL Channel 5 story, I found one comment that was insightful. Apparently, Phillips has suffered a number of repeated graffiti attacks on his business over the past few months, so this may have put him on edge.
However, if the teens were using tape, and they got rid of the evidence, then they could risk lying about their role with little fear of legal consequences, since it would reduce the situation to "their word vs. his word". But then again, the willingness of the black perp, Ali Ludlow, to play the race card undermines the teenagers' story. Furthermore, if Ludlow was the target of racial slurs, why did he wait until now to make it public? Sounds concocted to me.
Phillips made two "mistakes" (from the legalistic sense). First, he simply should have detained the teens, left the evidence alone, and called the police. That way, if there was graffiti, the police would have discovered it, and there would be no doubt. Second, he should have recorded it on video to provide a photographic record. What these teens did was to turn the whole issue upside down and make themselves look like the victims. And since there's no longer evidence of damage to Phillips' truck, the Salem prosecutor has no evidence to file charges against the teens. Unfortunately, Scott Phillips may end up getting fucked because of his original instincts to simply have the teens clean up the damage and go on their way. The teens took advantage of Phiilips' good nature to call the police and stick it to him.