Monday, July 14, 2008

Update On The Assault Case Of Payson City Councilman Scott Phillips - State Rep. Carl Wimmer Getting Legislatively Involved

A Payson city councilman charged with assault for allegedly defending his property might be close to a plea deal, and has agreed to a request for a continuance by the prosecutor until September 15th. Stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.

This latest sequence of events actually began on when a scheduled July 2nd arraignment for Scott Phillips was canceled in favor of a pre-trial conference scheduled for July 10th. And on the 10th, Phillips agreed to a further continuance to give prosecutors more time to try his case, or possibly agree to a plea deal. Fourth District Judge Howard H. Maetani concurred and set another date for a pretrial conference on September 15th.

The case stems from a May 10th confrontation between Scott Phillips and two young men, Ali Ludlow and Cody Baumann, who Phillips believes were tagging his truck and a nearby building with graffitti. Phillips allegedly used restraining force to stop them from completing the act, but did not hit them. Phillips then let the men go without calling the police, which was a mistake, because they rewarded his generosity by filing charges against Phillips, claiming that Phillips hit them. As a result, Phillips faces two class B misdemeanor assault charges, with a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. The case is being prosecuted in nearby Salem rather than in Payson to avoid any perception of conflict of interest.

The problem for Scott Phillips is that he intervened before the two young men could cause tangible damage to property and that he did not immediately call the police. So after Phillips was cited, and claimed that the two young men were vandalizing property, there was no physical evidence to back up the claim. So prosecutors could not charge Ludlow and Baumann with vandalism. Furthermore, not only do Ludlow and Baumann claim they were not tagging any property, but Ludlow, who is black, immediately tried to play the race card, which fizzled completely, attracting not so much as a nibble from the NAACP.

And now this case has attracted the interest of District 52 Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman). While Wimmer is not trying to influence the outcome of this specific case, he's concerned about the long term implications. After hearing about the charges against Phillips, Wimmer said he contacted the Salem prosectors and asked why the councilman wasn't covered under defense of property laws. Prosecutors told him defense of property laws didn't apply in this case because there was no damage done to his vehicle. "That's ridiculous," Wimmer said. "That is something no American should have to do before they can use reasonable force to stop people from damaging their personal property."

So Wimmer intends to introduce a bill during the 2009 State Legislature session that will "bring clarification to the law allowing citizens to use force in defending their property." On June 23rd, he opened a bill file, entitled "Defense of Property Amendments." While Wimmer didn't go into details on the bill, he emphasized it would allow a person to use reasonable force to protect their property — emphasis on reasonable. "If someone is trying to flatten your tires, obviously you cannot go out and shoot them," Wimmer said. The point is, one shouldn't be forced to allow a crime to be committed before taking preventive action. A woman shouldn't be forced to allow herself to be raped before defending herself against rape, for example.

Wimmer, whose campaign website can be viewed HERE, is being challenged in this year's election by Riverton Democrat Dave Hogue. Hogue's main contribution at the moment is a petition campaign to stop the proposed Mountain View Corridor from being tolled.


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