Thursday, March 19, 2009

Payson City Councilman Scott Phillips Pleads No Contest To Disorderly Conduct In A Confrontation With Two Graffiti Punks, Fined $100

In a story which I've tracked from the outset, and which has continued for far too long, Payson City Councilman Scott Phillips pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disorderly conduct for roughing up two graffiti vandals on May 10th, 2008. Media stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Provo Daily Herald.

Phillips, who faced two Class B misdemeanor assault charges, entered his plea to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and agreed to pay a $100 court fee. In return, Springville prosecutor Paul DeWitt will drop the charge if Phillips breaks no laws during the next six months. DeWitt is handling the case because of conflicts of interest involving Payson's city attorney. This case was plagued by endless delays, described HERE and HERE. A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt; it means the defendant will not contest the charge.

John Allan, one of Phillips' attorneys, said his client could have been acquitted at trial, but the plea agreement offered a quick, safe way to resolve the matter. In addition, the two men Phillips accosted now face graffiti charges in Payson. The men, previously identified as Ali Ludlow and Cody Baumann, were initially not charged with vandalism because there was insufficient evidence, according to then-Spanish Fork Prosecutor Christine Johnson. But there were witness statements showing the men had put tape on Phillips' truck. Johnson did not have access to those witness statements, and Phillips' other attorney Gregory Hadley brought them to DeWitt's attention. DeWitt took over as prosecutor after Johnson was appointed a judge in the 4th District.

Payson Mayor Burtis Bills was supportive of Phillips during the entire time, and said the case underscores the wave of graffiti to have hit his city. There were never any calls for Phillips' resignation, either. One reason why Phillips decided on this deal is legal costs; he said that with the money he's spent on this case, he could have bought a new truck.

At least he won't have a felony on his record, and the authorities are finally prosecuting the scum who vandalized his truck. The case did drag on for 10 months, so I can't blame him for being willing to give the system a small chunk of flesh. But he never should have been charged in the first place.

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