The contenders are former Salt Lake City prosecutor Sim Gill vs. the person who defeated him for the DA'S slot four years ago -- Lohra Miller. You can read all my previous posts on Lohra Miller HERE. Gill defeated Greg Skordas to secure the Democratic nomination, while Miller ran unopposed. Lohra Miller did undertake some innovations during her tenure; for example:
-- Created a specialized domestic violence prosecution team. By using a strategy of early intervention to improve offender accountability, the Domestic Violence Team has managed to turn an historical 30% conviction rate into a 70% conviction rate.
-- Create a specialized DUI prosecution unit. The DUI Team now prosecutes all felony DUI cases the D.A.’s Office sees. Their special training and focus has brought a consistency and expertise to DUI prosecution that has never been seen in our community.
-- Implemented several initiatives to strengthened the DA's partnership with law enforcement. This included allwing prosecutors and cops to "shadow" each other on the job, so both could acquire a greater understanding on how the other side works.
-- Reorganized the office to remove excess administrators and increased automation to make prosecutors and staff more efficient.
Unfortunately, Lohra Miller is known far more for the controversy of her tenure, which she freely admits on her website. She states that she came from the outside into an office that had been relatively unchanged in over 20 years and found that change presents unique challenges. But her persona and her method of dealing with such challenges proved divisive at times. An unscientific poll by KSL currently shows that 84 percent of respondents are either leaning towards a change or intend to vote for a change. Some examples of Miller's controversy below:
-- The case of Kent Morgan, who she originally fired in March 2008 after she accused him of leaking proprietary case information to Doll House character Steve Maese. Morgan appealed, and in April 2009, the Salt Lake County Career Services Council ordered him reinstated, although they did demote him to the position of line prosecutor. Subsequently in September 2009, the Council completely exonerated Morgan and ordered him reinstated as a full-blown felony prosecutor.
-- A major media expose, Illegally Blonde: City Weekly March 2008 Feature On Lohra Miller, published on March 18th, 2008, which documented alleged wild parties and underage drinking at her South Jordan cul-de-sac. Much of the information was later found to be a bit exaggerated, the pump primed by an unhappy neighbor.
-- When Salt Lake County received a $745,000 Federal stimulus grant designed to shorten the amount of time it takes to bring a typical wrongdoer to justice, Lohra Miller used it to hire three former employees of her husband's law firm who were laid off. Nepotism, anyone?
-- On October 21st, 2009, KSL Channel 5 reported that a member of Lohra Miller's staff, identified as Stu Smith, sent an identical e-mail to five Salt Lake-area police chiefs soliciting their support in Miller's "food fight" against prosecutor Kent Morgan. The recipients of the e-mails were West Jordan Chief Kent McGuire, Sandy Chief Steve Chapman, Salt Lake City Chief Chris Burbank, West Valley City Chief Buzz Neilsen, and Cottonwood Heights Chief Robby Russo; the e-mails can be viewed HERE (takes about 4 minutes to load). Many considered this to be strong-arming tactics.
-- The prosecution of D.J. Bell for child kidnapping, even though the children were never harmed and their relatives invaded Bell's home and beat Bell and Dan Fair to within an inch of their lives. Bell was acquitted of the charge in near record time; a little over 2 hours, which implies the case was extremely flimsy. Miller mitigated this injustice somewhat by then turning her attention to the home invaders, but that doesn't give D.J. Bell back the money and time he spent defending himself. Read more about his perspective at Injustice801.
Indeed, the D.J. Bell case continues to percolate even as I write this post. The five home invaders are claiming that the D.A.'s office gave them immunity; Miller says she didn't. On October 13th, Third District Judge Robert Faust, in a written ruling, said evidence indicates immunity was never offered to the defendants. The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office sent a letter to some of the defendants saying it had declined to prosecute them but that they could be subject to criminal charges in the future, Faust wrote. This case, more than anything else, soured me on Lohra Miller.
So what does Sim Gill want to do? Gill sets forth five reasons why Salt Lake County needs a new District Attorney:
- Ms. Miller wastes taxpayer dollars that should be used to keep our neighborhoods safe.
- The DA insists on pursuing personal vendettas and filing frivolous lawsuits, wasting taxpayers’ money.
- Ms. Miller has been distracted by scandals and personal issues.
- The DA has politicized the office and put her political agenda over justice.
- Lohra Miller’s lack of leadership skills has caused a “brain drain” on her office.
Gill pledges to do three things if elected:
- Return Integrity and Public Trust to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office
- Prosecute criminals, protect families, help victims
- Save Tax Dollars by Making the District Attorney’s Office and our Criminal Justice System More Efficient
I believe Lohra Miller started out with the best of intentions. She wanted to make the DA's office more productive, relevant, and efficient. She's never shied away from accountability. But unfortunately, she got a bit too consumed with herself, and started flying by the seat of her pants. She stepped on too many toes, and it looks like it will cost her the stewardship. Hopefully, Lohra Miller will learn from the experience and come back a wiser woman.