[The Law] Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has been hopping around the radio talk show circuit today, trumpeting his views that the Republican Legislative Caucus and other elected officials should hold open meetings, even when the law doesn't require it.
We journalists can't argue with that.
But as chance might have it, over at 3rd District Court today in Salt Lake City, a hearing is underway on several pre-trial motions in the strange case of State of Utah vs. Rachel Guyon, on which City Weekly recently reported. Shurtleff and his office have worked hard to downplay their part in the case case--including identifying the people in his office who are involved only by their initials on court documents.
Guyon, 25, is a former employee of an escort service and one-time criminal justice student at Salt Lake Community College. She faces 11 Class B misdemeanors related to her allegedly harassing nine of Shurtleff's deputy district attorneys with piles of sexually-oriented e-mails while the men were moonlighting at the college and taught Guyon's classes. Additionally, an attorney general's investigation into the case brought Shurtleff into the matter, as well. The state's top prosecutor is claiming Guyon harassed him with unsolicited e-mails from The Doll House, a Salt Lake City escort service.
Once the A.G.'s probe was complete, the Salt Lake District Attorney's office took over the case for prosecution.
In today's hearing, Guyon's defense attorney, Kristine Rogers, argued that the state cannot prove that nearly 200 e-mails entered into evidence originated with Guyon, and therefore, the documents should be inadmissible. Assistant District Attorney Greg Ferbrache produced Agent David White, an investigator with the attorney general's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, as an expert on e-mail and other forms of electronic communication. Febrache said he would confirm that the e-mails in evidence came from Guyon.
Rogers spent two full hours questioning White, who repeated dozens of times that he could not
confirm which "port," the e-mails came from. Nor could he tell what "protocol" the e-mailer used or whether the transmission was secure or not. It was slow going, and appeared to be going nowhere.
Rogers' point is to show how anyone, really, could have sent the e-mails, and simply looking at the header field is not sufficient to pinning the act on her client.
Meanwhile, the state withdrew evidence today that the attorney general's investigation uncovered with access as crime fighters through the Homeland Security Act. Guyon's lawyers have argued that the A.G. used the act inappropriately in gathering evidence against Guyon--sort of like wielding a sledgehammer when a flyswatter might have done fine.
But the finest moment of the morning took place before the proceeding even started. It was a heated exchange between defense attorney Rogers and Heidi Nestel, director of the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic. Nestel is representing the victims--nine deputy a.g.'s with cell phones, leather brief cases and sharp wool gabardine suits--to make sure their rights in court are protected.
Nestel approached Rogers, arguing she would fight a defense motion for the A.G.'s office to give up personnel files of the men Guyon is accused of harassing. "They are public record," Rogers snapped back. The two women then argued over whether Nestel's victims had ever received notice of the motion for the personnel records. Rogers said she did, indeed, send copies of the motion to the deputy attorneys general and if Nestel wasn't satisfied, she could file a motion to quash the request with presiding Judge Vernice Trease.
Nestel wouldn't let it go. "Those records are private," she said. To which Rogers threw up her hands and exhaled, loudly. "Mark Shurtleff is all over the stinkin' radio this morning talking about opening meetings and records to the public, and you want to tell me these records from his office are closed?
"Take it up with the court," Rogers said. "Now go away, Heidi. Just go away."
The jury trial for Guyon--complete with a full parade of lawyers with their feelings hurt as witnesses--is set to begin in Trease's court March 27. (Holly Mullen)