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Wednesday

Stephen Dark Speaks: Corruption in Utah: Utah Judge Keith Stoney Under Investigation, Robert Paisola Reports

Saratoga Springs residents tread lightly to avoid the long arm of the law.
By Stephen Dark

-Our Note-
Reporter Stephen Dark and I do not see eye to eye on all the issues, however he is fair and balanced. This is Going National Stephen. Great Coverage.
Robert Paisola
To Jason Chaffetz, (This is your voice buddy)  We will post your reply as will we post the official statement of Governor Herbert or the Judiciary.

New York City, New York (AP)



http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50508971-76/stoney-judge-peltekian-court.html.csp

http://bcove.me/agdwev3f      VIDEO2

http://bcove.me/l6qcxzcw      VIDEO3


As Dave Alexander and his teenaged children sat down to dinner in early January, they heard a knock at the door. One of his daughters opened the door and called out, “It’s for you, Dad.” When Alexander went to the door, he was confronted by three heavily armed Joint County Apprehension Team [J-CAT] officers on his porch. In total, 15 well-armed J-CAT officers, used by Utah County to apprehend violent fugitives, had surrounded the night-shrouded premises.
Alexander knew what they wanted. For the past six weeks, he and his family had endured numerous, if less threatening, encroachments on their property by the Saratoga Springs Police Department [SSPD]. Officers wanted to talk to their 20-year-old son, Ryan Alexander. Such was the Alexanders’ frustration with the SSPD that they had posted a copy of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, forbidding unlawful search and seizures, on their front door. Unbeknownst to the Alexanders, Ryan was wanted for an $1,895 warrant for failing to appear at court to update Saratoga Springs Justice Court Judge Keith Stoney on his attendance at counseling classes relating to an altercation the summer before.

The J-CAT officer told Dave Alexander they were doing a favor for SSPD. Alexander told them, unless they had a warrant, they couldn’t come in. While talking to officers, a boyfriend of one of Alexander’s daughters walked by behind him. “There he is,” the officer shouted, misidentifying their suspect, and J-CAT stormed the premises. Alexander’s 2-year-old granddaughter wandered around saying “hi” to the armed men as they rushed down the stairs to the basement apartment in a fruitless search for Ryan. Twenty minutes later, empty handed, J-CAT left.



Dave’s wife, Danea, says she wants to put a sign up on the outskirts of the town: “Welcome to Saratoga Springs, where the citizens have no rights.” The Alexanders are among a group of people who believe Utah County’s sprawling developments located on the west side of Utah Lake, has become increasingly beleaguered by overzealous law enforcement and judicial misconduct. Complaints about officers routinely pulling over residents for the flimsiest of excuses have peppered a Facebook page dedicated to a campaign called “No to Stoney.” That campaign, led by Edward Peltekian and his son Ryan, Californian transplants to Saratoga Springs, unsuccessfully sought the ouster of Judge Stoney in the November 2010 election.

Saratoga Springs sits on the far side of Utah Lake, west of Orem and Provo, a seemingly peaceful, sleepy little town, where swathes of former LDS Church welfare farmland give way to subdivisions climbing toward the mountains or to the lake’s edge. In winter, the lake freezes over while snow-draped mountains rise behind the rapidly growing bedroom community. Walmart’s already located here, and the National Security Agency is building a $1.5 billion facility by neighboring Camp Williams.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who made headlines in her 2009 election as Utah’s first black mayor, talks of Saratoga evolving into a resort town, of bringing “the lake into the city,” where urban resources, outdoor recreation and rural living exist side by side, providing “the best of all worlds.” While she acknowledges the town has “got its kinks,” she truly believes “it’s going to be the greatest place to live in the state.”

DOG FIGHT
One of those “kinks” has been the Peltekian family. City Weekly reporter Eric S. Peterson documented the Peltekians’ battle with Judge Stoney in the Sept. 2 article “Dog Day in Court.” What started with a citation for the family dog Rango escaping into the street culminated with the family’s mother, Elaine Damron-Peltekian, being sent to jail for 24 hours by Stoney, without, her husband says, due process. The judge jailed her for using her cell phone to record court proceedings, something she says she stopped doing when told to by the bailiff. While Stoney was retained by the Utah County-wide vote on judges, Edward Peltekian says 53 percent of Saratoga residents voted against Stoney. “This crusade is about going against people in power who are supposed to protect us, and instead are abusing us,” Peltekian says.

But the Peltekians’ dogged battles with Stoney pale beside those of town “son” Craig Wayman. His parents started the town, he says, which, via Redwood Road, is a 45-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City.

His 80-year-old mother still lives in a house on a hill overlooking the town, which is about 80 percent LDS in religious affiliation. Wayman’s father’s metal sculptures still decorate land by the lake’s edge. Wayman himself built many of the retaining walls and rock formations that mark homes in distinct neighborhoods sprouting off the main roads of Redwood and State Route 73.

Wayman’s easy-going cowboy manner and sky-blue eyes belie the tension in his voice as he endlessly describes to whoever will listen how the Saratoga Springs criminal justice system violated his civil rights. Two and a half years ago, he was “a 47-year-old man with a clean record and no history of violence in his past,” according to a presentation he wrote to the Attorney General’s Office. Back then, neighbors and former clients say, Wayman was known for his fair pricing and work ethic.

However, in the past two years, his life has been derailed by two convictions for domestic violence, one of which was subsequently overturned, and one for felony stalking as well as spending 5 months in jail. He has become “Public Enemy No. 1” in Saratoga Springs, he says; at one time, Saratoga Springs Detective Bruce Champagne and City Prosecutor Lindsay Jarvis were both listed on a protective order by a 4th District Court judge as people Wayman could have no contact with. He says he has lost his home to foreclosure as well as his business, property and around $500,000, due to periods in jail, a contentious divorce and his ongoing legal battles to clear his name.

Wayman has angrily maintained his claims of innocence, appealing his convictions, only for more charges to be brought against him by Jarvis. Their fight most recently culminated in a showdown on Feb. 10, 2011, in Utah County-American Fork District Court when Wayman faced four counts of protective order violations. This time, a six-person jury found him not guilty. Jarvis says both she and Champagne cannot comment on this story, since her office is appealing several decisions.

Larry Larsen, Wayman’s former attorney, argues that, for Saratoga residents, Wayman’s judicial hammering has sent a clear message. “If they are going to do that to him, am I next in line?” But Wayman says, “What started as exposing me as a wife beater and stalker,” ended up instead exposing more complex problems within Saratoga’s criminal-justice system than simply a judge some residents have loudly characterized as a vindictive bully.

Judge Stoney sees the complaints as bellyaching. “I have seen no indications that the few convicted felons and misdemeanants that have complained about the police, the prosecution or the court, represent the law-abiding citizens of Saratoga Springs,” Stoney says.

This has been a fight, argue supporters of Wayman, that several elements of Saratoga’s criminal-justice system have taken personally. “They intimidate you, they embarrass you, and expect you to crawl into a hole,” Wayman says. “Somebody had to step up and confront them, and I am the guy it ended up being.”

Danea Alexander echoes Wayman’s frustration with the system. She says that a Saratoga Springs Police officer, close to tears, approached her in Smith’s, where she works as a clerk, and apologized profusely for the harassment she and her family endured from, she says he told her, a few officers “who have hard-ons for making people’s lives miserable.”

MAN ABOUT TOWN
Craig Wayman grew up on a farm in Payson, Utah. His parents bought 150 acres in what became Saratoga Springs in 1980, with leasing options on another 300 acres. They cleared out the land, irrigated it and planted apple, cherry, peach and apricot trees. Saratoga Springs was incorporated in 1997. His father, Reid Wayman, was on the original city council and was, his son says, “instrumental in the development of the city.” In August 2010, Councilman Cecil Tuley proposed naming a park after the Wayman family, but as yet, the park remains without a title.



His marital life has not been easy. His first wife, Monica, rolled the car the day they were driving to Las Vegas to get married when they were 18. She was paralyzed from the waist down and gets around in a wheelchair. After 10 years, they divorced. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s an amazing man,” she says.

Wayman was married for a second time for three years, a relationship that also ended in a divorce, one that Wayman characterizes as non-acrimonious.

Wayman met his third wife, Melinda Bird, at an Impact training personal development course, in 2003. The second day of their honeymoon in Machu Picchu, Peru, he says she left him for the day, announcing she wanted to be alone. “I realized things weren’t quite as they appeared,” he says. They had two children together but separated in 2007. On July 24, 2008, when Wayman went to pick up his two sons, then ages 1 and 2, he and Bird got into a fight. She filed a police report alleging he spit at her, grabbed her by the arm and shoved her down. Wayman says during an argument she grabbed him by the testicles, which made him “reactively spit,” and he then set her down on the ground before fleeing. A week later, Bird gave the Saratoga Springs Police Department photographs downloaded from her cell that showed a bruise on her leg and marks on her arm, with handwritten dates on them.

On August 20, 2008, Commissioner Thomas Patton in 4th District Court denied Bird’s petition for a protective order. But that would not be the end of Wayman’s legal entanglements. He learned from Bird that SSPD was going to file charges against him. Wayman spoke to SSPD Detective Bruce Champagne, who, unbeknownst to Wayman, was a former neighbor of his, living just a few doors down from the home Wayman had moved out of when he separated from Bird, and also socialized with Wayman’s mother every Sunday in the local ward house. Champagne, a former West Valley City Police officer, was both lead detective on the case and also case manager through Wayman’s trials. He would later testify to Stoney and several 4th District court juries that he felt Wayman was trying to influence his decision over filing charges by informing him of his status in the town. Wayman says he simply wanted Champagne to do his job and investigate his side of the story, something he believes the officer never did.

Becky Pirente is also a neighbor of Champagne’s and a friend of Wayman’s who helped mediate between him and Bird. In a signed statement regarding a summer 2009 conversation Pirente had with Champagne, Pirente claimed Champagne wanted Wayman “to accept the charges filed against him and warned that ‘they’ had more to charge him with if he were to persist” resisting the charges. Anything Wayman did to fight the charges would mean that the judicial system “would come back at Craig ten times harder.” Champagne told Pirente he believed Wayman was an abuser. Regardless of any extenuating circumstances, Champagne told his neighbor, “As the man of the house, Craig should have been able to control the situation.” Champagne told Pirente that Wayman was, “the most corrupt, dishonest and manipulative individual he had ever encountered.”

Wayman was charged with two class B misdemeanors, assault and domestic violence but missed his court date for trial before Stoney. When he went down to city hall—at Champagne’s suggestion, he says—to resolve the problem the following day, he was arrested and released on $10,000 bail.

SLAP FOR SLAP

When he takes the bench in Saratoga Springs every other Friday, justice court Judge Stoney has been known to say, “In my real life, I am a judge in West Valley City.” Stoney shares the bench with Judge Brendan McCullough. Kent Hart, executive director of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, finds the contrast between the two judges instructive. “Although both are former prosecutors, Judge McCullough is more fair-minded and reasonable,” Hart says. “He is able to put himself in the defendant’s and defense attorney’s shoes and impose fair and effective sentences. Judge Stoney’s demeanor and decisions are more visceral and harsh, which reflects his punitive view of the world even when reason and cost-effectiveness suggest more compassion and deliberation.”

On Jan. 1, 2008, Saratoga Springs Justice Court opened its doors. Lindsay Jarvis, who had prosecuted cases before Stoney in West Valley City for a year, was its prosecutor. Saratoga residents, Stoney says, “with few exceptions, are very polite and willing to accept responsibility for their mistakes, pay their fines and get on with life.”

Wayman hadn’t done himself any favors with Stoney when, on Oct. 15, 2008, he requested a continuance and contrasted “the judge’s history and this case.” Wayman was alluding to the fact that in 1995, Stoney’s own ex-wife had made domestic-violence allegations at Stoney shortly after he was made a pro-tem 3rd District Court judge. Stoney resigned his appointment and returned to his position as a West Valley City prosecutor.

Stoney says Wayman’s past comments “had nothing to do with my decision-making process in his case.”

On Nov. 21, 2008, Wayman appeared pro se before Judge Stoney. Bird’s allegations had expanded from the original police report to include being verbally abused and kicked while on the ground by Wayman.

When his first wife, Monica, testified about Wayman’s character, Jarvis asked her if Wayman had abused her. She recalled an incident when they were 18 when Craig Wayman slapped her. Stoney, in his judicial order, characterized the slap as abuse. Monica Wayman, however, says, “If it came across that way to Judge Stoney, that was totally not the case.” She described the incident as “not an anger moment,” but rather about trust. “In 30 years, he’s never once shown aggression. I trust him with my life and my kids,” she says now.

Stoney found Craig Wayman guilty of the abuse charges against his third wife, Melinda Bird. Wayman requested he be sentenced immediately, but the judge sent him to jail with no bail pending sentencing on Jan. 9, 2009, leaving him no opportunity to get his affairs in order. This was because Wayman had failed to comply with a Oct. 24, 2008, protective order for, among several other violations, sending Bird a text calling her “a two-bit whore” in the early hours of the morning after he drove by their former home and saw a car in the driveway. Wayman says while the text was ill advised, it occurred on Oct. 11, when there was no protective order in place.

“The most disturbing thing was I had no idea when I was getting out,” Wayman says. “I’d get my hopes up, then be rejected.” His mind constantly processed the events. “I’d wake up at night and think of the insanity of it.”

Becky Pirente attended one of Wayman’s Saratoga Springs court hearings where Wayman was brought in an orange jumpsuit, handcuffed and manacled. Stoney, she says, “behaved in a quite unprofessional fashion.” Stoney was upset about Wayman investigating the judge’s past online, notably allegations of domestic violence. Pirente says Stoney took it very personally. “He seemed outraged anyone would question his standing. He went on quite a while, berating Craig as a defendant, while defending his record as a judge.”

Wayman’s attorney, Larry Larsen, filed several unsuccessful motions attempting to get him out. Stoney declined to release him, however, and eventually sentenced Wayman to 60 days in jail. Wayman was also charged, while in jail, with one felony count of stalking, which included the supposed text violation. The stalking charge was heard by a jury in Judge Samuel McVey’s 4th District courtroom on June 2, 2009, where he was found guilty.

When Wayman stood to be sentenced, he couldn’t contain his anger and frustration. “I get you want to hear me be apologetic,” he told McVey, but “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. These charges are so drummed up and so fabricated.” Wayman noted that Bird had made similar allegations against previous husbands. After Wayman’s outburst, McVey told him he was tripling the sentence, and he was going to give him to 60 days in jail and three years probation.

Eight days before he was to be released, Wayman was in court again, for a review of his appeal of his domestic-violence convictions. Before a judge unfamiliar with the case, Saratoga Prosecutor Jarvis brought up new, startling allegations. Wayman, she told the judge, “is attempting to hire someone to kill Detective Champagne,” she said, “and actually made threats against me,” noting the source was an unnamed former Wayman employee. Utah County, she added, “is currently investigating that as we speak.” This may have come as a surprise to Utah County. Both Wayman and his current attorney, Greg Stewart, separately inquired at Utah County about the investigation. Stewart says, “The prosecutors’ clerks and the investigator’s office had no record of any [such] investigation.”

Nevertheless, with such dark rumblings in the background, the judge found “there’s a very definite pattern here of [Wayman] being an aggressor, and the same victim being subjected to this time and time again,” he said. He ordered a $50,000 cash-only bail, put both Champagne and Jarvis on the protective order, and ordered Wayman to stay out of Saratoga Springs, until Wayman’s lawyer pointed out he lived there. The high bail meant Wayman says he spent another 38 days behind bars, over and above the 60 days he received from McVey.

BLACK AND WHITE

On Feb. 10, 2011, Saratoga Prosecutor Jarvis stood before a three-man and three-woman jury and Judge Thomas Low in American Fork 4th District Court and told them Craig Wayman was a man who “believes he is entitled, who thinks he is above the law, who bullies his way through things.”

The charges stemmed from allegations predating Feb. 2009, some of which had already been used by Saratoga in previous trials. “It seems like [they’re] just piling on charges,” attorney Stewart says. It might be argued, he says, that the more Wayman fought Saratoga Springs, “the more trouble he incurred.”

Jarvis explained the trial revolved around incidents between November 2008 and February 2009 where Wayman had ignored three protective orders while dropping off or picking up the boys he had with Bird at their former home. Two of the incidents involved pieces of papers the city claimed were “subliminal threats” against Bird. She found them in the diaper bag the estranged couple exchanged, along with the crayons, diapers and other material that went back and forth.

Bird was the state’s first witness. She told the jury she had relinquished parental rights over her and Wayman’s children several weeks before the trial. The children had already been living with Wayman for almost nine months by that point, he says. Wayman was a good father, Bird said, and giving up her kids “was the only way I see of getting [him] out of my life.” She accused him of having “a whole network of people” who had been surreptitiously harassing her by “sabotaging” her car, or driving by her house in a diesel truck, the same type of vehicle as Wayman once owned. No evidence was offered to substantiate her claims.

As the trial went on, it only got stranger. Jarvis showed the jury three scribbled pencil drawings. “I believe they are a form of communication,” Champagne told the court.

Wayman likes to spend time doodling with his boys, he says. One drawing was the children’s, he told the court, and one was partly his, since it featured his rendering of a bi-plane with German swastika marks on the wings that he had once owned. In court documents, Bird suggested “the Nazi plane” was bombing a girl, which she stated as “threatening to me.” She also told Champagne, Wayman has “cloaked” a message to her in her children’s drawings. “It is a pattern, it is concerning to me … bottom line is, it scared me.”

The third drawing was Wayman’s own creation—a man sitting in front of a computer with a cartoon bubble of dollar signs above his head. In detailed pages of description and analysis of the drawings, Detective Champagne linked the dollar signs with threats Wayman had made to sue the city and Champagne, among others. Jarvis brought up again to a new jury that Wayman had allegedly threatened to kill Champagne, according to an unnamed source.

When Wayman took the stand, Jarvis remarked excitedly, “Game on,” when she got to cross-examine him. Along with pursuing the violations, she also attacked Wayman for his pursuit of the city and her office and attempted to cast him as a terrorist by raising an e-mail Wayman had written to Saratoga’s city manager, in which he sarcastically noted that while trying to understand why the city refused to answer his concerns, he had been told that Hitler “had good intentions, too.” The judge had her move on.

Jarvis spent part of her closing reviewing Wayman’s battles with the city. “We as city employees have heard all these threats [to sue], he threatened Detective Champagne, me, the city.”

In Stewart’s closing, he pointed out that Wayman wasn’t charged until months after the violations and that he was trying to effectuate custody exchanges both sides had agreed to. It was clear, he noted, that in the officers’ minds, “there was some doubt,” as to whether Wayman had violated the orders or not, since he had not been arrested the first three times.

The jury found Wayman not guilty. Several jurors, Stewart recalls, “felt the case didn’t add up. That it seemed like minor violations and they felt they didn’t have the full story.”

FIGHT TO THE END

Wayman and Edward Peltekian plan to file a federal class-action lawsuit against the city—if they can find 30 other people who have similar claims to their own to file. Wayman says he wants Stoney gone, along with Jarvis and Champagne. “Unseating a judge is like unseating a king, frankly,” he says.

Judge Stoney questions the honesty of the controversy that has sprung up around him. “I can make mistakes, say something that I shouldn’t,” he admits. “But that didn’t happen with these folks. They were each given more than ample opportunity to ensure their rights were protected and their cases were fairly tried.”

Jarvis doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, either, given that Saratoga recently appointed her city attorney as well as prosecutor. She is also not finished with Elaine Damron-Peltekian, the mother who was jailed for recording a justice court proceeding and is appealing her sentence. Jarvis plans to fight both the appeal, in part, on constitutional grounds, and also Ryan Peltekian’s successful appeal of his misdemeanor guilty pleas. In addition, she plans to challenge the decision on Wayman’s recent court triumph.

Legislative initiatives are attempting to resolve some of the issues that Wayman and other Saratoga Springs residents have raised about defendants’ rights in justice courts. Along with Rep. Ken Sumsion’s House Bill 74, which seeks to give smaller municipalities a direct vote on their judges, two bills, HB494 and SB318, are seeking to put audio recorders into justice courts.

In the meantime, Wayman’s battles with Saratoga Springs and his ex-wife have left him “financially devastated,” and at 51 years old, he now finds himself having to raise 4- and 5-year-old boys with no secure financial future. But he takes heart from his recent victory. Saratoga Springs may have started this fight, but he is determined to finish it. “I’m going to win this battle,” he says. “Damn right I am.”


The villagers are restless in Saratoga Springs and are rallying against their Justice Court Judge Friday.

Judge Keith Stoney was featured in a story last week for sentencing a woman in court to jail for 24 hours for allegedly recording in the court room. Stoney’s rationale was that the court strictly forbid recording, even though the sign outside the courtroom only said “no cell phones” and offered no warnings about recording.

The woman, Elaine Damron, is the mother of Ryan Peltekian who was in court over a loose-dog charge and whose father, Edward Peltekian, has alleged that Stoney and the city prosecutor Lindsay Jarvis have abused their power in trying to force a guilty plea out of the family. Now they’re organizing a rally outside the Saratoga Springs city hall as a kickoff to their “Vote NO on Stoney” campaign.

“Judge Stoney is not fit to be a judge and his court is largely unaccountable,” reads the press release citing Stoney’s “usurpations” as including “violations of constitutional rights, making good citizens into criminals, making false statements in court, abusing his power and having a vicious and evil demeanor.”

The rally is to be held tomorrow, Friday Sept. 10, 3-7 p.m. at the intersection of Redwood Road and Main Street in Saratoga Springs.

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