by Bill Boyle
On November 15, Seventh District Judge George Harmond dismissed all charges against San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge and his two top deputies, Alan Freestone and Rob Wilcox (see our page 1 story).
The top three law enforcement officials in the county faced a laundry list of charges filed by the top law enforcement official in the state, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
The charges – including retaliation, wreckless endangerment, obstruction of justice and official misconduct – add up to allegations of corruption in the Sheriff’s office.
Pursuing these charges involves three critical entities in society: law enforcement, prosecutor’s office and judicial system.
How did they do?
It is a good day for the judicial system. I think Judge Harmond did an excellent job. He was thorough in his work and took a full 60 days to come out with his ruling on this motion to dismiss.
It is a mixed day for local law enforcement.
The charges are dismissed, but the law enforcement community has been damaged by the entire event. For the past six months, the allegations were hanging over the heads of the top three law enforcement officers of San Juan County, and that is a problem.
It is a terrible day for the prosecutors office. The State Attorney General, the highest law officer in the land, has tremendous resources at his disposal. He runs the largest law firm in the State of Utah.
Allegations of misconduct and corruption demand the very best work of the prosecutor’s office. It was very clear throughout this process that the prosecutor’s office did not do their best job investigating and prosecuting these most serious charges.
The preliminary hearing, in particular, showed substandard, shoddy, and haphazard work on a case that put the professional reputation of law enforcement on the front burner.
When the charges were filed in May, I wrote, “Make no mistake, the stakes in this case are very high. At many levels, this could mean only two things: 1– we have corruption in our law enforcement community, or 2– we have incompetence in the prosecutor’s office.”
It is clear to me – in this case – that there is incompetence in the office of the Utah Attorney General.