This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A federal judge says the city of St. George's refusal to turn over records led him to throw out charges against a felon accused of buying drugs from an informant and toting a gun.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson said Donald Gregory Edwards had been jailed for more than a year before St. George produced any requested documents. Even then, the city excluded records concerning a confidential informant and the basis for a search warrant, the judge wrote in a Dec. 23 order permanently dismissing the case.
The dismissal was recommended by federal Magistrate Paul Warner, who handled pretrial matters in the case. At a May 13 hearing, the magistrate said the city was under subpoena to turn over documents but "blew it off." Warner was also angry that no one from the St. George Attorney's Office was present at the hearing, according to a transcript of the proceeding.
When told that Deputy City Attorney Paula Houston had said she didn't have the funds to attend, Warner said, "I don't want to hear that someone doesn't have enough money to drive to Salt Lake City for a hearing. That is silly, it is stupid and it suggests to me that they must think that I'm pretty stupid, too."
St. George City Attorney Shawn Guzman said Thursday he is reviewing Benson's order and had no immediate comment.
In filings made with the court, Houston argued some of the requested reports either do not belong to the city or their release is prohibited under the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).
Warner didn't buy that argument, saying GRAMA allows disclosure under a court order. Besides, he said, the state statute does not apply and "this ain't St. George's fight."
"They don't have a dog in this fight." Warner said at the May hearing. "This is a federal prosecution."
He stressed the U.S. Attorney's Office is not at fault. Jay Winward, a defense attorney on the case, said last week that prosecutors have handled the case "with integrity."
A written statement issued Thursday by the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case, said its lawyers are disappointed in the outcome.
"However, we recognize that when the St. George City Attorney's Office did not comply with the federal magistrate's order to produce certain records, this was going to be the likely result," the statement said.
Edwards was indicted by a federal grand jury in early 2008 on one count each of possession of a controlled substance and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He was arrested April 14, 2008, and incarcerated while awaiting trial.
Because Edwards has three previous drug convictions, he would have been sentenced to a minimum mandatory prison term of 15 years under the Armed Career Criminal Act if convicted of the gun charge. He was convicted in 2002 in Utah's 5th District Court of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance and in 1998 in Nevada of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, according to court records.
The 39-year-old has been released from the Washington County Jail.