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A federal judge has ordered the public release of documents that appear to show that the mother of Darrien Hunt, the man shot and killed by Saratoga Springs police officers, told her attorney she agreed to a settlement of a lawsuit she brought over his death.
But Susan Hunt's attorneys contend that while she agreed to some of the terms, she never signed off on a final settlement of the lawsuit prompted by the September 2014 shooting of her 22-year-old son, who had been confronted by two police officers after a 911 call reporting a man carrying a samurai sword.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell on Wednesday reversed a magistrate judge's decision and ordered the unsealing of documents that are being offered as evidence by attorney Robert Sykes, who is claiming he is entitled to 40 percent of Hunt's portion of the settlement plus costs. Saratoga Springs also is seeking to have Campbell enforce the terms of the settlement.
The lawsuit was filed by Sykes on behalf of Susan Hunt and Curtis Hunt, the slain man's parents, in January 2015, alleging a violation of Darrien Hunt's civil rights. At that time, Sykes said evidence indicated Darrien Hunt was fatally shot by police while falling or on the ground. The lawsuit sought more than $2 million in damages.
Susan Hunt told a rally last year marking the anniversary of her son's death that she had turned down a $900,000 settlement and would not agree to a provision that barred her from commenting about the case. She fired Sykes and engaged new lawyers.
An attorney for Saratoga Springs, Heather White, filed a motion to enforce the settlement, which she said had been reached with Sykes on behalf of his client.
In an email unsealed Wednesday, Susan Hunt wrote to Sykes that she would accept a settlement of $850,000 to $900,000. In the transcript of a phone call with Sykes, Hunt also said she would agree to a non-disparagement clause that limited public comment to what was in a written news release and said she was prepared to sign a deal.
"I told them the non-disparagment clause is a deal breaker for them [the city] and you told me it was OK, you would go ahead and sign it with that clause in there, right?" Sykes asked Hunt, according to the phone transcript.
"Yeah," she replied.
But one of Hunt's new attorneys, Samuel Starks of Atlanta, said in a court filing that Hunt never saw or agreed to the final terms.
"There is simply no affirmative evidence," Starks wrote, "that Ms. Hunt agreed to a final settlement, during any time after she was made aware of the final terms of the press release, which is part of the non-disparagement clause."
Curtis Hunt did sign off on the settlement, which was to be shared between the parents, who are separated.
Sykes declined to comment for this story. An attorney for Hunt did not return an email asking about the unsealed documents..
Darrien Hunt was fatally shot at about 9:30 a.m. Sept. 10, 2014, after Saratoga Springs Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson confronted him in response to a passer-by's 911 call to report a man with a "samurai" sword who was walking at Redwood Road and State Road 73.
Hunt's relatives say Hunt was cosplaying or costumed role-playing as a cartoon character and carrying a sword that was not a weapon, but a costume accessory with a rounded blade.
The officers say they fired several shots after Hunt swung the sword at them, and they gave chase when he ran away from them. Schauerhamer fired several more rounds during the chase before Hunt who was shot six times collapsed near a restaurant at 1413 N. Redwood Road.
The Utah County attorney's office ruled the shooting justified.