This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Attorneys with ties to a violent 2014 arrest shown in a recently-exposed police video say that they were concerned about the actions of the officer who is seen striking and swearing at a woman who appeared to have spit at him and thought an investigation into his behavior had taken place.
"I was horrified and sickened by the video," said Michelle Diamond, who at that time was a prosecutor pursuing charges against Michelle Siguenza Anderson, the woman being arrested in the body camera video.
Diamond said that after she saw the footage of now-retired Salt Lake City police officer Tyler Reinwand punching Anderson, taking her to the ground and berating her with obscenities, she immediately went to her supervisor, Assistant Salt Lake City Prosecutor Scott Fisher.
"I brought him the video," Diamond told The Tribune on Thursday. "I believed I played him the video, if not, I talked to him about the video. And I suggested we not pursue the case."
But Diamond said her supervisor was insistent the case go forward. She said she was told that regardless of the officer's actions, Anderson should still be prosecuted for misdemeanor charges of intoxication and spitting at an officer.
Diamond said Fisher also told her that he would discuss the issue with his boss, then-top city prosecutor, Padma Veeru-Collings, and would forward the video up the chain of command, and to the police, for an investigation. She assumed that had happened.
But when Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said Wednesday that his department was unaware of the violent arrest until this week, Diamond said she was "shocked and angered."
"I don't know what the truth is," she said.
Tessa Hansen, Anderson's defense attorney, said she also believed that the police were investigating Reinwand after the case was dismissed in March of last year.
However, no investigation into Reinwand's conduct appears to have begun until this week, when the arrest footage appeared on online, prompting the chief to describe the filmed events as "abhorrent."
Anderson, now 43, was being arrested in a driveway after a complaint of a domestic disturbance the night of Oct. 9, 2014, when, in the video, Anderson appears to spit at Reinwand. With Anderson's 9-year-old daughter distraught and crying in the background, Reinwand appears to punch Anderson and take her to the ground. He can be heard repeatedly calling Anderson a "bitch" and "idiot" along with other profanities.
He also can be heard telling Anderson: "You deserve to have your ass kicked."
Anderson was subsequently charged with two misdemeanors. Anderson's attorneys obtained the video in discovery and confronted prosecutors, said Hansen, a public defender.
"We, of course, saw that there were some real problems with how she was treated; we wanted to make sure we gave her the very best defense that we could," Hansen said.
Hansen recalled that prosecutors acknowledged the video could make it difficult to secure a conviction against Anderson. Then Reinwand did not show up to testify at Anderson's preliminary hearing in March 2015.
"We were told the police department was aware of the incident and was investigating," Hansen said. "We believed that this was being investigated, and given that the officer wasn't there, I assumed that was [a result] of the investigation."
But Diamond said she spoke with Reinwand after he didn't show up at the hearing, and he said he didn't want the case to go forward.
"He said he didn't want to come," she said. "He was very embarrassed by his actions."
Reinwand did not respond to a telephone message requesting comment.
With no witness against Anderson, city prosecutor Ann Boyle asked for the case to be dismissed, according to court records. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed that Anderson's case file had a note attached warning that it should not be refiled.
Hansen said that when prosecutors said the arrest was being investigated, "I took them at their word."
She said the absence of action "is certainly very, very troubling."
In her eight years as a prosecutor, Diamond said she has watched hundreds of body cam videos. This was the only one that showed what she believed was excessive force, she said. The former prosecutor, who is now in private practice as a criminal defense attorney, said she felt "it wasn't my place" to go directly to the police herself about the disturbing video.
"I'm very saddened by our justice system that this has gone unaddressed," Diamond said. "Somehow it got swept under the rug. I'm very saddened this woman was not treated properly. Accused of a crime or not, that is not how it should be done."
Michelle Anderson's daughter, Jasmine Anderson, posted the body cam footage on her Facebook page, noting on the page that she had received the video clip in an email from an undisclosed source on Monday.
After the video was made public, authorities were trying to piece together how the incident fell through the cracks.
Brown said Wednesday he had ordered a departmental investigation, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who began managing the Salt Lake City prosecutor's office in November 2015, said he is also looking into the matter.
"I have two fundamental goals as the district attorney and prosecutor," Gill said. "First, to address the issue and, second, to have an understanding of what transpired so those issues are not repeated."
He said he has made attempts since finding out about the footage on Tuesday to contact Boyle, who dismissed the case and left the note on the file not to refile, but she is on funeral leave. He did, however, speak with Fisher, who was second-in-command at the time of the incident.
"[Fisher] remembers talking and discussing about it," Gill said Thursday, but Gill added that he was under the impression that the buck would have been passed to then-city prosecutor Veeru-Collings.
However, Veeru-Collings who is no longer with the city said Thursday she has no recollection of the video footage. She said she could not comment on the specific case because "at this point in time I don't know anything about it."
While at the city prosecutor's office, she said she focused more on administrative duties while Fisher was in charge of "screening cases." Fisher did not return a request for comment Thursday.
Veeru-Collings said she had some "vague memories" that the office had "difficulties obtaining videos" from police body cameras around the time that then-Police Chief Chris Burbank required officers to have cameras on their badges.
"My instructions to prosecutors was to view every video and all evidence," Veeru-Collings said of her time in the office.
Gill said "there is no criminal penalty" for a city prosecutor who failed to draw attention to the video.
"There is nothing that requires [prosecutors] to do this other than ethics and good practice. ... There's an issue of process, there's an issue of professionalism, there's an issue of moral obligation, but those are all quantitative issues," he said.
Gill said now that he is in charge of the city prosecutor's office, he takes responsibility for the office's history and feels obligated to prevent something like this from happening again.
At the time of the arrest, jail staff refused to take custody of Anderson because she was injured, Diamond said, and a jail nurse chided Reinwand for causing the injuries. It is not clear if anyone from the jail attempted to report the incident to Salt Lake City police.
A sergeant had also reported to the scene to review the arrest of the woman, checking whether departmental policy was followed, Brown said at a news conference Wednesday. That sergeant, unnamed by the chief, is still employed with SLCPD.
"My question, then, is why didn't this come to light back then? That will be part of our review now," Brown said. "Our review process failed us that night," he added.