Letters to the Editor: What is Going on in Seventh District Court?


Dear Editor,

March 13th in SLC at the UPAN (Utah Prisoner’s Advocate Network) meeting one of my long term friends, Mike M. approached me and asked, “What the H**** is going on in Carbon County?” I replied what do you mean? He then told me about how it was all over the news in Salt Lake that a defendant in Carbon County, 7th District Court, had been convicted of multiple sexual based felonies and was sentenced to 1 to 15 years in court, then getting a suspended prison term in favor of three to nine months county jail time and three years’ probation. I had not heard anything about this. I told Mike M. that this is what goes on regularly.

The problem is the paper, Sun Ad and ETV News, print are hesitant to report the critical of what is going on here in the 7th District Court. I remember some years back that new management had come to control the Sun Ad. A subsequent article by the then editor was saying that free newspapers would be presented to all the school to encourage reading and to develop interest in journalism. Helper Jr. High had gone on record not wanting these free papers weekly in their school. The stated reason was that the students there might become upset concerning the weekly jail bookings and having seen their fathers and relatives having been arrested.

There are a lot of problems with what is going on here in the 7th District Court. How do you get the public informed and aware except through our print media. I have previously offered to present a series of articles on details that I have become aware. My offering, to John Serfustini, didn’t even warrant an email reply.

Collum v. State of Utah was docketed by SCOTUS (Supreme Court Of The United States) at 16-5612. When my ex-son-in-law, Richard Brian Collum, incarcerated at Utah State Prison-Draper with a sentence of one to fifteen years after a coerced plea deal by his public defender of “If you plea NO Contest then you will do three to nine months county (jail) and be done with this!” was informed via mail from the court in Washington DC. We were thrilled. Finally now maybe someone, maybe Washington DC was going to look at what is going on here in the Wasatch Behind, rural Utah, Carbon and Emery Counties.

Appeals specialist “big law firm” Zimmerman, Jones, Booher, Salt Lake, was prepared to come on board and assist us Pro Bono, without charge. It is very rare that a destitute, indigent, incarcerated inmate pleading ever gets docketed by SCOTUS. Attorney Beth Kennedy, personal assistance to law partner, Troy Booher, told Brian in prison that if the Utah Attorney General’s office should waive response, not do anything, then their experience was that SCOTUS would probably drop the case. This is unfortunately what happened, the case got dropped. From a TC MITS (The Common Man In The Street) perspective this is Sean Reyes being in collusion, in agreement, with anything going on here in Carbon County.

It is like pulling teeth to get anyone from the Wasatch Front to come over the hill, Soldier Summit, and actually investigate wrong doings in the local court at the behest of a common, taxpaying citizen here in Carbon County.

March 1st I was in Salt Lake City attending a Day of Empathy event. After the program was completed one of the presenters approached me, while I was introducing myself to the new, Utah Dept. of Corrections, Public Information Officer, Maria Peterson. What he said “out of the blue” and never having seen me previously, must be a God Thing, was, “If you are having trouble getting something investigated, you know that you can take it (your problem) to the Grand Jury.” What a concept. How do you that?

In Brian’s case his plea change was coerced “in the heat of the moment” in the hallway outside of Judge Harmond’s court room. Sitting in the court room, with the public defender, hovering over him awaiting Brian’s signature on a form with blanks to be filled out “Statement of Defendant”, Brian read in the form “Are you under duress? Brian was not sure, from a legal stand point what that meant. Brian turned the page over and wrote “I am being coerced.”, signed and dated. He turned the form back over, read through, finally signing. He was told by his public defender to disregard anything that was contrary to the verbal plea deal, but not to say anything about the verbal plea deal or he wouldn’t get the promised, “Judge Harmond, prosecutor Strate, are all on board with three to nine months county…” wouldn’t happen.

Brian was sentenced by Judge Harmond to one to fifteen years. Brian presumed that he would be doing three or max-nine months in prison. When a year had come and gone and no end in sight, Brian began to ask questions. He learned that there were contract attorneys. He made an appointment and found out that Judge Harmond had neglected, or intentionally not told him about his thirty day right to immediate appeal and his one year right to PCRA, (Post Conviction Relief Act) window to appeal. Because Brian was past the one year window the contract attorney told him tough luck, there was nothing that they would do for him. Brian is trapped in the Utah Judicial system. As it stands because of other judicial errors by Judge Harmond, Brian may end up doing the full fifteen years.

Brian learned from prison that you cannot be coerced into a plea deal. A plea deal has to be 1)knowingly, 2) intelligently, 3) voluntarily entered into. Brian requested all the documents concerning his case from the 7th District Court. Judge Harmond, the record indicates, recognized his indigency (being broke) agreed to send copies of the file to Brian. When Brian received this packet from the 7th District Court, Judge Harmond, the portion of the Statement of Defendant where he had written “I am being coerced.”, signed and dated, was missing. Ink from a gel pen would have bled through to the front side. The copied front sides were pristine, complete with blanks to be filled out. When Brian requested I go and get a copy, and specifically the page where he had handwritten. I did so. The copy that I paid for did not have a handwritten page.

Brian languished for years, working without any legal assistance, without any access to any kind of law library, before filing a 65C Writ of Habeas Corpus. This filing goes back to the criminal court, back to Judge Harmond.

When this happens the Utah Attorney General’s office takes over. Assist. AG Erin Riley immediately motions the court for dismissal for being time barred. UT Assist. AG Erin Riley then submits to the court and Judge Harmond a Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss. In Ms. Riley’s memorandum is the complete “Statement of Defendant.” Hers’ includes a false handwritten, extra page, that is not in Brian’s handwriting, is not written by a University of Alabama student but more like a doofus, is not signed and dated and is initialed by someone, RK not, RBC.

Who, authored this false document? Who installed this into Brian’s criminal file on record with Judge Harmond’s court? This was not present when Brian requested it and when I asked for it. How did this get created and installed belatedly into court records, only after Brian refers to his having written I am being coerced in his filing of his 65C Writ of Habeas Corpus.

There are a lot of problems here in our local courts. Like most people I worked daily, paid taxes and continued on my merry way. My background is 30 years mining, most here in Carbon County as a coal miner. I, like Brian, had no experience with the law and especially not with jurispractices here in Carbon County. This has been a long expensive education.

I have often considered paying for advertising, asking if there are other people here in Carbon and Emery Counties that have had bad dealings with our court system and “the cozy relationship” between the county attorneys and the public defenders in front of the same judge.

I’m in the phone book. Call if you have questions.

Jim Darter
Spring Glen, UT

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