Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney - Clayton Simms

new_clayton_about A criminal charge, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, can be a life changing event. Clayton Simms is a fierce advocate for people who have been charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses. He represents clients who are facing charges in Salt Lake City and Greater Salt Lake County. In addition, he also represents clients along the Wasatch front. Clayton Simms represents defendants in other crimes Clayton has represented athletes, doctors, lawyers, and other notable people and has been featured on the news. Do you have a legal question? Contact Clayton Simms today!

Plot to Collect a Debt Ends in Aggravated Robbery and Murder

A plot to collect a debt over the weekend ended in the aggravated robbery and murder of a Utah man.

Hired ruffians

49 year old Tonita Vianay Rico was arrested for aggravated robbery and murder after she hired a couple men to threaten a man that supposedly owed her money. Tonita led the hired men to the apartment of 30 year old TJ Toussaint L’Ourerture Tyler, Jr. after which the two men forced their way into TJ’s home and robbed him. Tonita waited outside only to flee with the two men after the shooting.

Two first degree felonies

Tonita and her hired ruffians when located are facing charges for first degree aggravated murder and first degree aggravated robbery. No details have been released on whether or not Tonita’s hired ruffians took anything from the apartment before or after the shooting however they are still facing the robbery charges.

Aggravated Robbery

According to Utah Code 76-6-301, Robbery is described as when a person “unlawfully and intentionally takes or attempts to take personal property in the possession of another (…) by means of force or fear” or if they “use force or fear of immediate force against another in the course of committing a theft or wrongful appropriation.” The way the two hired men barged through the victim’s door in behalf of an unclaimed debt showed force or fear while attempting to take the owed debt from the victim. The aggravated charges incurred are for the use of a dangerous weapon and for causing serious injuries or death to another.

Who’s to blame?

Each first degree felony that Tonita and her friends will be charged with carries a penalty of five years to life in prison with a fine up to $10,000. A few questions remain unanswered however such as whether or not Tonita knew her friends were armed and if she was on board with the situation escalating the way it did. Even as a backseat participant who didn’t even step food in the apartment however, Tonita is still expected to take responsibility in the aggravated robbery and assault of TJ Toussaint L’Ouverture Tyler Jr.
Those who are facing serious charges or who have gotten mixed up with friends who have made criminal choices are encouraged to seek the guidance of an experienced defense attorney.

Utah Police Search for Driver Who Left the Scene of a Deadly Hit and Run

Utah Police are searching for the driver who left the scene of a deadly hit and run accident that occurred over the weekend in St. George.

Deadly hit and run

Photo by: Tony Webster

On Saturday evening sometime between 5 and 8pm, a Utah driver struck a woman walking along Dixie Drive in St. George, just south of a busy intersection. The driver then left the scene and the woman’s body was found later by other pedestrians walking by. The victim was identified by her daughters as 53 year old Bettina Abraham. It has not been announced if Abraham was killed instantly or died alone on the side of the road after being hit.

Plea via social media

In a live video cast from the St. George Police Department, a department spokeswoman pleaded with the public to come forward with any information related to events that evening or vehicles that may have been involved. They even beseeched the person responsible to contact them to let the victim’s family receive closure and allow things to “move forward”.

Causes and consequences of deadly accidents

When someone takes the life of another with their vehicle, they may or may not face criminal charges depending upon the circumstances:

• If it is found that the driver was not at fault when the deadly accident occurred, no citations would be given.

• If the driver made an error in driving that resulted in “the death of another” but that didn’t amount to being reckless or negligent, they may be charged with negligent homicide as stated in Utah Code 76-5-206, a class A misdemeanor.

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

• If a person is driving their vehicle recklessly such as through speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, etc. and causes a deadly accident, they may face second degree manslaughter as stated in Utah Code 76-5-205.

• If the driver was using what Utah Code 76-5-207.5 describes as a “handheld wireless communication device” when the accident occurred, they may face third or second degree felonies, depending on whether or not they were also driving in a criminally negligent manner.

• If the driver was “operat[ing] a motor vehicle in a negligent manner” and “is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug” they may be charged with automobile homicide, a third degree felony. If they were found to be driving in a “criminally negligent manner”, it would then be increased to a second degree felony.

Leaving the scene of an accident

Whether or not the driver was completely innocent when the deadly accident occurred or if they were acting in a criminal manner or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if the driver flees the scene, they will face felony charges. Utah Code 41-6a-401.5 states, The operator of a vehicle who has reason to believe that the operator may have been involved in an accident resulting in the death of a person shall: immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible without obstructing traffic more than in necessary; and remain at the scene of the accident until the operator has [given driver information, rendered aid to the other person, and contacted authorities]”.

Reasons to flea

There have been many public assumptions as to why the driver chose not to stop after striking Bettina Abraham with their vehicle. Some in the community claim the driver was texting, high, drunk, or maybe not a legal driver. Others guess the driver may have been scared or distraught and fled the scene out of emotional distress over what they had done. Whatever the reason, the driver should back themselves with a reputable attorney and turn themselves into the police immediately.

Parental Kidnapping in Utah

A father of four in Utah was arrested for parental kidnapping after being on the run with his four children for over two months.

Doomsday prepper

33 year old John Coltharp, a doomsday prepper belonging to a new religious group named Knights of the Crystal Blade was arrested for kidnapping along with his accomplice and leader of the group, 34 year old Samuel Shaffer. Some in the community questioned Coltharp’s kidnapping charges since the children kidnapped were his own and with him for over two months before authorities got involved.

The delay to search

The mother of the children, 28 year old Micha Soble of Springville, Utah started the public search for her children with posts to her personal social media account as well as public yard sale sites throughout Utah over two months after her children were abducted by their father. When questioned as to why she waited so long to find them, she blamed the Utah Court system.

Custody order takes time

In fear of losing her children, Soble asked the 4th District Judge Pullan to grant her a temporary restraining order. Judge Pullan denied the request in September after which Coltharp disappeared with all four children, ages ranging from 4 to 8 years old. Over the course of the divorce and custody hearings, Soble remained in the dark as to where her children were. Finally, near the end of November, Judge Pullan granted the mother full custody and the search for the Coltharp children began.

Parental kidnapping

The Coltharp children were all found after a lengthy search from law enforcement and volunteers, with two of the children hospitalized from exposure to the cold and weather. In this case, the children were in immediate danger and parental kidnapping charges seemed fitting. In many other cases however, Utah residents are confused as to how a parent can be charged with parental kidnapping and not just custodial interference.

Custodial interference

Utah Code 76-5-303 states “A person who is entitled to custody of a child is guilty of custodial interference [a class B misdemeanor] if, during a period of time when another person is entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from the person entitled to visitation of the child, with the intent to interfere with the visitation of the child.” Or “A person who is entitled to visitation of a child is guilty of custodial interference if, during a period of time when the person is not entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from a person who is entitled to custody of the child, with the intent to interfere with the custody of the child.” In the case of the Coltharp children, their father was not granted custody or visitation. His removal of the children and failure to return then then constituted kidnapping.

Child kidnapping by a parent

Utah Code 76-5-301.1 states that “an actor [or parent without any parental rights] commits child kidnapping if the actor intentionally or knowingly, without authority of law, and by any means and in any manner, seizes, confines, detains, or transports a child under the age of 14 without the consent of the victim’s parent or guardian, or the consent of a person acting in loco parentis.” Child kidnapping is considered a first degree felony in the state of Utah and punishable by 15 years to life in prison. It is important for divorced parents to fully understand their court ordered arrangements to ensure they are staying within the law regarding their divorce and custody ruling.