Squatter Charged with Aggravated Assault for Chasing Homeowner with Machete

A squatter has been charged with numerous offenses including aggravated assault for chasing the homeowner away with a machete.

Surprised homeowner

Photo by: Marcelo Braga

Photo by: Marcelo Braga

A Kearns Utah family came home to an unwanted holiday surprise when they returned to inspect the damage of their home after it suffered a terrible fire earlier in December. The homeowner noticed a car in the driveway and once inside, called out to the uninvited guest. They then observed the man leave the house and decided to follow him outside. It was there that the squatter, 25 year old Scott Thomson appeared with a machete threatening the homeowner with bodily harm.

Aggravated Assault

Although Thomson didn’t actually hurt the homeowner, the fact that he threatened them with harm is what brought the assault charges. Utah code 76-5-102 states that even attempting to do someone harm is considered assault. Adding what code 76-5-703 states is a “deadly weapon” raised that offense to aggravated assault. Threatening to do harm without causing bodily injury is assault, a class B misdemeanor. Making that same threat while holding a machete is aggravated assault, a 3rd degree felony. Charges of course increase if there is essentially harm done to the victim.

Aggressive, high, or scared?

It is unknown what Thomson’s state of mind was when he chased the homeowner away with a machete. There were drugs found at the scene and it is entirely plausible that he was under the influence of narcotics. Whether he acted out of aggression toward someone crashing his solo house party of out of fear of being caught didn’t matter to the responding officers. Once he advanced toward the homeowner while holding the machete he was facing aggravated assault charges. Acting unwisely in the heat of the moment is a precursor to many charges, including assault and aggravated assault. Requesting the aid of a criminal defense attorney will help bring all the surrounding factors into consideration before the judge decides on sentencing and punishment.

Sexual Abuse by a LDS Church Counselor

The LDS church is exceptionally cautious by requiring any person in a leadership role such as a teacher, counselor, or scout leader to be “two deep” to prevent any allegations of inappropriate conduct such as sexual abuse. Unfortunately, leaders acting on their own outside of, or after church activities aren’t always monitored as closely. Just last month, an LDS Church counselor was sentenced to serve time in prison for having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy he’d met previously at a church camp.

EFY counselor

benmckune

benmckune

29 year old Keldon S. Cook from Farmington Utah was sentenced on November 30th 2015 for multiple charges stemming from a sexual relationship he had with a teenager. Cook met the 14 year old youth while he was one of many EFY counselors for an event sponsored by the LDS church. After their initial introductions at the EFY event, Cook communicated with the teen through texting and IMing for the duration of two years. Following the electronic communications, which the teen stated to be quite inappropriate, the adult church counselor arranged a meeting with the boy and sexual conduct ensued. Cook was originally charged with multiple charges such as forcible sodomy and forcible sexual abuse but took a plea deal, reducing the charges to four 3rd degree felonies instead, three of which were unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old.

Age makes a difference

When the sexual abuse began between Cook and the teen, the youth was 16 years old. Although the sexual acts that took place were not legal, the older age of the youth saved Cook many years behind bars. When it comes to charges related to children, the younger the age of the victim, the harsher the penalties will be for the defendant. Charges are known to be drastically higher when the victim for sexual abuse is under the age of 14. This may be due the fact that older teenagers are known as being somewhat capable of making their own decisions where younger teens or prepubescent children are not. In the case of Keldon S. Cook, if the sexual abuse had started earlier when the teen was younger, the charges against Cook could’ve landed him in prison for life.

Position of trust

Photo by: Randen Pederson

Photo by: Randen Pederson

Not only can a victim’s younger age increase charges for a defendant, but so can age along with the defendant’s role in the victim’s life. When sexual abuse occurs with a child under the age of 14 and the adult is in a position of trust such as a church counselor, it is then considered aggravated sexual abuse. According to Utah Code 76-5-401.1, “Position of trust means:

• An adoptive parent;
• An athletic manager who is an adult;
• An aunt
• A babysitter
• A coach
• A cohabitant of a parent if the cohabitant is an adult;
• A counselor;
• A doctor or physician;
• An employer;
• A foster parent;
• A grandparent;
• A legal guardian;
• A natural parent
• A recreational leader who is an adult;
• A religious leader;
• A sibling or a stepsibling who is an adult;
• A scout leader who is an adult;
• A stepparent;
• A teacher of any other person employed by or volunteering at a public or private elementary school or secondary school, and who is 18 years of age or older;
• An uncle;
• A youth leader who is an adult; or
• Any person in a position of authority, […] which enables the person to exercise undue influence over the child.”

Aggravated sexual abuse

Unlike sexual abuse which is a 2nd degree felony, aggravated sexual abuse of a child such as sexual abuse by a person of trust is a 1st degree felony, punishable by 15 years to life in prison. Those in positions where they work with children need to be cautious about never being alone with a child and following any rules and guidelines in place to protect both child and adult. Any adult who is facing true or even fraudulent charges of any sexual abuse should speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Illegal Dumping in Utah Waterways

Almost 3 million gallons of toxic waste is making its way to Lake Powell and residents affected are questioning the consequences of illegal dumping in Utah waterways.

The EPA’s illegal accidental dumping

Photo by: Sharon Mollerus

Photo by: Sharon Mollerus

Last Wednesday, the EPA had a group working cleanup detail on a Colorado mine. During the cleanup, the group accidentally made a bigger mess when they broke a dam inside the mine that was holding back a large amount of toxic waste. Once released, the waste dumped into nearby Cement Creek and has been working its way down the San Juan River toward Lake Powell.

Complications of the toxic waste

The mustard yellow toxic waste released into the waterways contains harmful chemicals and metals such as aluminum, arsenic, lead, and copper. These pollutants not only make the water undrinkable for human consumption, skin exposed to it can become extremely irritated as well. Its effects on vegetation and wildlife is unknown at the time, however toxic is toxic; damage is imminent. These toxins are predicted to settle into riverbeds, where they will remain for an indefinite period of time. How long it will be until the water is “safe” to swim or drink has not been determined.

Polluting our water

Utah code 19-5-107 states “except as provided in this chapter or rules made under it, it is unlawful for any person to discharge a pollutant into waters of the state or to cause pollution which constitutes a menace to public health and welfare, or is harmful to wildlife, fish or aquatic life, or impairs domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational, or other beneficial uses of water, or to place or cause to be placed any wastes in a location where there is probable cause to believe it will cause pollution.” The Navajo Nation, which uses the San Juan River for a culinary resource near Mexican Hat, Utah is already having drinking water shipped in for residents. They are predicting the cleanup of the toxic murk will be severely difficult and time consuming. How much this will cost or the extent of the damage isn’t even fathomable at this time.

Charges against EPA unlikely

Consequences for illegal dumping in Utah waterways can range from a class A misdemeanor to a 2nd degree felony for those that are actually held accountable. This depends on a variety of issues such as how toxic the discarded waste is and whether or not the person or business has been convicted of illegal dumping before. Since the EPA is a federal company, they are unlikely to face criminal charges for the illegal dumping in Utah waterways; however the Navajo Nation is planning on suing for costs and damages.

Not the same drain

While most Utah residents wouldn’t intentionally dump anything foreign into a river or lake, many don’t think twice about the difference between washing dishes in the sink and washing their car in the driveway. What goes down the drain in the home goes to a completely different place from than runoff outside the home. Regarding these different water systems, the Salt Lake County Health Departments states:
“The sanitary sewer is the system that takes wastewater from your sinks, toilets, showers, dishwashers and washing machines to the water treatment plant. There the pollutants in the water are either removed or reduced to acceptable levels and then the treated water is discharged into the river.
The storm sewer system is used to drain rainwater and snowmelt off the streets, parking lots, driveways, etc. This water goes directly into the nearest stream, river, pond, lake or canal without any treatment whatsoever, so dumping soapy water into the gutter is no different than dumping it into the nearest creek.”

Protect yourself from charges

Those persons caught dumping chemicals into rivers, streams, or lakes are guilty of illegal dumping in Utah waterways. Also guilty are those who wash cars, clean driveways, pressure wash exterior of homes and rinse oil or other chemical containers and let waste water go into the gutters or storm drains. For more information on illegal dumping in Utah waterways or for legal counsel regarding charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.