Marijuana Cultivation, Other Felony Charges for Spanish Fork Couple

marijuana cultivation for Spanish Fork couple

Photo: A7nubis/Wikimedia Commons

On Thursday, Feb. 26, a husband and wife in Spanish Fork were arrested on suspicion of marijuana cultivation for an operation set up in a shed on their property. The couple was booked into the Utah County Jail and is being investigated for numerous other felony and misdemeanor offenses.

That’s Why You Buy an RV

In the popular AMC television drama “Breaking Bad,” the main characters obtain a large RV which they drive to the middle of the desert and produce methamphetamines. One of the reasons they do this is the smell produced by the chemical reactions required to manufacture the drug. Edwin and Valerie Steward of Spanish Fork would’ve been wise to heed this bit of plot.

According to a report from KSL News, detectives performed a walk-by of the Steward residence on Saturday, Feb. 21, after receiving a tip that the couple was growing marijuana on their property. According to a probable cause statement, detectives picked up “the distinct odor of marijuana.”

Detectives returned Thursday with the Department of Child and Family Services on what KSL is calling “an unrelated case.” They asked for permission to search the Steward’s shed, but Valerie Steward refused to give consent. Not long after the visit, detectives observed the Stewards loading boxes into a truck “very rapid(ly).”

After the Stewards left the residence in the truck, officers performed a traffic stop and found numerous marijuana plants, soil, fertilizers, horticulture lights, and various other items used for marijuana cultivation.

Edwin Steward claimed the marijuana was for personal use. Both Stewards tested positive for THC, and Valerie Steward also tested positive for PCP. After Edwin signed a consent form, detectives found the shed to be “equipped for the cultivation of marijuana including a ventilation system.”

Apparently not a good enough one.

Two firearms were also located on the premises. When all was said and done, the couple is being investigated on suspicion of drug paraphernalia, marijuana cultivation, obstruction of justice, and possession of a firearm by a restricted person. All of the drug charges have the additional penalty dealing with the fact that the Steward’s lived in a Utah designated drug-free zone.

Marijuana Cultivation is a Felony

According to the Utah Criminal Code 57-37-8 of the Utah Controlled Substances Act as applies to the Stewards, it is “unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally; produce, manufacture, or dispense, or to possess with intent to produce, manufacture, or dispense, a controlled or counterfeit substance.” The Utah Code lists marijuana cultivation with Schedule III or IV substances as a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

However, again, the Steward’s lived in a drug-free zone. A first degree felony is punishable by five years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Either way, marijuana cultivation is a very serious charge. If you or someone you know has been charged with marijuana cultivation—or any other charge—be sure to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Don’t leave your future—or potential lack of one—in the hands of a public defender.

Utah Wrongful Death Statutes Allow Woman to Sue Self

woman sues self for wrongful deathIt may sound like the plot to the newest movie to be considered for an award for “Best Comedy,” but the Utah case of Bagley v. Bagley, wherein Barbara Bagley is suing herself is very real. The case was dismissed in January of 2014 in district court, but it was taken to the Utah Court of Appeals, which found on Feb. 12 that the survival action and wrongful death statutes do not bar Bagley from suing herself regarding the accident that killed her husband.

Bagley Accuses Self of Wrongful Death

According to a report from the Salt Lake Tribune, on Dec. 27, 2011, Bagley and her husband were driving their Range Rover in the desert 17 miles east of Battle Mountain, Nevada. Mrs. Bagley was behind the wheel of the vehicle when she hit a large sagebrush. It is unclear if Bagley attempted to avoid the sagebrush, but whatever the reason, the Range Rover flipped upside down and ejected her husband. The 55-year-old suffered severe injuries and died a little over a week later—Jan. 6, 2012—at the Battle Mountain General Hospital.

As the heir and personal representative of the estate of her late husband, Bagley is suing herself as the driver of the vehicle for the wrongful death of her husband. Bagley’s original suit claimed that she was negligent for failure to maintain a proper lookout for potential obstacles in the road as well as failure to keep her vehicle in proper control.

The interests of the driver Bagley are being representing by her insurance carrier. The estate Bagley is suing driver Bagley for an unspecified amount of money for damages, including medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of past and future financial support, the physical pain her husband suffered before he died, and her mental anguish at the loss of his love and companionship.

Can She Really do That?

In January of 2014, Third District Judge Paul Maughan dismissed the case, stating that “the language of the wrongful death and survival action statutes prevents a tortfeasor from seeking recovery from herself and that the plaintiffs therefore could not bring suit against the defendant.”

However, in a 3-0 ruling, the Utah Court of Appeals stated that those statutes do not in fact bar Bagley from seeking damages against herself. The question came down to semantics, specifically the definition of the phrase “of another” in the two statutes.

The wrongful death statute reads as follows: “When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, his heirs, or his personal representatives for the benefit of his heirs, may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death.”

The survival statute reads: “A cause of action arising out of personal injury to a person, or death caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another, does not abate upon the death of the wrongdoer or the injured person.”

According to attorneys for the driver Bagley, the heirs or personal representatives cannot sue themselves if they were the cause of the death or personal injury. However, the appeals court found that “of another” simply meant someone other than the deceased or injured party.

Attorneys for the estate Bagley claim that as a responsible heir and personal representative for the estate, she really had no other choice than to initiate the lawsuit against herself, saying that she is legally obligated to pay off creditors before she could get any money from the estate.

On the other side of the issue, attorneys for driver Bagley say this would cause confusion to a potential jury. “The jury would be asked to determine how much money will fairly compensate Barbara Bagley for the harm she caused herself,” the attorneys stated in a motion to dismiss the suit. “The jury will be highly confused—it cannot order a person to compensate herself.”

However, it wasn’t the job of the Utah Court of Appeals to decide the final outcome of the litigation, just whether it should be allowed to proceed according to the wrongful death and survival action statutes. Their decision was to “reverse the dismissal of plaintiffs’ causes of action and remand for further proceedings.”

Even though that was their finding, they mentioned other legal issues which may ultimately affect the outcome of Bagley v. Bagley and other potentially similar future cases involving the wrongful death statutes. The first was in regards to heir Bagley also being appointed the personal representative for the estate. A Utah law regarding estates does not allow for spouses “alleged to have contributed to the death of the decedent” to be appointed personal representatives. However, that issue was not before the court. Nor was Utah’s comparative fault statute brought up in either the district of appeals court. This statute limits the ability of the plaintiff to recover when they bear some fault for the death or injury.

As of Tuesday, Feb. 17, attorneys for driver Bagley hadn’t made a decision as to whether they were going to appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.

Threat of Terrorism Charge for Man Threatening Provo PD

Threat of terrorism to Provo PD

Photo: Fabexplosive/Wikimedia Commons

Between Tuesday, Feb. 17 and Friday, Feb. 20, three men and one woman were arrested after allegedly making threats against the Provo Police Department. One of the men was charged with a threat of terrorism.

Don’t Write it if You Don’t Mean it. Or Maybe Just Don’t Write it.

According to KSL News, the incident that set the stage for the threat of terrorism charges was the fatal shooting of Cody Evans, 24, of Springville, on Sunday, Feb. 15. A Provo police officer and a Utah County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Evans after he pointed what they believed to be an assault rifle at them. It was later determined that Evans had two different pellet guns.

The same day Evans was killed, “concerned citizens” reported to Provo police that they had seen several threatening messages on social media, including one that read: “To provo pd. Beware of c4 and dat 50cal … I’m fed up yall killin my homies, im killin u!” Provo police said “c4” was in reference to “an explosive that has the capability to cause mass casualties and substantial property damage.” This is where the threat of terrorism comes into play.

On Tuesday, Feb. 17, Brandon Stacy West was arrested after attempting to purchase a firearm. West wasn’t the poster of the comments, however, the attempted purchase went against his probation, and he allegedly had spoken of “retaliation.”

The poster of the comments, Michael Leon Angus, also reportedly referred to a “Fletcher” and asked who else was “down to ride on these pigs,” to which Jacob Fletcher responded, “You know I am …”

Police arrested Fletcher on Wednesday, Feb. 18, on multiple felony warrants. Lindsay Parker, 25, made the third suspect to be arrested. Parker had been with Fletcher for several days, including driving him around the day they were arrested. She admitted in a police affidavit that she knew Fletcher was on the run. In addition to obstruction of justice, Parker was booked on several drug charges.

Angus was the last link in the chain, and he was arrested on Friday, Feb. 20, and booked on investigation of a threat of terrorism. In a statement released by the Provo Police Department, Angus “admitted that he had posted threatening comments about Provo police officers, but claimed he was just upset and did not intend to do anything.”

Threat of Terrorism Seriousness Depends on Circumstances

According to Utah Criminal Code 76-5-107.3, a threat of terrorism can range from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony. The misdemeanor would be “if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage,” and cause “an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies to take action due to the person’s conduct posing a serious and substantial risk to the general public.”

In the case of Angus, the fact that he mentioned the C4 explosive jumped the charges up to a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, because he threatened to use a “weapon of mass destruction” as defined in Utah Criminal Code 76-10-401.

This is not to say that Angus didn’t have a right to be upset, however, the lesson is to be aware of how you vent such strong emotions. Putting them in writing on the Internet is not the way to handle it. If you or someone you know has been charged with a threat of terrorism, don’t leave fate in the hands of a public defender. Be sure to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.