Utah Man Who Targeted Latino Victims in Attack Not Charged With Hate Crime

A Utah man who appeared to target Latino victims in an attack is not expected to be charged with a hate crime.

Attack on “Mexicans”

18 year old Luis Lopez and his 51 year old father Jose Lopez were working at their family tire shop when a man walked into their shop’s garage and attacked them with a large metal pole. 50 year old Alan Dale Covington entered the tire shop when according to another member of the Lopez family, Covington asked if the family was part of the “Mexican Mafia”. It was after this Covington came after the son and father swinging. Luis was struck in the face, causing severe injuries to his cheekbone, eye socket and sinus cavity and knocking him unconscious. His father Jose received injuries to his shoulder and arm while trying to protect his son.

Criminal charges

Covington was arrested and charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault which is defined by section 76-5-103 of the Utah Criminal Code as:

(i) “an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;
(ii) A threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force of violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
(iii) An act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and [that includes the use of a dangerous weapon]”.

Aggravated assault is a third degree felony unless the victim is seriously injured or knocked unconscious. In this case the charges are enhances to a second degree felony. If a police officer is targeted and is seriously injured, the charges are enhanced to a first degree felony.

Not qualifying as a hate crime

While the penalties for aggravated assault are enhanced for targeting a police officer, targeting a person of a certain race does not qualify for additional or enhanced hate crime penalties. Utah Code 76-3-203.3 states: “A person who commits any primary offense [misdemeanors only] with the intent to intimidate or terrorize another person or with reason to believe that his action would intimidate or terrorize that person is subject [as follows]

(i) A class C misdemeanor primary offense is a class B misdemeanor; and
(ii) A class B misdemeanor primary offense is a class A misdemeanor.”

While this section may begin to add further punishment to hate crimes, it only covers misdemeanor charges. For felony charges such as aggravated assault, there are no enhancements for hate crimes. Utah lawmakers are again pushing to update these laws to incorporate enhanced charges for all crimes.

Mental health and intent

Many believe Covington should face enhanced charges due to the fact that he appeared to target and attack the Latino family based solely on their race. Law enforcement officers noted however that Covington seemed to be suffering from mental illness or a psychiatric episode as he had a prior history of mental illness and also showed an unreasonable fear of Latinos while incarcerated. 76-3-203.3 that enhances punishments for hate crimes states: ”The act must be accompanied with the intent to cause . . . a person to reasonably fear to freely exercise or enjoy any right secured by the Constitution or laws of the state or by the Constitution or law of the United States.” While Covington will face the charges for the attack as soon as he is mentally ready to do so, asking prosecutors to further punish him for his intent while he was mentally unstable could be seen as unfair and unnecessary as he currently faces multiple felonies already. Anyone who may be facing criminal charges where mental illnesses played a role are encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable attorney.

Utah Veteran with History of Making Threats Arrested For Sending a Biological Toxin to Government

A Utah veteran with a history of making threats against government officials was arrested after he sent letters to the President, the Pentagon, and a Texas Senator containing a substance that tested positive for a biological toxin.

Disgruntled citizen

Photo by: Andy Rennie

39 year old William Clyde Allen III of Logan, Utah who is a former member of the United States Navy was arrested on multiple federal charges after he sent envelopes containing crushed up castor beans, the source of the biological toxin ricin, to government and state officials. Allen also claimed to have sent similar letters to top officials in other countries as well. This wasn’t Allen’s first threat against the government. Within the last four years, Allen has also made death threats against the President and a threat of mass destruction against a military base in Texas. During the most recent incident involving the mailed substance, Allen undeniably went too far and is now facing federal charges of threatening to use a biological toxin.

Biological weapons

While Allen’s previous threats turned out to be nothing more than him taking a troubling approach to expressing frustration, they have now escalated from verbal and written intimidation to threats accompanied by a deliberate action to cause injury or death. 18 U.S. Code § 175 states “Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon, or knowingly assists a foreign state or any organization to do so, or attempts, threatens, or conspires to do the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years or both.”

Lack of mental clarity

While Allen could be facing life in federal prison for his biological attack, some question Allen’s mental awareness and whether or not he fully understands the gravity of the situation. For starters, he didn’t actually obtain the poison ricin. What he had was castor beans that he bought off the internet and sloppily ground up and distributed to random government officials. Accompanying the chunky powder substance, which wasn’t harmful in its current state, were notes that appeared to make a nod toward the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk. Additionally, Allen seemed more upset at missing his weekend plans than he did to spending his life in federal prison. His behavior doesn’t necessarily reflect someone who intended the worst with a biological weapon. Hopefully the penalty for this outlandish scheme includes a mental health evaluation and the necessary psychological help he so obviously needs.

Homeless Woman Arrested For Making Threat of Terrorism Against Hospital

A homeless woman was arrested after she made a threat of terrorism against a local Utah hospital while refusing to leave the property.

Trespassing at hospital

Photo by: Ben P L

22 year old Zoe Michelle Snow was arrested last week for threatening to blow up Utah Valley Hospital after hospital staff made it known that her presence was not wanted on the property. Snow was told repeatedly to leave and was even offered a cab ride away from the hospital but refused to go. She allegedly told workers at the hospital that she would blow up the building if they made her leave. Officers were called to the scene where Snow was behaving in a non-compliant and even combative manner with police. She was arrested for multiple charges including making a threat of terrorism.

Threat of Terrorism

Threatening to blow up an occupied building such as a hospital is considered to be a threat of terrorism according to Utah Code 76-5-107.3. That section reads: “A person commits a threat of terrorism if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and . . . threatens the use of a weapon of mass destruction” whether or not the threat is a hoax. Threat of terrorism in this regard is considered a second degree felony and punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Questionable mental health

Photo by: faxpilot

Police reports do not state if Snow, who is homeless at the age of 22 and facing more than a decade in prison for wanting to stay at the hospital had previously been a patient at Utah Valley , but her behavior may display a need for a mental health facility instead.