Hostages of Domestic Violence in Utah

Two different cases of domestic violence in Utah within the last couple weeks have escalated to involve taking hostages and discharging firearms.

Breaking up is hard to do

Photo by: Kiran Foster

Photo by: Kiran Foster

On Saturday August 22nd, 42 year old Jenny Andrus, an English professor at the University of Utah, went to her home in Millcreek Utah to collect some of her personal belongings while her estranged husband was away. Unfortunately, her alienated hubby, 37 year old Valentin Dulla Santarromana, was there and a domestic violence incident occurred. Andrus’ friend Joi Hogue who was waiting outside the home tried to enter when she heard the commotion and was shot by Santarromana several times, even as she tried to flee. Police who were called to the house after receiving calls of domestic violence and shots fired tried for three hours to get Santarromana to release Andrus. Santarromana shot Andrus four times, including once in the eye before police were able to detain him and rescue Andrus. Andrus has made a miraculous recovery while her friend Hogue remains in critical condition.

Her daddy wasn’t the one packing heat this time

Another domestic violence incident intensified into a hostage situation early Monday morning in West Valley Utah. 23 year old Oscar Alcantara was having an argument with his girlfriend when her dad offered to drive Alcantara to his home. Apparently something happened during the commute, as it ended with shots being fired. Alcantara then took his girlfriend’s father hostage for 5 hours until police were able to negotiate with him to surrender his hostage. Fortunately in this case, no one was hurt.

Weapons not included

Photo by: Jeffrey

Photo by: Jeffrey

Not all domestic violence incidents in Utah involve taking hostages, discharging a firearm or using a weapon or any kind. Furthermore, not all domestic violence cases involve actual physical violence. The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “[…] a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” Domestic violence can include:

Assault. This can include inflicting any kind of physical injury on another being such as hitting, kicking, slapping, pulling hair, or harming with a weapon such as a knife or gun. Assault can also include not allowing someone to get medical care if needed or forcing them to consume drugs or alcohol.
Sexual abuse. Having intimate relations of any kind without the consent of the other individual is sexual abuse. Even if the two parties are married, there still needs to be consent for sexual relations.
Kidnapping. Taking a domestic partner, children, or other household member against their will.
Unlawful detention. Not allowing the other party to leave the residence, tying them up, locking them in a room, or in any way stopping them from leaving the presence of the abusing party by keeping them hostage.
Emotional abuse. This can include verbal abuse, destroying another co-inhabitant’s self-esteem with hurtful, belittling comments, making the other individual seem worthless, and anything else that harms the victim’s emotional state.
Mental abuse. Threatening to do harm, intimidating, gas lighting (making the other party feel as though they are going crazy), or isolating the victim from family, friends or places of employment.
Harassment. Harassment is any unwanted contact and can be done in person, over the phone, or by way of electronic means such as texting, emailing, and instant messaging.
Stalking. Keeping constant tabs on the whereabouts of the other party and on their activities online and on their electronic devices such as phones by installing illegal tracking software.
Economic Abuse. Causing the other person to lose their job, making them completely dependent on the abuser’s income, and/or withholding finances.

Domestic violence penalties

The penalties for domestic violence depend on the type of abuse. Domestic violence charges can range from a class C misdemeanor if all that is observed is disorderly conduct to a 1st degree felony if the domestic violence ends in premeditated homicide. Repeat offenses of domestic violence will increase the severity of the charges. While those who live together under one roof are known to quarrel from time to time, it is important to not let things escalate to the point of doing any physical, mental, or emotional harm to one another. For anyone facing charges of domestic violence, contact a criminal defense attorney.

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.

Wasatch Front Prostitution Ring

Changfeng Lin, the organizer behind the large Wasatch Front prostitution ring busted last month failed to show up in court Tuesday. Changfeng Lin was arrested in early June 2015 for establishing and managing a prostitution ring which was being run at eight massage parlors owned by Lin throughout the Wasatch Front. The illegal business exploited at least 9 women of Chinese descent, including Lin’s own wife.

Photo by: Weber County Jail

Photo by: Weber County Jail

Investigation and arrest

Lin’s massage parlors were advertised with online sites which are known for listing  “happy endings” massage companies. This ad seeking both patrons and workers was a red flag for Utah authorities to keep an eye on Lin. Thus began the ten month investigation of his business endeavors in the Wasatch Front. During the investigation, Lin was seen traveling between the different massage parlors and residences multiple times a day, transporting female passengers from one place to another. Business licenses for each parlor were checked, female workers at the massage parlors were interview, and Lin was later arrested.

Prostitution a statewide problem

Lin’s prostitution ring was not the only illegal business of its kind in Utah. Over the last several years, prostitution has become a growing problem all over the state. There are areas that are known for street prostitution such as North Temple and State Street in Salt Lake City; however online sex solicitation and the use of business or home massage parlors as cover ups for brothels can be anywhere.

Photo by: Pedro Figueiredo

Photo by: Pedro Figueiredo

Prostitution crimes and punishments

Unlike Nevada, there are no areas in Utah where prostitution is legal. The charges and penalties for being involved depend on the suspect’s role in the prostitution ring.

Prostitution. Utah Code 76-10-1302 states “An individual is guilty of prostitution when the individual: engages in any sexual activity with another individual for a fee […]” Prostitution is considered a class B misdemeanor unless is it a repeat conviction, then it’s a class A misdemeanor.

Patronizing a prostitute. 76-10-1303, “A person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute when the person: pays or offers or agrees to pay another person a fee […] for the purpose of engaging in an act of sexual activity […]” Patronizing a prostitute is a class B misdemeanor for a first offense, and a class A misdemeanor for repeat offenses. If the person being patronized is a child, it is a 3rd degree felony.

Aiding a prostitute. Otherwise known as pimping, aiding a prostitute has the same penalties as prostitution and patronizing a prostitute: A class B misdemeanor for first offense and class A misdemeanor for any recurrent offenses.

Exploiting prostitution is a 3rd degree felony and those found guilty of this offense are the ones running prostitution businesses such as Changfeng Lin with his 8 massage parlors.

Aggravated exploitation of prostitution. Stated by Utah Code 76-10-1305, exploiting prostitution becomes an aggravated charge if the person threatens or forces someone to prostitute, or if the prostitute is a child or a spouse. This crime is a 2nd degree felony or a 1st degree felony if a child is involved. Because Lin involved his wife with his illegal business, he is facing aggravated exploitation of prostitution charges.

Photo by: Gabriel S. Delgado C.

Photo by: Gabriel S. Delgado C.

Hopeless with limited options

Why do many choose prostitution as a career choice? For those such as Lin who are running the show, money is usually a big motivator. For those performing the acts, is it their need for physical interaction or the thrill of breaking the law? While there may be a few that choose this path for those reasons, many turn to prostitution because they don’t know what else to do. Perhaps they lack the education or skills needed to get a regular job. Possibly they were victims of sex trafficking at an early age and don’t know a way out.

Support and legal counsel

There are community and online resources available to help those trying to leave the life of prostitution. For those who are facing charges related to a prostitution ring, a criminal defense attorney can help you sift through the legal ramifications of your charges and help repair your criminal record and your life after prostitution.