Defense: DA Should Step Down in Bell-Fair Beating Case

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Defense attorneys for seven suspects accused of beating a South Salt Lake City gay couple in 2008 have asked a judge to bar the Salt Lake County District Attorney from prosecuting their clients.

The suspects are accused of beating David James “DJ” Bell and his partner, Dan Fair, two years ago on July 4. At the time, the suspects were holding an all-night Fourth of July party at their home when two of the partygoers’ toddlers walked next door to the Bell-Fair household. Bell later said the children stood in his doorway and asked for some Kool-Aid, which he provided. Soon after, Tapululu Latu, the mother of one child, retrieved the children after calling Bell a pedophile and, according to Bell, telling him to “lock your doors.” Shortly thereafter, several of the partygoers broke into the house and severely beat Bell and his partner.

Bell was charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary. He was found not guilty in Sept. 2009.

Although Latu told the Deseret News that the partygoers had beaten the men, charges were not filed against any suspects at the time. District Attorney Lohra Miller’s office also did not investigate the attack until after Bell’s trial had ended.

Charges were filed against the seven suspects this March.

During an Aug. 26 hearing, Miller took the stand to address the defense’s concerns over her continuing involvement in the prosecution. Defense attorneys have said that Miller promised not to prosecute the suspects if they testified during Bell’s trial, and that they would not have let their clients testify otherwise.

During Miller’s questioning, defense attorney Clayton Simms presented the district attorney with an August 2008 news release her department issued. According to Simms, the release said that Miller’s office would not pursue charges against the children’s parents, who are among the suspects.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Miller first testified that the release was not accurate because her office had not received all of the information about the case from police at the time of its issue. It then said that she later changed her testimony, saying instead that the release said it would not prosecute the parents due to the lack of sufficient evidence.

“She didn’t admit that the statement released (that she held in her hand while on the stand) was incorrect then ‘changed her mind’ a few minutes later,” said Bell. “The statement she held in her hand was something that she needed to look over briefly before realizing what it was. … She recognized what it was and corrected Mr. Simms.”

Throughout the trial, Bell has expressed dissatisfaction with Simms on his blog at injustice801.com, accusing him of “putitng words” in the mouths of those he questions.

Bell also disputed Simms’ claim that the defendants were ever promised immunity from prosecution if they testified during Bell’s trial.

“There were no promises made to anyone during my trial, and that needs to be clear,” said Bell after reading the Tribune article.

Bell added that while Miller’s office initially declined to pursue charges against those accused of attacking him, “new information was brought to light that allowed them to look into a different theory, different charges than those that were originally screened, and justice for Dan [Fair], an ‘innocent victim’ (though we all know I was too). ”

“That does not mean charges could not be filed in the future within the four year statute of limitations given to such crimes committed [like the felony riot and assault charges facing the defendants],” he continued.  “The DA’s office, for any reason or no reason at all, could have decided at any time between the date of our attack and July 4, 2012, to pursue charges.”

Bell said that he was “angered” by these claims.

“What they [defense attorneys] fail to recognize to the public is that if their clients did not testify against me, they would not have had a case against me in the first place,” he said. “Their testimony of lies was the only thing the prosecution had against me to go on, and it would have destroyed the case against me completely.”

Third District Court Judge Robert Faust is expected to rule on whether or not Miller’s office can remain with the prosecution before Sept. 20.

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