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Cover Story

The Cost of Snitching Page 1

Rat Trap: The reward for telling secrets can be a long stretch in jail.

By Stephen Dark
Posted // June 30,2010 - In late March 2008, two Salt Lake County Jail inmates plotted a murder. One inmate would eventually ask the other, “Rich,” to kill an entire family upon his impending release. On May 10, 2009, Rich wrote a letter detailing the plot to Lohra Miller, the county’s district attorney.

According to court documents, Patty Ishmael, an investigator with the Utah Attorney General’s office, interviewed the 38-year-old Puerto Rican native. Rich told her he would cooperate with the investigation his letter had triggered and testify in court. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

He agreed to carry a small device shaped like an electronic car key in his sock to record his conversations with his cellmate, Dennis Lingmann. At that time, Lingmann was facing 10 charges of exploitation of a minor, two counts of stalking and four counts of unlawful sex with a minor. Rich, who had spent 10 years of his adult life in East Coast prisons prior to arriving in Utah in May 2008, was in jail awaiting trial on charges of drug distribution and receiving stolen property, to which he would soon plead guilty in exchange for a one-year jail sentence.

Rich is on probation for 32 more months and currently faces an arrest warrant for failing to comply with probation. In light of Rich’s potential return to jail and the threat of harm that inmates who snitch can face, City Weekly decided to refer to him as “Rich,” a pseudonym. Rich turned Lingmann in because, he would later tell 3rd District Court Judge Randall Skanchy, “I was raped many times when I was little.” In Rich’s eyes, Lingmann was “a monster.”

Lingmann offered Rich $16,000 to break into a family’s home and shoot Lingmann’s sex-abuse victim and her mother with a 9mm Glock that her father kept in his truck. “If I’m going to do 20 or 30 years in prison, might as well [kill her],” Lingmann told Rich. Later, he expanded his murderous contract to all seven members of the family.

On Sept. 9, 2009, after Rich had made the recordings, assistant attorney general Paul Amann filed six first-degree felony charges of criminal solicitation to commit aggravated murder against Lingmann.

Rich sought nothing. “I never asked for no freedom,” he told Skanchy. Instead, his unsolicited reward turned out to be further incarceration for himself.

After he finished his yearlong sentence in Tooele County Jail, he was released Nov. 7, 2009 into the twilight world of homelessness and the search for menial labor, the shadow of his criminal past never far away. When Rich failed to turn up three weeks later to the Nov. 31 preliminary hearing on Lingmann’s solicitation charges, as he had promised the authorities he would do, Amann requested a material-witness warrant from the court. He and Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Robert Parrish, co-counsel for the Lingmann solicitation prosecution, needed to put Rich’s testimony on record and allow Lingmann’s lawyer the opportunity to cross-examine him. While Lingmann sought to change his attorney, the state kept Rich incarcerated for five months to ensure they had access to his testimony before finally deposing him and casting him back onto Salt Lake City’s streets. The district attorney’s office referred comment on Rich to the state attorney general, whose spokesman, Paul Murphy, declined to address it.

A judge-authorized material-witness warrant allows prosecutors to arrest and incarcerate for an indefinite period of time a key witness believed to be a flight risk or unwilling to testify. Such witnesses generally receive neither legal counsel nor compensation for their lost time. The district courts, according to Utah Courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer, do not keep a record of material-witness warrants or how long these witnesses are jailed for. In response to a GRAMA request, the office of the Salt Lake County District Attorney revealed that, in 2008 and 2009, it requested at least 13 material-witness warrants for victims and witnesses of cases ranging from domestic violence to sex abuse of a minor to gang-related crime.

In contrast, Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill says his office had issued zero material witness warrants in the same period. “They need to be used judiciously and carefully,” he says. “Whenever you are depriving someone of their liberty, you have to have a compelling interest to do so.” He describes it as an “unproductive tool, where you can end up having more victims.”

Controversy over use of this potent prosecutorial tool is nothing new. Two years ago, the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office came under fire for using a material-witness warrant to lock up for seven days 23-year-old Ashley Godnick, a domestic-violence victim who refused to testify against her partner. Rich and Godnick’s stories underscore the collateral damage prosecutions can leave in their wake.

That damage extends even to the very notion of justice in Utah, if a motion by Amann, the man chiefly responsible for Rich’s lengthy jailing, is anything to go by. Under pressure because Rich no longer wanted to cooperate with the prosecution, on March 12 Amann filed a motion to put Rich’s testimony on record, noting, apparently without irony, that Rich’s “ongoing detention effectively darkens the reputation of our justice system.”

Part of that reputation-darkening, argue some criminal defense attorneys, comes from Utah’s prosecutorial culture valuing convictions more than justice. They allege that some of Miller’s prosecutors are using the threat of material-witness warrants to intimidate reluctant witnesses into testifying. Defense attorney Clayton Simms says the public should pay attention to how the state uses these warrants. “In America, you shouldn’t end up in jail for not committing a crime, but that’s not always the case.”

Justice At All Costs
Alicia Cook, who worked under Miller’s predecessor, David Yocom, and now heads up Miller’s elder-abuse prosecution team, says that before Lohra Miller was elected Salt Lake County District Attorney in 2006, domestic violence was “not effectively handled. If the victim wanted the case dismissed or didn’t appear in court, we let the case go. We did not fight for them.” That made life easy for defense attorneys, she adds.

miller_lohra.jpgMiller introduced a new approach to prosecution of domestic-violence-related crimes by dedicating six attorneys to domestic violence, each of whom, according to Miller, has between 125 and 175 ongoing cases.

Her commitment stems from a 1994 killing of a domestic-violence victim by her husband, who Miller had days before served with a subpoena. Her prosecutors emphasize that behind every domestic-violence situation lurks the possibility of a future homicide.

With domestic-violence prosecution, “you’re fighting a losing battle,” says felony domestic-violence prosecutor Yelena Ayrapetova. “You have so much working against you. There’s a lot of biases to overcome, skeptical juries, a victim who doesn’t want you to go forward,” not to mention the muddy mire of emotional situations where the truth can be all but impossible to find. Miller’s approach was to make early contact with victims. “You get a wealth of information obtained at that point,” Ayrapetova says. “The early intervention is the key to reducing recidivism.”

Miller says in her first year, the district attorney’s 70 percent dismissal rate for domestic violence went to a 70 percent conviction rate, a controversial figure among Miller’s critics that includes pleas in abeyance.

While Miller says it’s very rare for her office to seek material-witness warrants, defense lawyers complain they are often held over the heads of recanting domestic-violence victims to coerce them not only to testify, but also stick to their original complaint.

“I fear [the district attorney’s office is] mainly looking at the win column and only at the win column,” says Kent Hart, an assistant federal defender and executive director of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “They should be measuring success on whether justice has been done, not the number of cases they’re winning in court.”

In the past 12 months, “we are seeing more material-witness warrants and [prosecutors] trying to influence testimony,” Hart says. The threat by prosecutors of locking up recalcitrant victims in jail for several months “seems to be a growing problem,” he says. “The risk for the prosecutor is that they are potentially suborning perjury if getting people to not recant. That’s not justice.”

Part of the problem, particularly with emotionally volatile domestic-violence cases, he says, is that prosecutors may well be deciding at the beginning “that someone is a victim of domestic violence and that’s clouding [the prosecutor’s] judgment.” He cites Miller’s chief domestic-violence prosecutor, Michaela Andruzzi, telling attendees at a Provo seminar, “90 percent of [domestic violence] victims recant.” Hart takes issue both with the percentage and why they are recanting. “Are they having second thoughts, did they lie the first time round, or are they under pressure now?”

Andruzzi, in turn, finds Hart’s views equally foggy. She says defense attorneys often forget that the police assess collaborating evidence in a complaint before forwarding it for screening. “We’re ethically bound not to proceed if we think a victim has lied,” she says.

Prosecuting domestic violence is a double-edged sword, she says. “You go forward with a case in spite of the victim’s wishes, and you are told you are not considering the victim. You dismiss the case, the victim gets hurt, and you’re told you’re not doing your job.” She wants victims in court, if only to ensure they are not being pressured to stay away. “I don’t know if a victim is at home chained to an engine block,” she says.

Miller adamantly refutes allegations that her prosecutors threaten victims with material-witness warrants. “We don’t threaten to hold them in jail until they say what we want.”

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Posted // July 4,2010 at 10:01

Lol at ^^^^


Posted // July 1,2010 at 04:01



I think that I may have misjudged you. This story shows a completely different Steven Dark than the Steven Dark I met a few years ago.

Your work speaks for itself. You are the diamond, the prized jewel, the one who simply knows. Because you have chosen to utilize your god given skills to assist people, you have personally created great change in The State of Utah. For, now you realize the power that you have as a member of the media, a D Market like Salt Lake City, Utah. You have caused the skeletons that have been in the closet of secrecy for so many years to become open. You are causing the legislators who can enact change to understand that every move that they make is being followed by Steven Dark, and they know that you will be fair but very clear in your reporting. You will issue praise when due, and hesitate not to state the issue of the day, negative or positive, no matter the cost. Your reporting is based on confirmed facts and your personal beliefs yield to the good of society in all that you write. This has made you one of the great news reporters in Utah, and so many other journalists wish they had the same abilities that we to have to cut to the chase and simply state the truth.

That is also the problem.

With your talents and skill sets, you have hit the glass ceiling. You cannot attain the legacy that you deserve by remaining stagnant as the “Big Fish in a ridiculously small worthless Utah pond” You deserve to experience what it is like to have the nation’s leaders call you, to be sought after by the international media because of what you have created, no matter the odds. You deserve a completely different platform than the small one that you facilitate at this small weekly newspaper. Your depth of coverage, and you unwavering ability to unilaterally seek out the true issues makes you very unique in Utah Circles.

I have spoken to many other journalists who openly state that if they were to tender a topic such as this for review, that it would be examined at every level and it would end up in the trash can. “That is simply too controversial for our venue, we may offend our advertisers” So What!

Steven, you and I have had our ups and downs over the years. However, one thing is evident, we do both not only desire to create change in Utah and America, but we are actually doing it. And very few people can say that.

Listen closely… Get away from this trash newspaper. You have risen above the drama. You have passed the test. Just look around you and look at your peers, what happened in their life to make them simply GIVE UP? You do not deserve to have to be paginated with "Help Wanted... Stripper needed" ads and transsexual massage parlor ads.

Take a stand.

Do not listen to what the management has to say. They know nothing but how to churn clients for ad revenue and how to artificially pump circulation numbers for the Audit Bureau (You don’t want to know!) Take your life into your own hands and just, if not for only one moment, think... how many innocent people have I kept out of jail today because I chose to take a stand against injustice. The lives that you will count will be amazing, and then multiply it by 10. Focus on the data that has been created for you, grab it, validate it and put the merchants of chaos in jail. Just to know that you are exposing the fraud, the corruption, the deception and the lies that stem from the highest levels within the Utah State Government is all you need. The money will follow... It ALWAYS DOES.

There may be people who will make statements about you that may or may not be true, it may hurt, but focus on the long term of making Steven Dark a COMMODITY. Also, ask yourself, what are they (the people who so freely live in judgment) doing to create the change that so greatly needs to happen? Nothing, for, these are the armchair quarterbacks who refuse to do OR say anything, except when hidden behind the shadows of their perceived anonymity.

We live in the information age, where there is no such thing as privacy. EVERYTHING is out in the open. People are so very quick to judge, without knowing any of the facts. The fact that they sit in church once a week gives them a self-imposed license to sit on their throne and cast stones, because they have never even seen their name in print, and most likely to see their name in lights in the Salt Lake City Weekly would be their crowning achievement, they may even post it in the ward newsletter, so they can see it on Sunday, after they have gotten drunk and raped their children the week before… hut hey.. they go to church. Lets see how they respond to this (See the emergency 1-800 number to Salt Lake City in the Bishops handbook of instruction and try to issue them a GRAMA Request… Right. Shhh. Do not tell anybody, they are just victims of their past…. We need to TREAT THEM… If they only knew.

Can you imagine such a sad life?

My friend, go forward and expose those who are destroying the State of Utah. You will find that you have much more support than you will ever desire, at the highest levels of government. And you have me, and that is more powerful than any voice you will hear.

To conclude, let me state that in the State of Utah, the ONLY way to prevail is to have the money to fight the fight. Once they realize that you are not going to simply churn their office with useless attorney letters, and that you are going to dig so far up their ass that just hearing the name "Steven Dark" gives them chills, is when you will simply know that you have made it. Your goal is to get every single one of them terminated for cause. Never Stop.

The day of the newspaper is over. The days of print media are gone. This medium has at the most, 5 years left. (R Murdock Use the tools that are at your disposal and make your voice a force to be reckoned with. Yes, you may make a few mistakes, but who cares, because you and I know that there is only one Steven Dark, and that place called the Salt Lake City Weekly that you call your employer, will be gone, however, you will be memorialized in history as one who made a difference.

What would Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffet do?

Just look at your results. How many material witness warrants do you think will be issued during the remainder of the year? Yep, Again, Congratulations, you did it. Do you know that there is over one billion dollars in fraud happening in the State of Utah RIGHT NOW?

I am guilty for not doing more for fear of personal retribution because of who I am, however, now, there is no fear, and as you see by the passion of this post, and the issues that we tackle via our worldwide platforms on a DAILY BASIS, you can see what effect we are having on humanity as a whole. It is life changing, and every day is an adventure.

Let them all talk... Because you know the real truth, and no matter what, the truth will always prevail, and those who are merchants of chaos will be held accountable in a forum much bigger than that of the Salt Lake City Weekly, and your results speak louder than words.

The power of the pen is so much more powerful than the sword, so use it, and if you want to amass a worldwide following, as a fellow advocate for change, I would be honored to help you.

If you are not being paid AT LEAST $100,000 per year to work in that hell hole building, you are getting screwed.

Now a very special message, to the 8.00/hr. employee who will read this (in the interest of ‘vetting the comments’) . If you choose to take this post down, because it, in some ways is not soft and fuzzy toward your paper, YOU ARE A COWARD. We will find out who you are and we will expose YOU, and you will, again, end up running the cash register at Taco Bell.. or maybe Jiffy Lube (if you are so lucky), because that will symbolize that you have given up on yourself. Just ask Mr. Dark if he has any clue who wrote this, you will quickly notice that there will be no question… how is that possible, when you have such highly circulated numbers? The answer is simple… there are very few people with the ability to make such a public statement and have no care about the public response. The only reason that I choose not to state my name in this forum, is because I know the system as described above, and I know it VERY WELL here in Utah, and I can promise you that Mr. Dark will NEVER tell you who I am, for there is a mutual respect that must be earned in our world, and I, sir, have earned it, as he has mine, to the tune of over 1 Billion Dollars returned to the American Citizens. If you read this and desire to make a statement, just understand that the pen goes both ways and you are NOT anonymous. Please take time and do your homework before you pull this down and rip off the Citizens of Utah from hearing the truth.

God Bless You My Friend, and Yes, Money DOES buy Power, Influence, Freedom and Justice, But whom in the hell cares... The war is over, we won and we continue to win EVERY SINGLE DAY... Call me. There is much more work to do.



Posted // July 9,2010 at 22:07 - meds,please.


Posted // June 30,2010 at 13:26

A very thorough article on a disturbing subject. Thank you for bringing this problem to light.


Posted // June 30,2010 at 11:09

Thank you Steven for this article. The electorate needs to know the tyrant they have elected. Lohra seems to have little to no problem with sacrificing rights in the name of "protection."

Her philosophy seems to be that the ends justify the means, and she doesn't care who she tramples on to reach those ends.

Please Salt Lake County, vote for someone else this November. ANYTHING will be a welcome change to her.