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Home / Articles / News / News Articles /  Dog Day in Court: Cell Phone Leads to Jail Cell
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Dog Day in Court: Cell Phone Leads to Jail Cell

A loose-dog charge results in owners' intimidation by the city.

By Eric S. Peterson
Posted // September 2,2010 -

Friday afternoon in the Saratoga Springs Justice Court was shaping up to be a Mayberry kind of day for a small-town courtroom. Judge Keith Stoney was hearing a loose-dog case. Rango, a black-lab puppy, had the bad timing to escape the custody of the Peltekian family just a day before the city changed municipal code decriminalizing dog charges from criminal misdemeanors to administrative citations—on par with traffic tickets. Instead of the day ending in a dismissal or a fine, however, Rango’s owner, 20-year-old Ryan Peltekian, watched as his mother got arrested in the courtroom and taken to jail. Her crime: contempt of court for having her cell phone out.

Ryan’s father, Edward Peltekian, had complained that City Prosecutor Lindsay Jarvis and Stoney have been trying to make an example of them by fighting to charge them with class B misdemeanors for the loose dog. Jarvis disputed that in her closing argument.

“This is not an attempt by the city to singly select someone,” Jarvis said, pointing to other cases similar to the Peltekians’. Less than 10 minutes after Ryan Peltekian agreed through counsel to plead guilty, Stoney announced that somebody had been identified by the bailiff as secretly recording the court procedures and that person was Ryan’s mom, Elaine Damron.

“We are going to be holding a hearing shortly, with respect to that. It is quite likely she is going to be headed to jail,” Stoney told the court, before having the bailiff give her cell phone to him. Stoney warned the court that a sign outside the court strictly forbade recording. The sign actually said nothing about recording but did forbid cell phones, although in a cursory look around the courtroom, it appeared that most people had them. The city prosecutor’s cell phone sat on the table in front of her, and at one point, the bailiff who had spotted Damron allegedly recording could be seen pulling a phone out of his pocket and checking it.

Before Stoney sentenced Damron to jail for 24 hours for contempt of court, he asked her to explain herself. In her defense, her attorney, Jerry Salcido, explained that Damron was recording at first until she was told to stop by a bailiff. Later, when Damron powered off her cell phone, she was noticed a second time and was alleged to have been recording again. Stoney, upon the recommendation of Jarvis, ordered her to jail. Damron later says she was too shocked by the incident to have told the court they could check her phone since it had no second recording on it.

She was not the only one taken aback by the sentence. “I was in total surprise and somewhat in shock,” says Saratoga Springs Councilman Cecil Tuley, who was in attendance. “[But] I wasn’t sitting where the judge was, so I didn’t know what was going on.”

“I’m telling you this guy [Stoney] is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Edward Peltekian says, describing Stoney’s moments of calm punctuated by sudden punitive acts. To Edward, this incident is only the latest attempt by the city to put the squeeze on him because he refused to roll over on a loose-dog charge. For analysts of the Utah legal system, it’s symptomatic of greater problems with Utah’s largely unaccountable justice-court system.

Edward first encountered the court of Stoney and Jarvis on Dec. 18, 2009, appearing on three misdemeanor charges relating to Ryan’s dog escaping Edward’s sister’s custody the previous summer. Edward had heard that such charges were no longer misdemeanors and in a pretrial conference refused to plead guilty. Edward says that’s when prosecutor Jarvis approached him with an ultimatum.

Edward alleges “she knelt down beside us and said, ‘If you don’t back down, I’m going to file misdemeanors against your son and against your sister, all for the same puppy getting out. I’m going to ruin your son’s career.’ ”

Jarvis could not be reached for comment, while Stoney declined to comment since the case is ongoing.

Four days after the trial, Ryan—who’d testified that, in fact, Rango the puppy belonged to him and that it did have its proper shots and paperwork—received notice that his role in the Explorers of the Saratoga Springs Police Department was suspended indefinitely, “pending criminal court proceedings.” Ryan had been promoted in 2008 with glowing reviews to be the captain of the Explorers, a group of prospective residents looking to join a career in law enforcement. Explorers take part in training exercises with firearms, radio procedures and help the police out with property checks and other functions.

In the suspension letter, Cpl. Aaron Rosen of the Saratoga Springs Police Department writes, “You allegedly have injected yourself into a case that is pending a trial set for Jan. 22, 2010,” and that during the Dec. 18 hearing, “you presented documents that have raised the suspicion of authenticity” on top of a charge of “posing with your family dog in your Explorer uniform.”

In Ryan’s appeal to the suspension, he argued that he was a witness to prove that he—not his father—was the owner of Rango. “I did not think that testifying truthfully in court as a witness could ever be wrong.”

Ryan also is astounded he would be accused of falsifying his dog’s paperwork, when the prosecutor could simply verify the documents from the Utah County Animal Shelter. “Instead of confirming or verifying the authenticity of the documents, the prosecuting attorney chose to destroy my reputation.” As to the allegation of desecrating his uniform, Ryan admits his father took a photo of Rango when he jumped into his arms after he had come back from an Explorers meeting, but says it was a momentary thing.

The escapades continued when Edward moved to disqualify Jarvis on the Jan. 22, 2010, hearing for misconduct. Jarvis met with Stoney in private, then dismissed all charges against Edward. However, they then charged Ryan. In Ryan’s March hearing, he pleaded not guilty and asked to file a motion similar to his father’s. Edward, who was in attendance, says Stoney berated his son for the suggestion and told him, “You say one more word, and you’ll be thrown in jail.” Edward says Stoney did not allow his son the opportunity to request court-appointed counsel.

For Emily Chiang, director of the University of Utah’s Civil Rights Clinic, who has been studying Utah’s public-defense system, cutting off a defendant’s opportunity for a public defender is a big no-no—one that’s unfortunately not uncommon in justice courts that are less familiar with public-defender procedure.

“I’m assuming that people don’t typically face jail time for this particular misdemeanor,” Chiang writes via e-mail. “However, if a judge is threatening to throw someone in jail—as it sounds like happened to the son—that person should be entitled to counsel.”

The August hearing made it evident that Stoney makes good on threats of jail time. “Saratoga Springs is making citizens into criminals,” Damron tells City Weekly after having served her 24 hours of jail time. While no signs warn visitors of jail time for recording, Damron had to learn the hard way that Stoney would not tolerate recording in his courtroom.

“It is strictly forbidden to record in the courtroom without express permission of the law, or the judge,” Stoney said at the hearing. “And in this case, the judge is the law.”

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // November 13,2011 at 09:39 Judge Stoney needs to be Booted Like Judge Kevin Christensen in Box Elder County, Berating the Citizens.
He also needs to learn about Civil Rights Law.
Utah has Nit Wits in Office.
Being new in Utah, these things stick out.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 12,2011 at 22:36

Quite clear this is a case where Supreme Court Judge Durham needs to ge involved, She is aware of the Justice Court and the problems that are going on. Idiots? This is all about cash in the till and the fine is not about Justice. Google Judge Kevin Christensen. This jerk is about to be ousted from the Bench or shot.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // October 13,2010 at 10:37

Anonymous 2, sadly your story is one that is told by many. This judicial system has come at an incredible cost to many. When one looks at the far reaching consequences of this rogue, Judge, Prosecutor, and P.D.s actions, it is appalling. Let alone the City Council's Apathy towards this situation. I can tell you from personal experience, that these individuals have no interest in the truth or facts, simply wether they can get convictions. Many innocent citizens have been prosecuted, and even jailed, all in the name of getting a high conviction rate. This is not only Wrong, but it is criminal. You really deserve to get on board, and be part of ridding Saratoga Springs of this Atrocity. Happily, I can say that as a result of our publicity, change is being initiated, a good start.,,

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // October 8,2010 at 09:32

I have felt the injustice of this court.

The judge and prosecutor have a very good relationship. If there is ever a doubt the judge rules in favor of the prosecution. The law clearly states any doubt goes in favor of the defendant. District courts and above use a rotating judge and prosecutor system so that they can avoid such bias.

More than one case has been overturned in district court or appeals court that originated in Saratoga Springs. Many of them are because of civil rights violations. Stoney may be the judge, but he still has to follow the law.

The prosecuting attorney has no regard for justice. Despite not having a large increase in population court proceeding in Saratoga Springs have seen over 200% increases per year since their first full year. The prosecutor has no problem threatening to put children on the stand and force convictions out of them. Yes I have heard those words out of her mouth. She does not care if she destroys families; all she wants is her conviction, which the judge more than willingly gives his friend. It is truly sad that the law states she is not just to look for guilt but also innocence of the people she prosecutes, but she does not. Had she actually interviewed me she would have seen a false admission. (Anyone reading this and thinking "oh i will just take the heat for this to protect my family." do not do it. you are not protecting your family.) I would say this could just be me feeling picked on if it were not for such a large number of people who feel the same way, and not just the vocal no to Stoney group.

The prosecuting attorney seems to specialize in malicious prosecutions. She will add any charge she can even vaguely add to an offense. I have been told by many attorneys that have argued cases in the Saratoga Springs that those charges are common. The reason for them is the people that go into the court without a good attorney think she is cutting them a deal when she offers to drop the charges if they plead to other charges. I have met and interviewed many attorneys and their unanimous opinion of the Saratoga Springs Justice Court is that it is merely a kangaroo court. The common defense is to go to that court, make a good legal argument and get convicted. Just give up and take the conviction, then appeal your case and have it heard in a real court where the prosecuting attorney will have to argue to convict you to an impartial judge who is trained in and upholds the law. She will have to get real evidence, and prove your guilt.

Sadly the SSPD follows the guidance and instruction of the prosecuting attorney. They are sloppy and lax in their investigations. Again they do not look for guilt and innocence. They look only for guilt, and will even go as far as to ignore evidence of innocence. In my case the officers gave false statements from me, and a confused timeline. a timeline that their own radio records contradict. Statements given in official reports do not match between officers. In my case one officer reported 2 individuals moving together at the same time while another officer reports only 1 individual and having to go find the second.

I could go on and on, but I will leave it at this. Saratoga Springs Justice Court does not dispense justice. They do not serve the community. They should not be allowed to continue to operate as a court, and in fact should be facing charges of impropriety and neglect of their responsibilities if not criminal charges for abuse of their positions.

 

Posted // October 13,2010 at 10:12 - anon: This matches my story exactly, after receiving a speeding ticket for 15 over I appear in court to seek a plea in abeyance only to have multiple class B misdemeanor charges applied, the court clerk and judge arranged to leave me to the very end to allow time for the prosecutor to work with the cops to create these trumped up charges. I hired a private attorney and have been fighting it for almost a year now, my jury trial will happen next month. Can you believe I had to take a speeding ticket to a jury trial? One question that crosses my mind is do the charges for court proceedings at the district level get charged back to the city originating the charge ? In other words is this mess costing Saratoga Springs money. The Justice court in Saratoga is corrupt, broken and a vile stain on the face of the community. If any city council members see this - kick them out now. If the people are forced to vote them out due to your lack of action - you are next on the target list.

 

Posted // October 8,2010 at 21:00 - Anon, Thank you for posting your story, I can absolutely relate to your situation, couldn't of explained my situation any better. This court is an absolute atrocity There are obviously actions in play to expose this fiasco, Many have come forward, but we need to gather more victims of this judicial system, to proceed with additional actions. I certainly can appreciate your desire to stay anonymous, this system has show it's willingness to take heavy handed action, time and time again. Please contact us, so we can work together to change this system..... Go to "No To Stoney" Facebook, for contact info....

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // September 27,2010 at 22:10

Please go to:

facebook : No to Stoney

and

Vote No on Stoney.org

 

 
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