Assault victim DJ Bell may sue South Salt Lake Police Department, but definitely will sue several individuals who accused him of kidnapping two children then attacked him and partner Dan Fair.
Bell was acquitted of the kidnapping charges Sept. 25. Civil lawsuits have not been filed, but will be soon, his criminal defense attorneys said Monday at a press conference. The civil attorneys that will handle the case have been retained, but their names were not announced.
Bell was accused of kidnapping two children, ages 2 and 4, from his next door neighbor on July 4, 2008. He and his boyfriend were subsequently attacked, leaving Bell with a head injury and hearing loss. Fair spent three days in the hospital (see photo). While Bell as put on trial--and faced decades in prison--the attackers have not been criminally charged.
Defense attorney Roger Kraft said the Salt Lake District Attorney's office is investigating the case again. Two investigators from that office, Kraft said, have called his office for information. A office spokesperson said on the day of the acquittal that they would reexamine the case for possible charges against the attackers.
Kraft also said the DA's office had him under surveillance during the trial. "The DA's office had me under surveillance ... then accused us of hiding Dan [Fair]."Kraft said Fair was not hiding, but that prosecutors had not sought to subpoena him until two days before the trial.
Defense attorney Susanne Gustin, while discussing whether Bell and Fair will sue South Salt Lake Police, said officers violated several department policies while investigating the case including not calling a crime scene unit to the scene of two severe assaults.
Kraft and Gustin defended the DA's office's handling of the case, saying the failure was in South Salt Lake Police for conducting a shoddy investigation. "If you didn't investigate a case, don't present it to the DA," Gustin said.
When asked whether the DA's office should have refused to file the charges the police department sought, Kraft said, "We're not ready to throw them under the bus." Gustin then joked, "We still have to work with these people [from the DA's office.]"
Kraft later said that he and Miller, a Republican up for reelection next year, are friends. He said he and Gustin met with Miller personally once during the case and shared their prediction that the prosecution of Bell would end in an acquittal. They asked then that the case be dismissed, Kraft said, but Miller refused.
We interviewed Bell a week ago. See this week's 5 Spot for that.