Neighborhood Watched 

Saratoga Springs residents tread lightly to avoid the long arm of the law.

click to enlarge ERIK DAENITZ
As Dave Alexander and his teenaged children sat down to dinner in early January, they heard a knock at the door. One of his daughters opened the door and called out, “It’s for you, Dad.” When Alexander went to the door, he was confronted by three heavily armed Joint County Apprehension Team [J-CAT] officers on his porch. In total, 15 well-armed J-CAT officers, used by Utah County to apprehend violent fugitives, had surrounded the night-shrouded premises.

Alexander knew what they wanted. For the past six weeks, he and his family had endured numerous, if less threatening, encroachments on their property by the Saratoga Springs Police Department [SSPD]. Officers wanted to talk to their 20-year-old son, Ryan Alexander. Such was the Alexanders’ frustration with the SSPD that they had posted a copy of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, forbidding unlawful search and seizures, on their front door. Unbeknownst to the Alexanders, Ryan was wanted for an $1,895 warrant for failing to appear at court to update Saratoga Springs Justice Court Judge Keith Stoney on his attendance at counseling classes relating to an altercation the summer before.

The J-CAT officer told Dave Alexander they were doing a favor for SSPD. Alexander told them, unless they had a warrant, they couldn’t come in. While talking to officers, a boyfriend of one of Alexander’s daughters walked by behind him. “There he is,” the officer shouted, misidentifying their suspect, and J-CAT stormed the premises. Alexander’s 2-year-old granddaughter wandered around saying “hi” to the armed men as they rushed down the stairs to the basement apartment in a fruitless search for Ryan. Twenty minutes later, empty handed, J-CAT left.

Dave’s wife, Danea, says she wants to put a sign up on the outskirts of the town: “Welcome to Saratoga Springs, where the citizens have no rights.” The Alexanders are among a group of people who believe Utah County’s sprawling developments located on the west side of Utah Lake, has become increasingly beleaguered by overzealous law enforcement and judicial misconduct. Complaints about officers routinely pulling over residents for the flimsiest of excuses have peppered a Facebook page dedicated to a campaign called “No to Stoney.” That campaign, led by Edward Peltekian and his son Ryan, Californian transplants to Saratoga Springs, unsuccessfully sought the ouster of Judge Stoney in the November 2010 election.

Saratoga Springs sits on the far side of Utah Lake, west of Orem and Provo, a seemingly peaceful, sleepy little town, where swathes of former LDS Church welfare farmland give way to subdivisions climbing toward the mountains or to the lake’s edge. In winter, the lake freezes over while snow-draped mountains rise behind the rapidly growing bedroom community. Walmart’s already located here, and the National Security Agency is building a $1.5 billion facility by neighboring Camp Williams.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who made headlines in her 2009 election as Utah’s first black woman mayor, talks of Saratoga evolving into a resort town, of bringing “the lake into the city,” where urban resources, outdoor recreation and rural living exist side by side, providing “the best of all worlds.” While she acknowledges the town has “got its kinks,” she truly believes “it’s going to be the greatest place to live in the state.”

DOG FIGHT
One of those “kinks” has been the Peltekian family. City Weekly reporter Eric S. Peterson documented the Peltekians’ battle with Judge Stoney in the Sept. 2 article “Dog Day in Court.” What started with a citation for the family dog Rango escaping into the street culminated with the family’s mother, Elaine Damron-Peltekian, being sent to jail for 24 hours by Stoney, without, her husband says, due process. The judge jailed her for using her cell phone to record court proceedings, something she says she stopped doing when told to by the bailiff. While Stoney was retained by the Utah County-wide vote on judges, Edward Peltekian says 53 percent of Saratoga residents voted against Stoney. “This crusade is about going against people in power who are supposed to protect us, and instead are abusing us,” Peltekian says.

But the Peltekians’ dogged battles with Stoney pale beside those of town “son” Craig Wayman. His parents started the town, he says, which, via Redwood Road, is a 45-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City.

His 80-year-old mother still lives in a house on a hill overlooking the town, which is about 80 percent LDS in religious affiliation. Wayman’s father’s metal sculptures still decorate land by the lake’s edge. Wayman himself built many of the retaining walls and rock formations that mark homes in distinct neighborhoods sprouting off the main roads of Redwood and State Route 73.

Wayman’s easy-going cowboy manner and sky-blue eyes belie the tension in his voice as he endlessly describes to whoever will listen how the Saratoga Springs criminal justice system violated his civil rights. Two and a half years ago, he was “a 47-year-old man with a clean record and no history of violence in his past,” according to a presentation he wrote to the Attorney General’s Office. Back then, neighbors and former clients say, Wayman was known for his fair pricing and work ethic.

However, in the past two years, his life has been derailed by two convictions for domestic violence, one of which was subsequently overturned, and one for felony stalking as well as spending 5 %uFFFD months in jail. He has become “Public Enemy No. 1” in Saratoga Springs, he says; at one time, Saratoga Springs Detective Bruce Champagne and City Prosecutor Lindsay Jarvis were both listed on a protective order by a 4th District Court judge as people Wayman could have no contact with. He says he has lost his home to foreclosure as well as his business, property and around $500,000, due to periods in jail, a contentious divorce and his ongoing legal battles to clear his name.

Wayman has angrily maintained his claims of innocence, appealing his convictions, only for more charges to be brought against him by Jarvis. Their fight most recently culminated in a showdown on Feb. 10, 2011, in Utah County-American Fork District Court when Wayman faced four counts of protective order violations. This time, a six-person jury found him not guilty. Jarvis says both she and Champagne cannot comment on this story, since her office is appealing several decisions.

Larry Larsen, Wayman’s former attorney, argues that, for Saratoga residents, Wayman’s judicial hammering has sent a clear message. “If they are going to do that to him, am I next in line?” But Wayman says, “What started as exposing me as a wife beater and stalker,” ended up instead exposing more complex problems within Saratoga’s criminal-justice system than simply a judge some residents have loudly characterized as a vindictive bully.

Judge Stoney sees the complaints as bellyaching. “I have seen no indications that the few convicted felons and misdemeanants that have complained about the police, the prosecution or the court, represent the law-abiding citizens of Saratoga Springs,” Stoney says.

click to enlarge Just2SonFamily.jpg
This has been a fight, argue supporters of Wayman, that several elements of Saratoga’s criminal-justice system have taken personally. “They intimidate you, they embarrass you, and expect you to crawl into a hole,” Wayman says. “Somebody had to step up and confront them, and I am the guy it ended up being.”

Danea Alexander echoes Wayman’s frustration with the system. She says that a Saratoga Springs Police officer, close to tears, approached her in Smith’s, where she works as a clerk, and apologized profusely for the harassment she and her family endured from, she says he told her, a few officers “who have hard-ons for making people’s lives miserable.”

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