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Temper, Temper 

Federal prosecutor not afraid to flex power when it comes to beer, family

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On Feb. 22, 2014, a young woman accompanied by a 20-year-old attempted to buy beer at a Smith's in West Jordan. Manager Flavio Jauregui declined to sell her the beer because, according to a police report, "based on his training, he asks both people for their identification because juveniles are known to come in with an adult to buy beer for them."

The young male did not have I.D., and the young woman returned solo to buy the beer at the self-checkout aisle, only to be admonished by Jauregui.

Shortly after she left, a man arrived at the store and told Jauregui that he was the two's father, then proceeded to cause what a West Jordan police report describes as a "scene" that went on for at least 20 minutes and was so disturbing for staff and onlookers that "the people in the store [were] concerned for their safety." The man loudly and repeatedly proclaimed himself a federal prosecutor, according to the police report, and witnesses questioned that assertion to police because of the man's threatening behavior.

The West Jordan Police Department screened a charge of disorderly conduct with West Jordan's prosecutor's office because the screaming man had been "repeatedly told to stop and calm down by Smith's Food Store employees," an officer wrote.

West Jordan conflicted it out, because, says city attorney Stuart Williams, a prosecutor at the office had a prior professional relationship with the man—who, as it turned out, was Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos A. Esqueda, a former violent-crimes prosecutor at the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office.

South Jordan took the Smith's case and, spokeswoman Tina Brown says, the charge was declined in April 2014 because "the facts and evidence didn't rise to a criminal offense."

Esqueda and his boss, U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen, declined an interview request made by City Weekly.

Former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman, now a partner at the law firm Ray Quinney & Nebeker, reviewed the police reports at City Weekly's request. "Anybody in a public position has to be careful and has to recognize they may be held to a higher standard," Tolman says. "That higher standard, whether you like it or not, is there for a reason," he says, namely that the public "maintain confidence in those tasked with enforcing the law."

In the case of the incident at Smith's, Esqueda repeatedly identifying himself as a federal prosecutor only led to witnesses questioning his veracity, according to the police report.

Smith's manager Jauregui wrote in his statement that the finger-wagging, yelling Esqueda "told me multiple times that he is a federal prosecutor and that I violated his daughter's civil rights by refusing the sale."

Esqueda was told by the store's loss-prevention officer to leave but continued to badger Jauregui and inform everyone in the store of his federal authority, according to the police report. Esqueda threatened to sue Smith's over refusing to sell beer to his daughter, informing its employees that he knew "the law and the constitution," adding "This is not over," before finally leaving, according to the police report.

Click Here to read police report & witness statements

It wasn't the first time WJPD was alerted to a situation involving Esqueda. In 2008, an encounter at a family party between Esqueda and his wife's cousin, Paul Fedel, escalated to the point of involving not only WJPD, but also the U.S. Marshal's office, the FBI and the Colorado U.S. Attorney's office.

Fedel had gone to prison in 2001 for aggravated assault. According to an FBI-conducted interview relating to the 2008 fight, he had blamed Esqueda, then working at the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office, for his conviction.

Fedel's attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Fedel was released in 2005 and attended a family reunion a year later where he "was friendly with everyone," a relative told the police two years later, but when he tried to talk to Esqueda, his cousin's husband did not want him to talk to him or Esqueda's family "because he is a convicted felon."

In 2008, at a family barbecue celebrating the Fourth of July, Fedel again approached Esqueda and "asked if he had a problem," according to a police report. "Carlos said he did not want to speak to him."

Then, according to Esqueda's statement to the police, as he walked away, Fedel "hit me in the left side of face giving me a bloody nose and cut lip."

According to the FBI report, Fedel said that he had hit Esqueda with a piece of chocolate cake.

Esqueda went after Fedel, who fell and broke his ankle. "I am a federal prosecutor—he knows this and confronted me," Esqueda wrote in his police statement.

After the fight, Fedel told Esqueda they were even. "No, you're going back to prison," Esqueda said, according to his interview with the FBI.

Along with WJPD being summoned, federal U.S. Marshals were also called, although none of the numerous reports taken at the barbecue identified who called them. Among the U.S Marshals' duties are protecting federal employees of the court system, including prosecutors.

City Weekly requested comment from the U.S. Marshals' Utah office on its involvement in the incident, but received no response.

U.S. Marshal Jim Phelps and Adult Probation and Parole picked up Fedel, his leg in a cast, on an Adult Probation & Parole hold for 72 hours the day after. Those 72 hours became months in prison.

The Utah U.S. Attorney's Office recused itself from prosecuting Fedel, and asked that the charge of assault on a federal prosecutor be handled by the Colorado U.S Attorney's Office, which declined to pursue the charge because of insufficient evidence that the assault was related to Esqueda's job. Fedel was instead charged with domestic violence by the West Jordan city attorney.

Fedel pleaded guilty in November 2008 in West Jordan Justice Court, given "credit for time served," according to the court docket, and was released from prison in January 2009. In 2013, he briefly went to jail after a domestic-violence conviction not relating to Esqueda. He is currently out on parole dating back to the original 2001 conviction.

As a federal prosecutor, Esqueda's power of authority provides him with significant resources to defend himself against a relative he believed to have assaulted him. But one person he may not have the upper hand with is his own daughter, when it comes to future alcohol runs. She was heard on her phone as she departed the store telling her parents, a witness wrote, "they had to buy their own beer."

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