Tales of the Happy Valley "Gestapo"by William Norman Grigg
Mar. 31, 2014
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Residents of Utah's Provo-Orem Metropolitan Area live in a valley blessed with breathtaking mountain vistas and a dynamic local economy. Unfortunately, one of the major local industries involves manufacturing “crimes” out of trivial incidents, and processing harmless people through the criminal “justice” system.
Several weeks ago, a diminutive 48-year old woman named Ginger Anderson, who is a student and employee of Utah Valley University in Orem, was assaulted and abducted by campus pseudo-cops for the supposed offense of fixing incorrect instructions on a campus sign. Although this was described as “criminal mischief,” it was actually within her job description: as an employee of UVU’s information center, she is assigned to direct students to their classes.
A wall map inside the school’s Browning building was being displayed upside down, resulting in delays, confusion, and other avoidable problems for the students and their teachers. Ginger pointed this out to a fellow employee, who used a magic marker to make appropriate changes to the map, as did Anderson herself shortly thereafter.
This wasn’t vandalism; it was an act of customer service by a university employee. However, a complaint was made, and a brace of predictably self-important campus officers – each of whom was roughly twice the small woman’s weight -- were dispatched to ambush the woman outside a classroom. Ignoring her entirely reasonable explanations, the officers demanded that she accompany them to sign a citation at the campus police office.
Assuming that this was a matter warranting police attention (which it clearly was not), it could have been handled by quietly issuing a citation outside the classroom. But this would have denied the officers the opportunity to make an intimidated woman do a humiliating “perp walk,” and deprived them of a chance to invent another “offense.”
When Ginger quite properly refused to participate in the officers’ juvenile charade, she was thrown to the ground, slammed against a wall, shackled, and then left handcuffed for hours in their office and denied access to the bathroom. Now, in addition to being battered, traumatized, and humiliated, Anderson faces prosecution for “resisting arrest,” an act of self-defense against criminal aggression that is unaccountably treated as if it were a crime of some kind.
Because Ginger Anderson had the temerity to speak out in defense of her individual rights and personal reputation, she has been hit with a gag order by the presiding judge, an official of the Orem City Justice Court. Those who fill that august position body are appointed from a pool of applicants by a six-member panel. While it's true that academic credentials are overrated in practical terms, it's worth pointing out that the selection criteria for appointment to the Orem Justice Court are less rigorous than the admissions standards for DeVry University. No law degree or legal experience is necessary to serve as a Justice Court judge; in fact, any city resident with a GED and an advocate on the municipal panel would qualify.
Orem, a city of roughly 90,000 people, consistently ranks among the top twenty “safest cities” in the United States – meaning that residents and visitors are safe as long as they don’t come to the attention of the city’s over-sized and extravagantly well-funded police department. Despite a near-absence of violent crime in Orem, the docket of the “Justice Court is always full.
That court, like most others of its kind, is a profit center. Its chief business partner is a young and pathologically ambitious assistant city prosecutor named Jake Summers, who receives $104,054 a year in compensation from Orem's tax victims to feed hapless and generally harmless people into the prison and probation system. Utah County's sole public defender is Grant Nagamatsu, whose relationship to Summers is akin to that of the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters.
Within the past year, Summers prosecuted a Utah County woman for “resisting arrest” in a case with plentiful parallels to that of Ginger Anderson.
The victim in that earlier case, Linda Spencer, was arrested without cause in her own home as the result of an unjustified intrusion into a family quarrel by two Orem City police officers.
Initially charged with domestic violence, Spencer was acquitted on that charge by the same jury that found her guilty of resisting arrest – despite the fact that she did nothing whatsoever to impede the officers who handcuffed her and took her into custody. Her supposedly “resistive” behavior consisted of stiffening her legs in an attempt to avoid slipping and falling on the icy, snow-covered driveway in front of her house.
“This whole thing was a family issue, it didn’t involve violence, and the cops didn’t need to get involved,” Linda told me during an interview in her home in Orem. “My younger daughter had graduated from high school and was having trouble finding her direction in life. Like a lot of other people we’ve had a lot of financial difficulty, and I was trying to get my daughter to look into getting a job, or enrolling in college. She could have gone to school at UVU for free. And so I was very frustrated – I suppose we were both frustrated with each other -- and I finally decided it was time for her to move out.”
There was nothing remarkable about this kind of mother-daughter conflict, or the argument that erupted on January 26, 2012. Upset and crying, Linda’s daughter contacted her father, Gary Arnold, who reportedly hadn’t played any significant role in her upbringing since the parents had divorced over a decade earlier. Rather than doing what he could to de-escalate the family conflict, Arnold made an anonymous third-party report of “domestic violence.”
While she has emphatically and consistently denied striking or otherwise physically abusing her daughter, Linda admits that there was incidental physical contact between them: “After I told her that I was taking away her cell phone – because it was something I had to pay for – she grabbed at me to get it back. I did pull her off of me while she was trying to get it.”
Seeking to avoid further conflict, Linda retreated to her upstairs bedroom. Her daughter – who had been joined by a friend who came to help her pack – was in the downstairs living room.
“When she [the daughter] called my ex-husband, he said he was too busy to help her, so he sent a cop to do a father’s job,” Linda contends. “He said that he wanted the police to perform a `welfare check’ because she was being `kicked out’ and it was raining.”
At around 5:30 that afternoon, there was a knock on the living room door. When she answered, the daughter – who had been expecting her father – found herself temporarily blinded by a flashlight wielded by Orem City Police Officer Travis Anderson (who receives more than $92,000 a year in compensation from the city’s tax victims). The screen door was closed. Anderson opened the inner door without an invitation and let himself in.
Curiously, in his official report Anderson claimed that he had “responded to a repot [sic] of a possible DUI” at Linda’s address, despite the fact that nobody at that address had been driving or drinking. Anderson also mentioned the third-party domestic violence allegation. In the absence of observable evidence to corroborate that report, Arnold’s phone call constituted hearsay, not probable cause. No exigent circumstances existed at the time, and without a warrant or explicit consent to be on the property, Anderson and his fellow officer, Sgt. Randy Crowther (who touches up Orem taxpayers to the tune of $112,000 a year) committed an act of criminal trespass by entering the Spencer home.
Having invited themselves in, the cops began to question the daughter and her friend, who later described themselves as intimidated by the uninvited strangers. Meanwhile, Linda was “up in my bedroom with the door closed,” she recalls. “The officers heard me talking on the phone to my oldest daughter. The cops later said that they had to come upstairs to `calm me down,’ but I while I was upset, I wasn’t angry or threatening anybody. I was trying to get the family to assemble and deal with this.”
When Linda heard a knock on her bedroom door, she thought “it was my daughter coming to apologize. Up until this point, I didn't know cops were here. I heard a male voice saying, `Linda? Orem City Police Department.’ Then they started to open my door.”
Linda reacted the way any intelligent and rational person would, by yelling: “Get out of my house!”
Since the police had invaded her home without legal justification, that demand was a lawful order they were required to obey. Instead, they intruded into her bedroom, leaving her in understandable fear of being trapped and abused by them.
“Knowing how encounters of this kind turn out, I wouldn't let the corner me in my bedroom,” Linda recalls. “So I left the room, pulled the door shut, and walked between them downstairs. Anderson later claimed that I pushed him; when asked about this, Crowther said, `no, she didn't.’ They also claim that I `stormed downstairs’ and that they yelled at me to stop and I disobeyed a `lawful order.’”
Once again: Since the cops were trespassers, they had no right to issue orders to anybody.
When Linda reached the bottom of the stairs, she asked her daughter, “What is going on here?”
“You are not having this conversation,” snapped one of the officers.
“I'm not having this conversation with you!” Linda replied. “Get out of my house!”
The officers persisted in the pretense that they had legal authority to be on the property because of a “domestic violence” issue. Linda turned the corner into her dining room to use the telephone.
“Linda entered the kitchen and leaned against the counter,” narrated Sgt. Crowther in his “Incident Report.” “I asked what was going on. She told me that it was a family matter and none of my business, we should just leave…. She told me to get out of her house. I told her that we were not leaving and that the state mandates that we investigate these types of incidents. She then stated `I won’t say anything, I want my attorney.’”
Because Linda “was not going to cooperate,” Crowther continued, the officers “announced that she was under arrest.”
“For what – wanting to speak to a lawyer?” Linda exclaimed incredulously.
Claiming that they had evidence of “domestic violence,” the officers assaulted Linda, Crowther seizing her left wrist and Anderson grabbing her right hand. The 54-year-old woman, who had a rotator cuff injury, instinctively torqued her body to the left to protect the damaged shoulder.
This reflex action was described as the “crime” of “resisting arrest.”
The arrest was a punitive abduction. The officers had no warrant or probable cause to enter the home. Linda was within her rights to order them out, and to refuse to answer their questions. As she was dragged from her home, wearing a thin black shirt, spandex pants, and fuzzy pink slippers, Linda cast a plaintive look at her horrified daughter.
“Is this what you wanted?” Linda asked. “Are you happy now?”
In an exercise of the cultivated dishonesty police call “creative writing,” Crowther claimed in his report that “Linda continued to antagonize [her daughter] … despite our comments not to communicate with her.”
Crowther also claimed that “Linda tried to stop and refuse to go to the car several times, once on the front porch, again on the front walk, at least 2 times on the driveway, and then in the street.” Each of those brief and helpless gestures of non-compliance was likewise described as supposedly criminal acts of “resistance.”
“It was a rainy night in January, and my porch and driveway were covered in slush and snow,” Linda recalls. “I was concerned that the surface might be icy, and I could lose my footing. I asked them to let me change into shoes that had better traction and wouldn’t become soggy, but they wouldn’t let me. They claimed I was `resisting’ because I was leaning back trying to avoid falling on the icy surface. And when I kind of slipped at one point, Anderson mocked me, telling me to `Stop faking it.’”
Four people witnessed Linda’s officially sanctioned abduction – the older daughter, her friend, and her fiance, and Linda's ex-husband, who showed up at about the same time the police knocked on the door. All of the independent witnesses – including the individual whose 911 call had instigated the entire affair -- later testified that Linda put up no resistance of any kind.
Linda suffers injuries to her shins.
Rather than taking Linda to the Orem City Jail – which was just a few blocks from her house – Anderson ferried his bound and traumatized victim to the Utah County Jail, which involved a twenty-minute trip on the freeway. According to a report filed by a deputy identified as R. Wilde, the officers who kidnapped Linda told her jailers that “she has been resistive.”
Deputy Wilde also reported that Linda was “sobbing when she was brought to jail. The keepers of the cage were deeply touched by this display of human vulnerability.
“One of them said, `Oh, boo-hoo, get over it,” Linda relates.
“When I got to the jail there were three cops waiting for me,” Linda recounts. “One of them ordered me, `Turn around and face the mat!’”
“I started to ask her the questions on the Intake Screening Form,” wrote Deputy C. Morgan in his report. “I started with have you been involved with [sic] a fight or accident in the last 24 hours? Spencer stated `I’m not going to answer any questions until I talk to a lawyer. I know my rights.’ Deputies Larsen, Wilde, Terry and myself tied to explain to her the questions we were asking had nothing to do with her arrest and they were just general questions about her health and safety.”
Like most things that fall from the lips of a law enforcement officer, that was a lie: Everything and anything Linda said would be used to prosecute her. Linda, a paralegal and former surgical nurse, was very well aware of that fact, and wasn’t interested in helping her captors – who were determined to break her resistance and force her to incriminate herself.
“Deputy Wilde told her if she did not cooperate she would be put in a cell until she would cooperate and she could not use the phone until she answered our questions and went through the booking process,” records Deputy Morgan.
The body search.
Linda again asserted her rights, insisting that she would answer no questions without an attorney present.
“This is going to be fun!” exclaimed one of the four deputies who took Linda to an unheated detention cell containing a concrete bench. There, with her hands still cuffed behind her back, she was ordered to kneel, something no individual with a particle of self-respect would do voluntarily.
Accordingly, stated Deputy Terry, “She was helped down to her knees” – that is, she was forced down onto the concrete bench. In addition to leaving her with bruised and bloodied shins, the assailants wrenched her shoulder, aggravating her existing rotator cuff injury.
While Linda was pinned down, her shoes were pulled from her feet and one of the deputies conducted a body search.
“I had seen a male deputy snapping on rubber gloves, and I didn’t realize until I saw the video that it was a female officer who did the hands-on search,” Linda recalled to me. “At the time, I thought this was being done by one of the male officers.”
This might have traumatized Linda more than the physical injury: As a young girl, she experienced sexual molestation by an adult male “authority figure.”
“OK, we're leaving the room now -- don't get up until we leave,” ordered a deputy as the four of them exited the cell.
Violated and sobbing in her cell.
“I was in a sobbing heap, Linda reflects. “Several minutes passed and I eventually saw what had happened to my shins.”
Finding the cell’s security camera, Linda pointed at her bleeding shins and screamed: “Look what you did, you a**holes!”
A few hours later, a deputy arrived to inform Linda that her son-in-law had arrived to bail her out – but that she wouldn’t be allowed to leave “until you cooperate – you have to answer our questions.”
Linda once again refused to talk without an attorney present – and showed the deputy her mangled shins. The deputy shrugged, and then said that her son-in-law had been at the jail, but decided to leave without arranging for bail. This point of that little exercise was to make Linda worry if she would have to spend the entire weekend behind bars: She had been arrested late on a Thursday evening, and the courts didn’t open on Fridays.
Another few hours passed, and Linda was told once again that she had been bailed out. She was released from the detention cell – and told that she would have to sign a medical “waiver.” When she refused, the deputies started to walk her back to the cell, but then turned around and booked her out of the facility. This was the malicious stinger to a prolonged symphony of sadism.
The following Monday, Linda was arraigned. To the annoyance of those in charge of the “Justice Court,” she pleaded not guilty to charges of domestic violence by assault and resisting arrest, and demanded a jury trial. Because of her straitened financial condition, she also demanded a public defender – and was given Nagamatsu.
“He was almost impossible to connect with,” Linda recalls of Nagamatsu. “When he finally called me, practically the first thing he said was, `Linda, you had no right resisting arrest.’ He was already taking the prosecutor’s side in the case before hearing my side of the story.”
The trial, initially slated for April, was rescheduled several times. Both Linda’s daughter and her friend contacted the prosecutor and asked for the domestic violence charge to be dropped, only to be told that the matter was “out of his hands.” He told Linda something very different.
On several occasions, “Summers offered to drop the domestic violence charge if I pleaded guilty to resisting arrest,” Linda explains. The charge carried a $1900 fine and a six-month jail term; Summers offered to dispense with incarceration and eventually reduced the proposed fine to $300.
“I didn’t do either of the things I was accused of doing, so I wasn’t interested in a deal,” Linda notes.
Summers proposed the plea bargain because he didn’t have a domestic violence case, and was possessed of a Shylockian determination to extract a pound of flesh. Linda’s daughter and her friend filed notarized affidavits describing in detail the events of the evening in question. Those documents offered no evidence of assault or any other form of domestic abuse. Frantic and infuriated, Summers threatened to prosecute the daughter’s friend for perjury if she didn’t provide the testimony he desired.
Happier times: Linda at her daughter's wedding.
Before the trial was held in December 2012, Linda and her daughter reconciled. They eventually drew up a parent-daughter “contract” in which the teenager agreed to spend a certain amount of time looking for a job or preparing for college.
“As I had told the officers when they invaded our home, this was a family matter that we could work out by ourselves,” observes Linda. “It took us some time, and the pressures of the impending trial didn’t help, but our relationship was fully restored. But we still had the prospect of the trial hanging over our heads.”
When the trial got underway, “Summers excluded all of the prosecution witnesses except for the cops,” Linda recounts. Anderson was sitting next to the prosecutor carrying his sidearm.
“Nagamatsu was entirely ineffective,” Linda laments. “I had to prompt him to make objections. And he didn’t follow up at all on an opportunity to impeach Anderson, who was the most important witness for the prosecution. During one exchange, Summers asked Anderson if he had any reason to lie, and the cop kept giving him the `wrong’ answer – that is, he kept fudging the issue in ways that made it clear he was willing to lie and could get away with it. Summers had to ask the question at least four times, but Nagamatsu either didn’t understand this or didn’t think it was important.”
Despite her attorney’s dubious competence, the domestic violence case fell apart during the trial. The officers contradicted each other about a supposed injury to Linda’s daughter: Anderson claimed to have seen a mark on the young woman’s face, but Crowther said that no such mark existed. They offered inconsistent responses when asked if they had received permission to enter the home. Their description of the incident, and the arrest, were contradicted in detail by the defense witnesses – including the supposed victim, and the alienated ex-husband whose 911 call had precipitated the confrontation.
“What I find interesting is that the cops were allowed to read their statements, but the witnesses for the defense were required to rely on their memories,” Linda points out. “This allowed Summers to threaten them with perjury if their stories were in any way inconsistent, or the jury didn’t believe their testimony.”
After more than twelve hours of testimony, the jury “split the baby,” Linda ruefully concludes. “They acquitted me of domestic violence, but they convicted me of resisting arrest. They were tired. One of the jurors was a father whose wife was expecting a baby very soon. So they simply arranged a compromise and washed their hands of the case. What the heck – it wasn’t their life they were dealing with, after all. They wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of an unjustified conviction.”
Linda filed an immediate appeal, which was heard by the District Court in neighboring Spanish Fork the following July. In that case, the defense presented the testimonies of five witnesses that Linda had not resisted arrest. The prosecution parried with the testimony of Officer Anderson. The latter presentation won the favor of the four-member panel – three of whom were related to police officers.
“During the second trial, Summers repeatedly brought up the domestic violence charge, which he was prohibited from doing,” Linda recalls. “This was enough to merit a mistrial, but the judge was interested only in finishing the proceeding, rather than seeing justice done.”
Linda was given a $600 fine that could be “paid” through 600 hours of “community service” at the rate of $10 an hour. She was ordered to give $100 to the public “defender” who had represented her without distinction, and forced to pay $125 for an “anger management” class that was, in her words, “worse than useless.” She remains on probation until July 16, 2014.
“What scares me is that Ginger [Anderson] is going to have to go through the same process,” Linda declares. “She faces the same prosecutor I did, she will be represented – if that’s the proper word – by the same public defender I had, and she’s facing the same bogus charge that was given to me. The police and prosecutors here in Orem love `stacking’ -- piling a `resisting arrest’ charge on top of every offense. That way they can force a guilty plea, or have a really good chance to convict the defendant of something – and jurors here generally take the word of a police officer who is clearly lying or contradicting himself over that of a defendant who is telling one clear story.”
Interestingly, thirty years ago, Linda successfully resisted arrest – albeit at the cost of suffering a pretty severe beating. And she was never charged for that purported crime.
“I was beaten up by a police officer here in Provo when I was about 25 years old,” she points out. The assailant, a Provo Police Officer named Phil Perry, followed Linda to her mother’s house and accused her of driving 50 miles per hour in a 35 MPH zone. When Linda asked if the officer had clocked her with a radar gun, he invoked his government-granted superpowers, insisting that “my eyes are trained.”
Perry had leaned on Linda’s car. When Linda ordered him to remove his hands from her property, Perry simply sneered at her. Since the tax-feeder wasn’t inclined to obey her lawful order, Linda carefully reached over and gently removed the offending hand from her vehicle. Perry retaliated by seizing Linda’s arm, wrenching it behind her, and insisting that she was “under arrest.”
“I was out there in a construction area nobody was around,” Linda recalls. “I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I thought he might drag me off somewhere and kill me. He called for backup because he was dealing with a female who was resisting arrest. Several other cops came screaming up with their batons – no guns, thankfully.”
Rather than joining in the assault, Perry’s supervisor, an officer named Sgt. DuVal, ordered the officer to release her. He told Linda to visit the police department after work, where she was given a citation for speeding.
DuVal did what should have been done in the more recent case of Ginger Anderson – assuming, once again, that issuing a citation was appropriate.
Sergeant DuVal was a blessed anomaly. Chief Swen Nielsen, unfortunately, was quite typical of his profession. After completing – within a week -- the type of standard “internal investigation” that is simply a prelude to the inevitable exoneration, Nielsen sent Linda a petulant letter saying that she had “struck” the officer after proceeding from “verbal to physical aggression.”
“The officer used only that force necessary to overcome your actual resistance to his effort to place you in custody, which he is legally entitled to do,” insisted Nielsen. The Chief went on to deploy the “Acevedo Defense” – emphasizing that the supposedly belligerent woman should consider herself fortunate that she didn’t suffer severe injury: “In my view the officer acted with remarkable restraint considering the degree of abuse that you subjected him to.”
Not content with a casual endorsement of criminal violence by one of his underlings, Nielsen actually threatened Linda’s then-husband for publicly criticizing the armed stranger who had abused his wife:
“This entire matter has been aggravated by your husband sharing accounts of the incident with coworkers. I have been in touch with a witness who states that your husband has made some rather damaging statements as to Officer Perry’s reputation…. It has been suggested that Officer Perry should seek legal council [sic] to explore the possibility of initiating an action against your husband for slander.”
Although the traffic ticket was upheld, Linda was never charged with resisting arrest. More remarkable still is the fact that about a year and a half later an Orem officer who beat and maced a woman who was five months pregnant – thereby provoking the heroic intervention of a local man named Walt Parcell – was actually suspended from the force. That is to say, he was given a paid vacation.
Officer Leonard Brown tried to “arrest” Cindy Tuaileva after the 31-year-old mother, properly disgusted at being handed an extortion note (more commonly called a “traffic ticket”) for “improper display of a license plate,” contemptuously hurled the officer’s ballpoint pen at him. Rather than being an adult and walking away, Brown assaulted the woman, twisting her arm, pulling her hair, and attacking her with mace. The victim rolled up her window and locked her door to hold the assailant – and a comrade named Nick McComber – at bay.
Parcell happened to drive by the scene and saw the traumatized woman who had fallen among thieves. When the Good Samaritan asked if he could help, the aggressors ordered him to keep his distance – but the victim entreated him not to leave. In short order, Parcell was attacked with mace, struck in the knee with a baton, and choked nearly into unconsciousness. After being arrested and charged with “interference,” Parcell received a personal phone call from the Orem Police Chief, Ted Peacock, promising that the charges would be pursued without stint or limit.
Fortunately, Parcell wasn’t sent to prison, and Mrs. Tuaileva recovered from her injuries. Each of them filed a lawsuit against Officers Brown and MaComber, which was predictable. The reaction of some of their neighbors, however, was not.
“If this represents proper police procedure, we have some real concerns for both the procedure and those who establish it,” protested ten Orem residents in a letter to the Provo Daily Herald. Confronted with the spectacle of a pregnant woman being abused by a police officer, “We would have had to do what Walt did,” his neighbors asserted.
“It is obvious that the Gestapo is alive and well in Orem City (Happy Valley, USA),” lamented another resident. “It is obvious that the Orem Police Department has forgotten who pays their salaries and buys their fancy new cars and night sticks. Who is the servant of whom?”
Lindon, Utah resident Jody Harris also described herself as “absolutely … ashamed at the `Gestapo’ tactics displayed by Officer Leonard Brown and `other’ officers called to the scene…. This … attack on personal rights, here in Orem, Utah, USA, not Russia, is appalling.”
The views expressed by Mrs. Harris were those of a woman whose late husband, Kenneth Harris, “was in police work for 29 years, as a Highway Patrol trooper and chief of [police in] Lindon.”
Those principled expressions of moral outrage over criminal misconduct by police read like inscriptions on crumbling stele from a long-extinct culture. Over the generation that has passed since those admirably rebellious sentiments were committed to print, the impudent aggressiveness of the police who afflict “Happy Valley” has grown pari passu with the submissiveness of the population upon whom they prey.
William Norman Grigg publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.