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Judge discloses possible conflict of interest in grave-desecration case

SHARE Judge discloses possible conflict of interest in grave-desecration case

The judge who last month dismissed felony charges of abuse or desecration of a dead human body against a prominent southeastern Utah doctor has disclosed a possible conflict of interest.

Seventh District Judge Lyle Anderson said in a court filing on Friday that the physician, James Redd of Blanding, presided over the birth of one of the judge's children.Anderson said he was adding his association with Redd to the physician's court file in response to "rumors of a doctor-patient relationship" to allow parties in the case to "take such action they consider appropriate."

Hopi tribal leaders have complained that the prominent southeastern Utah doctor was getting preferential treatment from the local justice system ever since Redd and his wife, Jeanne Redd, were accused of raiding an ancient Indian grave more than a year ago.

The county attorney investigating the case bowed out because of a previous relationship with the doctor and a neighboring county attorney brought charges 10 months after the alleged incident.

Anderson dismissed the charges against the Redds on March 20.

According to the disclosures filed Friday, Redd provided medical care to the judge's wife on three occasions more than 10 years ago. Redd delivered the judge's son in 1982.

Redd has never provided medical care to Anderson, nor has he been the primary-care physician for the judge's family except "for a brief period of time more than 10 years ago when there was no doctor in Monticello," Anderson wrote.

The only other contact between the judge's family and Redd during the past 10 years has been on an emergency basis, said Anderson.

In October 1995, Redd treated a laceration on the knee of Anderson's 10-year-old son, but the judge was not present during the emergency-room visit and all follow-up treatment was done by a different physician.

"It has been the practice of this judge to recuse himself from litigation involving a doctor who is, or has recently been, the physician for the judge or a member of his family," Anderson wrote in the disclosure. "The relationship between the judge and Redd does not meet these criteria."

Redd is one of only two doctors maintaining a regular practice in San Juan County; Anderson is one of only three judges in the 7th District Court of Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties. By virtue of southeastern Utah's sparse population, it's likely the two professionals' paths would cross.

But in addition to deciding the Redds' criminal case, Anderson is presiding over three pending cases involving the Redds.

- One case is a lawsuit against James and Jeanne Redd brought last month by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. That agency seeks at least $250,000 in damages for destroying the prehistoric grave site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

- The judge also is presiding over a malpractice lawsuit filed in January against Redd and San Juan County Health Services by Barbara Sam, seeking more than $250,000 resulting from the death of her husband.

Court records say Woody Sam visited Redd complaining of chest pains in September 1995 and was treated for gastrointestinal disorder. Less than 24 hours after Sam was discharged, he died of a massive heart attack.

- The third case is a civil lawsuit filed April 3 by Jeanne Redd, seeking more than $2,000 from Tom H. Jones for damages caused to Redd's car in a collision.

When Anderson dismissed the charges, he said he "won't put Mr. and Mrs. Redd through the trauma of a trial."

Anderson found the Redds did indeed dig up human remains in Cottonwood Wash in January 1996 without authorization, but the judge did not believe their actions constituted "abuse or desecration of a dead body" under state law.