A national white supremacist group based in Hillsboro, Va., that has distributed anti-ethnic minority fliers in Salt Lake County has also been sending mailers to Moab residents.
Police agencies in Murray and Sandy have stated that free-speech issues protect the National Alliance from prosecution. But an attorney in Moab says the fliers may constitute jury tampering.In Salt Lake County, pamphlets with general white-supremacist messages have been placed on front yards overnight. In Moab, the message has been more specific, encouraging support for Jaric Robison -- the only Moab resident ever charged with a hate crime.
"The concern is that the jury pool in place for (Robison's) trial would have received contact," said Moab attorney Natasha Hawley.
A jury pool is designated for duty during a select period of time. If a case arises that necessitates a jury trial, members are taken from the pre-determined pool.
It is unknown how many Moab residents have received the mailers, but some are pool members. It is not known if pool members living outside Moab have received letters.
Because of the mailing's widespread distribution, Hawley doesn't think the group is specifically targeting potential jury members.
"It seems like they have just gotten names and addresses out of an old phone book," Hawley said.
Furthermore, the jury tampering issue may be moot as Robison's Salt Lake lawyer, D. Richard Smith, said he is considering asking for a change of venue. Smith maintains negative publicity has influenced public opinion in Moab and may necessitate the move in order to obtain an unbiased jury for Robison's trial.
Robison was charged after he allegedly assaulted Phillip Colvin, a white man married to Rebecca Goodmundson, who is part African-American and part Native American. On New Year's Eve Robison allegedly ripped a car door out of Colvin's hand and made various racial remarks towards the interracial couple, Moab police reports state. His original crime, misdemeanor assault, was upgraded by county prosecutor Bill Benge to third-degree felony assault under Utah's hate crime statue, and a trial is set for April 17.
Robison's legal counsel maintains their client never made racial threats towards the couple and any reports that Robison has ever harassed the couple are false.
Robison has refused to comment about the case but has printed a letter to the editor in Moab's weekly newspaper, The Times-Independent, maintaining his innocence. Defense lawyers said Robison is not a white supremacist, has no affiliation with the National Alliance and has not solicited the Moab mailers.
Edward Lewis, NAACP president for the tri-state conference of Utah, Idaho and Nevada, announced Feb. 15 that recent events in Moab and have necessitated NAACP presence in the area. The new branch will be located in either Price or Moab, he said. The NAACP is also working with the FBI to discover who is distributing National Alliance literature in Utah.