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Green trial was ‘a bargain’

Taxpayers’ bill is $21,274; professor at Y. got $15,316

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PROVO — Taxpayers were not charged a large bill for Juab County Attorney David Leavitt's successful prosecution of polygamist Tom Green.

A year of preparation and a five-day trial in Provo's 4th District Court cost Utah taxpayers $21,274, according to invoices obtained by the Deseret News.

"I can't imagine that other high-profile cases were done more cheaply," said Leavitt. "We really scraped and counted our pennies."

The largest expenditure in the Green prosecution effort was $15,316 to pay for the services of Brigham Young University law professor Monte Stewart.

Leavitt hired Stewart, an expert in legal issues surrounding the U.S. Constitution, as co-prosecutor. Stewart's services made up 72 percent of the total cost.

"He is without a doubt the best legal mind I've ever encountered," said Leavitt, brother to Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. "We got a bargain with Monte Stewart."

At $100 per hour, Stewart said he worked at a significant discount. He usually charges $180.

Stewart, whom Green claimed was working on the case on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, prepared many of the case's memoranda and shared in the questioning of witnesses during the trial.

"I agreed to a reduced rate for a couple of reasons," Stewart said. "Frankly, Juab County is a less-able-to-pay client. I also did it as a public service."

A jury found Green guilty in May. Jurors said Green's "spiritual" marriage to five women violated Utah's marriage laws and that having 30 children forced the family to seek state assistance.

He faces up to five years in prison on each count. He will be sentenced in August.

Most other expenses were routine, including transcript costs, DVD projectors to show Green's television appearances and mileage costs. Juab County also paid $1,263 out of an indigent defense fund to Green's defense attorney, John Bucher.

One of the most talked-about expenses was Leavitt's $743 bill for a concealed weapons permit, a handgun and ammunition. Leavitt said he purchased the gun after receiving death threats.

The prosecutor charged the county for the gun because he saw the threats as a "work hazard."

A Utah Prosecution Council, which oversees the state's "unusual prosecution fund," voted to pay all but $2,000 of the cost, which will be paid by Juab County.

The 10-member state council — of which Leavitt is a member — is made up of Utah's attorney general, director of public safety, chairman of the statewide association of public attorneys, two city prosecutors, the chairman of the Utah Prosecutorial Assistance Association and three other county attorneys.

Money for the state fund comes from court fines.

The money is pulled together by the state to help prosecution efforts in Utah's smaller counties. The fund is limited in its ability to help, however.

Last year, the fund had $35,000 to help Utah counties.

Leavitt did not recuse himself from voting on the proposal to use the fund to pay for the Green trial. He said he did not refrain from voting because he did not personally gain from the state funds and felt there was no conflict of interest.

"We wouldn't have been able to do it without the state stepping in," Leavitt said. "We would have ended up passing the case to the (attorney general's) office."

Weber County Attorney Mark DeCaria, who led the Utah Prosecution Council at the time, said because Juab County is a small county, he knew the state would have to help.

"It's a difficult case with some thorny legal issues," DeCaria said. "It was necessary for (Leavitt) to have sufficient manpower to wage the war in this type of case."

The council has helped out in other high-profile cases in the past — some that have cost as much as $100,000.

Among members of the council, "There may be some mixed opinions on whether polygamy should be prosecuted or not," said DeCaria, who also was surprised at the low cost of the trial. "We did not judge David Leavitt's decision to prosecute a polygamy case."

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com