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Utah County defends raid

Rave party breakup linked to drug use, poor lighting, first-aid dearth

OREM — Drug use, poor lighting and a lack of first aid stations provided sufficient grounds for Utah County law enforcement officers to break up a concert gathering in Spanish Fork Canyon, according to a Thursday federal court filing by attorneys representing Utah County.

The filing is a response to a federal civil rights suit by the concert promoters who say the raid was unjustified and that all necessary permits for the event had been obtained.

While the group did obtain a health department permit, the county maintains promoters failed to secure a mass gathering permit.

Thursday's response maintains that state administrative law supports the Utah County ordinance that requires mass gathering permits, according to documents prepared by Stirba & Associates, the firm representing Utah County in the case.

The Utah County ordinance is being challenged by recording company UPROCK and other people associated with the July 16 and Aug. 20 events. They filed suit Sept. 2 in federal court.

The plaintiffs did not return messages from the Deseret Morning News on Thursday seeking response to the county filing.

Thursday's filing states that the July 16 event was broken up because neither the promoter nor the property owner had obtained the necessary permits. It also says the Aug. 20 event was broken up based on allegations of health code and criminal violations.

The filing disputes claims by the plaintiffs that the Utah County sheriff's officers were "battle ready" with dogs and rifles.

Officers did not know whether they were going to encounter people who were armed or were under the influence of drugs, according to the documents. Officers spent more than 1 1/2 hours clearing the area, the documents state.

Four undercover narcotics officers purchased drugs, including Ecstasy, from attendees at the Aug. 20 event prior to the police action, court documents state.

Emergency medical technicians called authorities during the Aug. 20 event because they feared people attending faced the possibility of cardiac arrest or drug overdose. "Numerous partygoers were generally unresponsive and lethargic," court documents state.

The EMTs believed people were using Ecstasy based on symptoms that "included dilated pupils, slowed speech, staggered walking, (being) underdress(ed), and general fatigue or lying on the ground," court documents state.

The EMTs were hired by the event's promoters and were told that there would be two first aid stations. None were provided, and the EMTs set up a station using the back of their pickup trucks, court documents state.

The court documents also allege the promoters did not have adequate lighting at the event, failed to provide a sufficient number of portable bathrooms and a site accessible for emergency vehicles was inordinately difficult — factors the county claims resulted in a failure by the promoters to comply with a permit they received from the Utah County Health Department.

The plaintiffs argue in the suit filing that while they received a permit from the health department, they were unaware of the necessity of receiving an additional permit from the County Commission.

They also argue that the permit requirement for mass gatherings lasting 12 or more hours is unconstitutional.

In Thursday's response, the county's attorneys argue that a health department official specifically told the promoters about the county government permit. Furthermore, state administrative law requires permits for gatherings lasting as little as two hours, court documents state.

While the music events were supposed to begin about 9 p.m. and continue to about 6 a.m. the next day, the county's filing notes people may gather in the canyon earlier than the scheduled start and linger after the event. Both events were broken up sometime after 11 p.m.

Thursday's filing also disputes the plaintiffs' claims that the ordinance stifles free expression. The ordinance specifies health and safety requirements for mass gatherings, the court documents state.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com