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Famed attorney gets chance to fight Orem over dead lawn

Attorney Gloria Allred, left, has gotten judicial approval to defend Betty Perry in court against charges stemming from a dead lawn.
Attorney Gloria Allred, left, has gotten judicial approval to defend Betty Perry in court against charges stemming from a dead lawn.
George Frey, Associated Press

OREM — The last time famed California attorney Gloria Allred came to Orem, it was to call the city names and hold up a pair of rusty handcuffs.

Now, she's got a judge's approval to participate as legal counsel in the upcoming trial of a woman arrested over her dead lawn.

Betty Perry, 70, will go before a four-person jury in Orem's 4th District Court next week on charges of interfering with legal arrest and violating a zoning ordinance — the outcomes of a now highly publicized arrest on July 6, 2007.

When Perry refused to give Orem police officer Jim Flygare her name so he could write her a ticket for her brown grass, she said she was treated roughly, handcuffed and taken to the police station.

Flygare maintains he was just trying to prevent the situation from escalating. He was later cleared of all wrongdoing by a review from the Utah Department of Public Safety.

In an order signed Monday, Judge John Backlund agreed that Allred could appear "pro hac vice," which is Latin for "for this one particular occasion." It allows an out-of-state attorney, like Allred, to practice law for a specific case, even though she's not licensed in Utah.

It's not known yet what role she'll play, as Perry's full-time attorney is Paige Benjamin from Provo.

Allred flew in from California in September when Perry entered not guilty pleas and after the hearing, addressed the media holding rusty shackles and calling Orem "the laughing stock of our country" for prosecuting a 70-year-old great-grandmother.

Allred's most recent request, filed by sponsoring attorney Alyson E. Carter in Salt Lake City, stated that Allred's "expertise will make the litigation more efficient and will assist and facilitate defendant's counsel in litigating this matter," according to court documents.

Allred paid a $175 fee and the State Bar of California submitted a document certifying that she has been in good standing since her admittance in 1975, according to court documents.

The trial is still scheduled, but Perry and Benjamin said they are also mulling over a deal reiterated Monday by prosecutor Drew Peterson that would involve reduced charges and a jointly proposed sentencing agreement.

"We're definitely considering it," Benjamin said. "And we counter-offered that we would drop any claim to a civil suit if charges were dropped."

But Peterson refused, saying civil cases and criminal cases are not linked. Plus, he said, Perry's case is no different than any other case, despite generating national and international media attention

"We don't dismiss charges just because somebody squawks louder than somebody else," Peterson said. "Our only consideration is, if she resisted arrest and whether justice demands that she be held accountable for that."

However, the case is different in that attorneys asked for a jury pool of more than 100 people. On Friday, nearly 90 people responded and came to court to fill out questionnaires.

The 18-page document included questions like, "Have you ever received complaints from neighbors or anyone else that your yard did not look appropriate?"

They were also asked to indicate if they agreed or disagreed with statements like, "A person has the right to refuse to sign a citation when a police officer requests a signature."

Also, "If during the course of jury deliberation, one of your fellow jurors said they didn't care about the evidence or the law — they just couldn't believe such a nice, elderly lady could commit the crimes as charged — would you be able to point out that this was stereotyping and that they were refusing to consider the evidence with an open mind?" The potential jurors were supposed to circle yes or no and then explain, according to court documents.