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Appeals court affirms dismissal in assault

AMERICAN FORK — The brawl began on a football field in American Fork but ended in the Utah Court of Appeals, which recently affirmed the dismissal of a misdemeanor charge against a former player.

It's a welcome relief for William Shawn Asiata, now 20, who was charged with simple assault after police say he ran onto the football field on Nov. 2, 2007, during a fight between American Fork and Hunter High School athletes and kicked a player twice in the head. Asiata was a former Hunter athlete, but he was not playing or helping to coach.

"He's happy that it's over," said Asiata's attorney Brett C. Anderson. "He's glad he could just move on with his life. He's been living this case now for the past two years."

American Fork football coach Davis Knight said Marcus Cramer, the kicked player, has since gotten married, had a baby and is doing well.

After the skirmish, police gathered video recordings from spectators and high school personnel, which were copied and then returned, according to the Utah Court of Appeal's ruling Thursday.

Asiata, the younger brother of University of Utah running back Matt Asiata, and his attorney began asking for evidence in December 2007, but they were rebuffed by American Fork city prosecutors until May 2008, when they finally responded to a court order to produce the tapes, according to the ruling.

However, in looking at them, Asiata and Anderson worried that pieces were missing, so they asked for the original tapes and contact information for the tape owners.

When city prosecutors said they didn't have that information, Asiata and his attorney asked that the tapes be suppressed. The originals for nearly all of the tapes are still unaccounted for, Anderson said.

City prosecutors argued then, and again to the Court of Appeals, that the district court should not have required them to provide the original recordings or contact information because the copies were enough. Plus, they believed the originals had been destroyed or recorded over, said American Fork prosecutor Kasey Wright.

When the city couldn't provide the original tapes or a full contact list, the court dismissed the case in July 2008, a decision the higher court just upheld.

"Obviously we're disappointed by the ruling, but we respect the court's decision and we'll move on," Wright said. He said it's too early to know if they would appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals ruled that according to Utah Rules of Evidence, duplicates of evidence are acceptable unless there is a " 'genuine question' about the authenticity of the original," according to the ruling.

And that question was raised.

"They should have consulted you before they got rid of the originals," 4th District Court Judge Howard Maetani said in May 2008, as quoted in the decision. "And they may have been useless to the defendant. But until we know what was in the originals, we cannot presume it wasn't doctored. We don't make presumptions here."

e-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com