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Saratoga Springs residents take credit for prosecutor’s resignation

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SARAT0GA SPRINGS — A group of disgruntled residents are taking credit for the resignation of a city prosecutor they claim violated their constitutional rights.

During a recent Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, the group demanded that leaders dismiss city prosecutor Lindsay Jarvis and Justice Court Judge Keith Stoney for various alleged offenses.

Jarvis' resignation was announced just days after last week's meeting. But Jarvis said she submitted her resignation a month before and the residents carefully timed their protest to make it appear that she was admitting guilt through resignation.

"This was all an attempt to make it look like they got me to leave," Jarvis said. "I'm not playing these games anymore. I'm tired of being attacked."

She insisted she did nothing wrong, but no longer wanted to deal with the critics.

Saratoga Springs resident Jeff Pierce told council members he'd witnessed Jarvis and Stoney engage in "unprofessional banter" when he went to court hearings for misdemeanor charges that he said dragged on for several months.

"I am concerned about the reputation our … judicial system is earning and how that will affect the growth of our city," Pierce said.

City Council members sat quietly as residents levied allegations. After closing public comment, they said it wasn't time for a back-and-forth but they would discuss the allegations at a later time.

After the meeting, resident Craig Waymon accused Jarvis and Saratoga Springs police detective Bruce Champagne of fabricating allegations that he attempted to hire a hit man to kill the detective. Waymon served prison time for unrelated charges, but has not been charged in any murder-for-hire allegation.

"There definitely was an allegation and a report taken," Saratoga Springs Police Chief Gary Hicken told the Deseret News. "There's nothing else I can say."

In another claim, Elaine Damron-Peltekian said Stoney sent her to jail without due process for being in contempt of court.

Damron-Peltekian was recording her son's court hearing on her cellphone when a bailiff told her to put it away. Her son was in court for misdemeanor charges stemming from a July 2009 loose-dog incident. She claims she stopped recording, held the phone in her hand for a few minutes and put it in her purse.

But the bailiff told the judge that Damron-Peltekian ignored orders and recorded a second time — an allegation she denies.

"I witnessed the Saratoga Springs police officer making up stories to make me appear as though I was not following orders," she told the City Council in a prepared statement.

Damron-Peltekian was sent to jail for a period of about 24 hours for being in contempt of court. She said she never had an opportunity to defend herself.

As a result of the Damron-Peltekian incident, the House passed HB494 earlier this year, a bill to require audio recordings in justice courts. It would have allowed the Judicial Conduct Commission to review complaints from incidents in justice courts. But the bill was defeated in the Senate.

"There's certainly another side to all this stuff," Hicken said. "From what I see, it's nowhere near as described."

On appeal, the 4th District Court in American Fork dismissed charges against the woman's son, Ryan Peltekian. The ruling referenced a resolution adopted by Saratoga Springs in May 2009 that determined animal code violations would be handled administratively and not in municipal or criminal court.

But Hicken said Ryan Peltekian was issued the citation before the new law went into effect. It was Hicken who approached the City Council, requesting that it change the law so violators wouldn't be charged criminally, the chief said.

"They've misconstrued the problem," Jarvis said after last week's meeting when the disgruntled residents reamed her before the council. "This is not us. We have bigger things to do than to sit around and pick on five people."

Jarvis and Champagne said the truth about the Peltekian family is in police reports and other public records.

"They've had the luxury to throw those things out because it's not appropriate for us to speak," Champagne said.

Last year, the Peltekian family and other critics of Stoney launched a campaign against the judge, urging residents through rallies and social media to not vote to retain him in the November election. Among other complaints, the residents claimed Stoney gave stiffer sentences to those who proclaimed their innocence than to those who just pleaded guilty.

Utah County residents ultimately voted to retain Stoney, 75 percent to 25 percent, but 53 percent of residents living within Saratoga Springs voted to oust the judge. The results of the vote prompted HB74 in the past legislative session, which would have sought to give smaller municipalities a direct vote on their judges. But the bill never made it through the House.

If the City Council wishes to get rid of Stoney, its only option would be to cut justice court funding. Otherwise, only the Utah Supreme Court has authority to remove a judge from the bench.

Email: sgarn@desnews.com