SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah, Nov. 15, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Charges have been dropped against the San Juan County Sheriff and two of his deputies who had been charged with retaliation against a witness and related charges by another department employee.
Sheriff Rick Eldredge and deputies Alan Freestone and Rob Wilcox will not face a trial, 7th District Court Judge George Hammond ruled Wednesday, dismissing the case.
- Eldredge had faced charges of retaliation of a witness, a third-degree felony; reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor; obstruction of justice, a class A misdemeanor; and official misconduct, a class B misdemeanor.
- Freestone was charged with retaliation against a witness, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct.
- Wilcox was charged with reckless endangerment, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct.
Hammond said there may have been policy violations, but no laws were broken.
“Because the state has not met its burden at preliminary hearing, and further based on the applicable law, the court declines to bind over Eldredge, Freestone and Wilcox for trial,” Hammond wrote in his decision.
According to a probable cause statement, the charges stem from a May 2015 incident during which Eldredge was accused of pointing an unloaded assault rifle at a San Juan County Sheriff’s Office employee, and pulling the trigger. The employee reportedly heard the click, then turned around and saw Eldredge pointing the rifle at him as Wilcox “chuckled.”
Wilcox was also with Eldredge at the time, the probable cause statement indicates.
The employee complained, prosecutors say, but Eldredge failed to assign an outside investigator, the usual procedure, instead asking Freestone to investigate.
Freestone asked the employee to give a written statement to Wilcox, one of those accused in the incident, and the employee said he was uncomfortable doing so. Freestone’s report then stated that the employee refused to cooperate, the probable cause statement says.
Freestone later conducted and recorded an interview with the employee, but did not record interviews conducted with Eldredge or Wilcox, the statement says.
Freestone’s final report used the wrong paperwork, had incorrect dates, was missing key interviews, and concluded the incident never happened, according to the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
Hammond ruled Wednesday that there was no evidence of an attempt to deceive the Utah Attorney General or his office, adding “the evidence is wholly lacking.”
A spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s Office said Hammond’s decision will be reviewed and an appeal will be considered.