SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, April 28, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — In a news release Tuesday, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and the Attorney General’s Office addressed reports that Damien Patton, founder of Park City-based surveillance company Banjo, was affiliated with hate groups as a young man.
“The Utah Attorney General’s Office is shocked and dismayed at reports that Banjo’s founder had any affiliation with any hate group or groups in his youth. Neither the Attorney General nor anyone in the Attorney General’s Office were aware of these affiliations or actions. They are indefensible. He has said so himself,” the news release states.
It goes on to say that Reyes and the Attorney General’s Office “absolutely condemn the hate and violence promoted by supremacist groups and will continue to aggressively fight crimes and decry domestic terror perpetrated by them.”
Banjo has kept a low profile publicly, but the surveillance technology company contracted with the state, for a reported $750,000, in 2018 to listen to 911 calls, monitor traffic cameras and pull data from social media. A five-year, statewide contract was signed in July 2019 for a reported $20.8 million.
The AG’s Office will suspend the use of Banjo’s surveillance system, according to the news release.
“While we believe Mr. Patton’s remorse is sincere and believe people can change, we feel it’s best to suspend use of Banjo technology by the Utah Attorney General’s Office while we implement a third-party audit and advisory committee to address issues like data privacy and possible bias. We recommend other state agencies do the same.”
This is in light of a blog by OneZero, an online Medium publication, reporting that Patton “actively participated in white supremacist groups in his youth and was involved in the shooting of a synagogue” as documented in “transcripts of courtroom testimony, sworn statements, and more than 1,000 pages of records produced from a federal hate crime prosecution.”
Utah Department of Public Safety issued a similar news release Tuesday, saying the DPS was not aware of the “affiliations or previous criminal conduct by Mr. Patton.”
“Such actions are contrary to the values that DPS respects and its mission to protect the freedoms and constitutional rights of all people.
“Consequently, Utah DPS is reviewing its current relationship and agreements with Banjo and will release additional statements after such review has taken place.”
The DPS has not suspended the current contract with Banjo “because the contract is with the Department of Administrative Services Division of Purchasing.”
The DPS said it will be discussing and reviewing the matter with the Division of Purchasing and will not comment further until those discussions have taken place.
According to OneZero, the teen-aged Patton revealed in grand jury testimony that he was involved with the Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and, one month before his 18th birthday in 1990, he and a Klan leader drove to a Nashville, Tennessee, suburb where the leader shot up a synagogue with a semi-automatic weapon. Patton admitted to driving the vehicle.
Patton is also quoted as having testified at trial:
“We believe that the Blacks and the Jews are taking over America, and it’s our job to take America back for the White race.”
Patton has said he no longer holds these beliefs.
Gephardt Daily will follow up on this developing story as more information becomes available.