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DA defends decision to charge 7 in controversial case

Posted - Aug. 17, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake County's district attorney took the stand in court Tuesday, defending her office's decision to file charges in what's been a controversial case.


This case has operated exactly how our system should operate. It's tried in a court of law before a judge and a jury and they make the ultimate decision, and that's exactly what's happening.

–Lohra Miller


Prosecutors charged seven people accused of assaulting DJ Bell and his partner, Dan Fair.

The assaults allegedly took place after Bell was accused of kidnapping two children after a Fourth of July party in 2008.

Attorneys want the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office to recuse itself from the case and to give immunity to the seven defendants. They are charged with several felonies related to the assault of Bell and Fair.

Prosecutors charged Bell with kidnapping but a jury acquitted him. Prosecutors then went after the seven people in the alleged assault for aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and riot.

Defense attorneys say their clients were initially treated as victims and were never told charges would be filed against them.

"None of these attorneys representing these defendants would have allowed their clients to testify if they had been forewarned that their very testimony was going to cause them to be charged by the state after Mr. Bell's trial was over," said defense attorney Earl Xaiz.

District Attorney Lohra Miller insisted, "This case has operated exactly how our system should operate. It's tried in a court of law before a judge and a jury, and they make the ultimate decision, and that's exactly what's happening."

In court, Miller testified that her office never gave immunity letters to the defendants. She said it's not unusual for prosecutors to charge people who act as witnesses in another case.

Miller also said photos of Fair's injuries after the beating made her take another look at the case.

Defense attorneys want another prosecuting agency handle the case, but the judge didn't make any decisions Tuesday.

The hearing will continue next week.

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Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and Andrew Adams.

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