SALT LAKE CITY — A high-profile attorney who has defended the likes of Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder fully expects more drug cases to be thrown out in West Valley City.
Mark Geragos represents the family of Danielle Willard, who was shot and killed last fall by officers with the West Valley City police department's now-defunct narcotics team. This week, he is out with a new book, co-authored by Pat Harris, called "Mistrial: An inside look at how the criminal justice system works and sometimes doesn't."
"I do expect that there will be more [cases dropped]," Geragos said Monday in a live interview with KSL Newsradio. "I mean, it's an awful, awful scandal and the irony that we've put this book out at the same time is not lost on me."
Geragos had high praise for Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who has thrown out dozens of drug cases from West Valley City in the weeks and months since Willard's death.
"You've got a very - I would say - almost heroic D.A. there in Sim Gill," Geragos said. "It's not easy to be a public prosecutor and have to dismiss cases, let alone what's now approaching a hundred, so he deserves quite a bit of credit for what he's been doing."
Last week Gill agree there could be more cases dropped as a review continues.
Geragos described the situation in West Valley City as "disturbing," saying he expected arguments that this was just "one officer" to fall short, now that the entire narcotics team has been disbanded.
Last month, search warrants related to Willard's death were unsealed as the D.A.'s office began its review of the shooting. Detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon were put on administrative leave, as is routine, after the shooting. But this spring, Cowley came under increased scrutiny when the D.A.'s office announced it was dropping a number of cases from West Valley City, many of which involved Cowley as an investigator.
On March 27, West Valley's city manager and acting police chief responded to claims from Geragos that the department was involved in a cover-up after Willard's death by saying investigators have worked "exhaustively" to uncover all the facts in the case. The city denied Geragos's claim that surveillance video had been destroyed in some kind of mysterious fire.
Geragos said Willard's mother is tenacious in looking for answers about her daughter's death, saying the family couldn't be happier that the FBI is now involved.