AMERICAN FORK — A Democratic candidate for the Utah Legislature was charged Monday with aggravated kidnapping.
Mark Byrge — a candidate for House District 56 — is also being investigated for allegedly selling pain medications out of his house.
Byrge, 33, of American Fork, was charged in 4th District Court with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony; aggravated assault, a third- degree felony; and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. His wife, Tina Byrge, 32, is charged with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
On June 1, a man went to Byrge's front door and an argument ensued. The fight escalated to the point that Byrge hit the man in the mouth with a walking cane, according to court documents. The man then pulled Byrge to the ground as they continued to fight.
"Byrge pulled out a pistol, racked a round into the chamber, hit the victim in the face with the pistol, held it at the victim's head," and then forced the man into his house at gunpoint, threatening to kill him if he did not comply, the charges state.
"He ordered the victim to kneel on the floor in the house and he struck victim several times about the head with the pistol repeatedly telling his victim he was going to die," according to the charges.
By that time, neighbors had called police. Byrge's wife deleted the text messages on the man's phone, put her husband's gun in a safe and denied any knowledge of the gun to officers, the charges state. Meanwhile, "the distraction enabled victim to escape from the house."
In another incident on July 14, police sent a confidential informant to the Byrges' house to purchase oxycodone, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court.
Byrge sold the informant two pills and wore a handgun on his hip during the transaction, the affidavit states.
On July 21, police say the informant purchased oxymorphone from Byrge. Officers monitoring the house also watched another woman go to Byrge's door during this time and purchase prescription pills, according to the affidavit.
I used to be a hard working American man who worked his way up from a ground up … carpenter to a working foreman of a cabinet shop making around $23 an hour, to a disabled man who owns A MAN IN A VAN courier service out of need because it was the only way I could keep my family off disability and food stamps.
–Mark Byrge in a 2013 letter
Byrge, who was involved in a minor traffic accident in 2012, has been outspoken in his claims about being a victim of police brutality. Though Byrge wasn't at fault for the accident, his hands were cuffed behind his back because of unpaid tickets.
He claims he asked police to cuff him with his hands in front because of a small spinal cord stimulator that he has surgically implanted in his back. Instead, he says the officer cuffed him behind his back and treated him roughly as he was placed in the cruiser, breaking the pump.
In 2013, Byrge sent a lengthy letter to KSL.com claiming, "I used to be a hard working American man who worked his way up from a ground up … carpenter to a working foreman of a cabinet shop making around $23 an hour, to a disabled man who owns A MAN IN A VAN courier service out of need because it was the only way I could keep my family off disability and food stamps."
In an interview earlier this month with the website policestatedaily.com, Byrge said, "I would have to say my health has become a living nightmare. I awake racked with pain daily. In fact, it is usually pain that wakes me. I go to sleep in pain. The nights I do not go to sleep in pain is only because the pain is too severe to sleep at all. Pain medication is virtually ineffective."
Byrge identifies his profession on Facebook as "mostly sitting. LOL," stating he became disabled in 2013. He alleges his medical condition has deteriorated since the arrest.
Most of his Facebook posts deal with claims of law enforcement misconduct and his own back pain.
Rep. Kay J. Christofferson, R-Lehi, who has held the house seat since 2012, said he was sorry to hear charges had been filed against his opponent.
Christofferson said he was unaware of any active campaigning by Byrge, who he believes is focused on raising awareness about police behavior.
"From what I understand the reason he's running is to emphasize the issue he's facing now, which is fair treatment by law enforcement," Christofferson said. "I don't really think that he has a lot of interest in becoming a state legislator."
Christofferson went on to say that as a legislator, he would be interested in hearing about Byrge's complaints with police as well as the response from the department.
"If he's got some legitimate concerns I want to hear him and help him out, but I just want to make sure the process is fair and open and unbiased so that he is treated fairly and the police are treated fairly as well," Christofferson said.