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SALT LAKE CITY — A game of legal chess is brewing in the case against a teenager accused of killing 15-year-old Anne Kasprzak and dumping her body in the Jordan River in 2012.
Third District Juvenile Judge Dane Nolan recently certified Darwin Chris Bagshaw, 17, to stand trial in adult court on a charge of murder, a first-degree felony, for the brutal beating death of Kasprzak. Bagshaw was 14 at the time of the incident.
But the focus of a hearing Thursday was over a second charge of obstruction of justice. Nolan ruled that it was not committed as part of the "same criminal episode," and he decided to keep that charge in juvenile court.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office filed a motion to dismiss the obstruction of justice charge. But Bagshaw's defense team is objecting to its dismissal. Defense attorney Bill Russell wants his client arraigned immediately on the obstruction charge in juvenile court and says he's prepared to enter a no contest plea.
"We want to get him in a juvenile placement with appropriate services. That's been the juvenile defense goal all through this, is to get him in an appropriate juvenile placement," Russell said.
If the charge in juvenile court is dismissed, all that would be left is the murder charge in the adult system, which means Bagshaw would likely be held in the Salt Lake County Jail and not juvenile detention, he said.
In the adult system, Bagshaw would have a possibility of posting bail, but Russell said that may not be likely.
"Bail can be a dollar, bail can be $10 million, and it's a murder charge," Russell responded. "I don't expect a couple of hundred dollars of bail."
Deputy district attorney Patricia Cassell said the state wants the obstruction charge dismissed because of what prosecutors believe could be potential legal problems down the road. If Bagshaw pleaded to the obstruction charge and if an appeals court later ruled that the obstruction and murder charges should never have been separated, then the murder case would come to a halt, she said.
We absolutely are not playing games. We are doing this so the murder charge can go forward in the cleanest possible way. We don't want to be derailed from the murder prosecution because of the obstruction of justice charge.
–Patricia Cassell, deputy district attorney
"If it's dismissed, then that problem goes away," Cassell said. "Our concern is the homicide charge. We are not in the business of liking or disliking a ruling."
But Russell argued that the motion to dismiss the obstruction charge "undercuts the entire ruling of this court."
"We absolutely are not playing games," Cassell countered. "We are doing this so the murder charge can go forward in the cleanest possible way. We don't want to be derailed from the murder prosecution because of the obstruction of justice charge."
Since prosecutors filed the charge, it should be their decision whether or not to dismiss it. She said the state would object to any plea on the obstruction charge, but would "absolutely" disagree to a no contest pleading.
"Our assertion is that obstruction started when (Bagshaw) put her in the river," not when he allegedly sent text messages to friends asking them to "remember" certain things he wanted them to tell police, she said.
Russell, however, reminded Nolan, "It is absolutely not the prerogative of the prosecutor to dismiss the charge, it is yours, Judge, and it is yours alone. I cannot object under stronger terms that it is not their call, it is yours."
Nolan said he would take the arguments under advisement and scheduled a hearing for May 7 to listen to oral arguments. Because of the outstanding motions in juvenile court, he delayed setting an initial appearance for Bagshaw in adult court on the murder charge.