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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Supreme Court revived a case Wednesday against a former small-town police chief accused of mishandling a domestic violence complaint against his brother.
The justices reversed two lower court rulings that tossed out misconduct charges against Adam Howard Jones.
Prosecutors say the former Kamas police chief could have prevented his brother from assaulting his girlfriend and her son one night in 2011 if he had reported the woman's allegation hours earlier that her boyfriend kicked her.
Defense attorney Ron Yengich says Jones, 37, saw no marks on the woman, and she declined several offers to call police from another department.
"He did exactly what he should have done. He did not do anything wrong," Yengich said.
Utah District Judge L.A. Dever tossed out misconduct and witness tampering charges against Jones. Dever ruled that Jones came to the house as a brother rather than an officer, so he wasn't subject to laws requiring police to record domestic violence complaints even if the victim doesn't want to press charges.
An appeals court agreed, but the Utah Attorney General appealed to the state Supreme Court. The justices ruled Wednesday that the judge should have looked at the evidence in a way that favored prosecutors, and in that light there was enough for the case to move forward.
Yengich decried the ruling, saying that it undercuts judges' ability to "weed out bad cases" and protect the innocent.
He said the justices were wrong to dismiss the decision Dever made after weighing the case in detail during an evidence hearing.
"They have killed, they have gutted and they have hung up to dry one of the most important aspects of the criminal process for defendants," Yengich said.
A spokeswoman for the Utah attorney general didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the ruling.
Prosecutors say Jones got the girlfriend's call just before the end of his shift in the town of Kamas, about 15 miles east of Park City. They say he came to the house in uniform and dealt with the situation like an officer. He told her he couldn't handle the complaint because of the family relationship but offered several times to call the Summit County sheriff's department.
She said the couple couldn't afford for the boyfriend to go back to jail and declined.
If Jones had reported the allegations anyway, he could have prevented some of the violence that night in February 2011, Assistant Attorney General John Nielsen argued in November.
Prosecutors also allege that Jones later tried to cover up his involvement in the ordeal the next day by saying his jailed brother had been passed out the entire time Jones was at the house. Yengich counters that the jail officer who reported that couldn't recall Jones' exact words.
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