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SALT LAKE CITY — Calling the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force "reckless" and a "cowboy" agency, the family of a veteran prosecutor has issued a strongly worded letter blasting the Utah Attorney General's Office.
In May, Chad Platt, 46, a 17-year prosecutor with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, was found dead near 81 E. 300 South after jumping off a parking structure. Three days earlier, members of the ICAC team had spent several hours searching his home.
Platt's family, including relatives who live in Arizona, released a letter to the media on Sunday stating that it is "ignorant" to say that people who are innocent do not commit suicide.
"Looking back at the reaction of so many in Salt Lake City over the last few months, it appears Chad was right about how he would be judged and treated by many. He is not guilty. He just lost hope. We believe a reckless attorney general’s office stole that hope from him," according to the letter.
The family confirms that Platt left a suicide note, in which he declared his innocence.
"No matter how hard he tried to defend himself, he would never get his reputation back. Although innocent, he would spend his life savings and all his energy to defend himself, and yet people would never look at him the same way," according to the family.
A recently unsealed search warrant stated that investigators from both the task force and the Davis County Attorney's Office had downloaded images of child pornography on Feb. 24 and March 30 from an IP address registered to Platt's residence.
At least three images of child pornography were downloaded, according to the warrant. But attorney general spokesman Dan Burton would not say how many total images were downloaded.
Agents served a search warrant at Platt's house on May 6. According to a return to the warrant, a "Sony VHS tape labeled 'Cats,'" four floppy discs, four Fuji zip discs, and 40 more "floppy discs 3.5" were seized from Platt's house.
At the time of the warrants, an iPad was still missing, according to the attorney general's office. Burton said that iPad has now been recovered. He declined to go into detail, however, about whether any illegal images were discovered and seized.
In their letter, members of Platt's family expressed their anger at Burton because he said he "cannot confirm or deny" whether any images of child pornography were found.
"He of course can, but that would embarrass the AG’s office who are so self-serving that they will both withhold and release facts that continue to injure a dead man in order to justify their reckless actions and perpetuate the now unbelievably weak theory that Chad Platt was guilty of internet crimes. It sickens us to watch the AG’s office both disclose provocative facts in the case and at the same time withhold details that would expose their unforgivable missteps and exonerate Chad," the letter states.
The floppy discs, according to the family, were left over from college. The VHS tape labeled "Cats" were highlights from the Arizona Wildcats basketball team, the family said.
"Mr. Burton knows that after they stretched Chad’s Fourth Amendment rights so thin as to be invisible, and broke in his door and searched his house for seven hours — searching for any evidence that would make for an arrest and justify that break-in, they were not able to make that arrest. If they had found anything, it would have been their responsibility to arrest him. They could not," according to the family letter. "And so, beaten and hopeless, Chad took his life. He did not find a dark secret place to take his own life as one disgraced or guilty. No, he angrily threw his body down before the legal system where he had dedicated 17 years of his life, a system he no doubt felt had betrayed him."
The family also states that they were told by Jeff Hall with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office that no evidence of pornography was found.
"If your son or brother or father’s life was destroyed by a cowboy ICAC agency who sold a weak search warrant to a judge in order to go searching for evidence, well perhaps you, too, would think the bar used to take away a person’s Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search a seizure needs to be less recklessly lowered to justify willy nilly searches that ruin lives," the family stated.
On Monday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said both he and Hall wanted to keep any conversation his office had with Platt's family private. As for anything regarding the warrant or what was found, Gill said those were all questions for the attorney general's office.
"Chad was very well-respected and a beloved person within the office and in the legal community," Gill said Monday, while calling his death a "tragic situation."
Utah Attorney General's Office
The Utah Attorney General's Office responded Monday with a brief prepared statement. Much of it echoed what the office had previously stated. The AG's office declined to respond directly to any of the allegations made in the Platt letter.
"The Utah Attorney General's Office is dedicated to the highest standards of investigation and prosecution. The methods utilized by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force are on the cutting edge of technology and adhere to the law in every respect. The Utah ICAC task force, comprised of 34 Utah law enforcement affiliates and one of 61 ICAC task forces nationwide, and the Utah Attorney General's Office, has been recognized for its excellence and measured approach in investigations and prosecutions. Many in our office had worked with Chad Platt and we were saddened by his death."