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Former U. officer accused of showing explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey to colleagues won't face charges

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Oct. 15, 2020 at 7:47 p.m. | Posted - Oct. 15, 2020 at 10:47 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The former University of Utah police officer accused of showing explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey to his coworkers won’t be criminally charged.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s office confirmed Thursday they won’t pursue charges for Miguel Deras.

McCluskey, 21, was shot and killed on the U. campus on Oct. 22, 2018, by 37-year-old Melvin Shawn Rowland. He had been harassing and blackmailing McCluskey for weeks prior to her death. Rowland died by suicide several hours after killing McCluskey.

McCluskey went to U. police for help and sent Deras, who was assigned to the case, explicit photos that had been taken of her as part of the investigation. Deras is accused of bragging about having access to the photos and showing them to his coworkers. Deras's alleged actions first came to light after a report from the Salt Lake Tribune.

A Department of Public Safety report investigating Deras's actions found that he showed the photos to at least three other officers, who saw them as part of their official police duties. Some who saw the photos remembered crass or "unprofessional comments" made about the photos, the report said.

The report also found that Deras didn't download or digitally share the photos with anyone, although he allegedly showed them directly to the other officers during the course of his regular job duties.

Deras left the U. police department in 2019, later joining the Logan Police Department. He was fired from that department in August.

Lauren’s mother, Jill McCluskey, who has been critical of the U. since her daughter’s death, criticized Gill’s decision Thursday, saying that it could create a chilling effect for women in situations similar to Lauren's.

“Deras' actions caused harm to us and to women who will now hesitate to report to police,” Jill McCluskey said in a tweet. “Please let (Gill) know Deras should be prosecuted.”

Jill McCluskey further questioned whether Gill had read the DPS report in full, and if he is "afraid to prosecute police officers."

"Do you understand the harm to me as Lauren's representative & to women who won't report to police because they can share private evidence (without) consequences?" she added in another tweet addressed to Gill.

Gill said he thinks the laws need to change.

"What we're proposing is to narrow that to where there is an unlawful sharing of this that serves no lawful purpose as part of the investigation whether that person is alive or not or there family has that injury," he said. "He harm is in the desemination itself."

Deras's attorney Jeremy Jones maintained Thursday that Deras never did anything wrong or illegal during the McCluskey investigation.

"We're relieved that he’s not being prosecuted wrongfully for something he never did," Jones told KSL.com.

Jones acknowledged that the DPS report notes that some inappropriate comments may have been made about the photos. But it doesn't definitively say who made those comments, lacks attribution, and contradicts many of the allegations made against Deras in the Tribune's original report, Jones added.

"This was a false narrative from the very beginning," Jones said.

Citing privacy reasons, Jones declined to say where Deras is working now or if he's working in law enforcement.

In addition to criticism of Deras, the University of Utah and its police department have been heavily criticized in the years following Lauren McCluskey's killing. Detractors have said U. police ignored Lauren McCluskey's multiple pleas for help and failed to properly investigate Rowland's background and other aspects of the case.

The university has since made an effort to address the criticism and improve safety on campus, overhauling its approach to campus safety. A safety committee came up with a list of 30 action items to improve student safety, and almost all of those have been completed or addressed so far.

The McCluskey family has been involved in two different lawsuits against the University of Utah regarding how the university handled Lauren's case.

Contributing: Morgan Wolfe, KSL TV

Jacob Klopfenstein

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