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SALT LAKE CITY — One of nearly a dozen anti-mask protesters facing criminal charges after shutting down a Granite School Board meeting in May asked a judge to dismiss the cases Thursday, arguing no one was victimized by their behavior.
Ted Michael Tyler and 10 others are charged with disrupting a public meeting, a class B misdemeanor, in South Salt Lake Justice Court. Several who attended the meeting yelled criticisms of mask requirements as school board members tried and failed to restore order before adjourning the meeting, a video recording of the public gathering shows.
Tyler, who's representing himself in the court case, said business owners in the group have lost customers after being criminally charged for what he said were simply attempts to exercise their First Amendment rights.
"We want this dropped, dismissed," Tyler said, arguing that the group did not do anything wrong and the school district should have allowed them to speak.
Judge Ryan J. Richards denied Tyler's request and similar motions from others, saying Tyler's argument doesn't apply in this type of case. Richards scheduled a trial for Tyler to begin Nov. 19.
Three others in the group no longer face charges after their cases were dismissed at the request of prosecutors, who cited "evidentiary concerns" in court documents but didn't elaborate. They are Andrea May Jorgensen, of Holladay; Angela Kay Van Leeuwen, of Salt Lake City, and Jeremy Kawika Dunyon, of West Valley City.
Others whose cases remain pending include Kaleb Jeremiah Pierce, and Sara Lea McArthur, both of American Fork; Ted Michael Tyler and Bernadette Ethel Brockman, of Taylorsville; Scott Randall Sherner and Debora Noriko Arai, of West Valley City; Sophia Anderson, of Salt Lake City; and Kasey Ray Wilson, of West Jordan.
Tyler argued unsuccessfully to have his case moved out of South Salt Lake and said the dismissed cases should set precedent for his to be dropped as well. He said that there were false reports that individuals in the group were arrested and that he did not participate in a crime because there was no victim, and that they did not actually disrupt the meeting.
Tyler said that he has spent hours with some of the other individuals going over documents regarding the claims against them. He called the charge against him a "sham" and a "fraud" because there is not a party that was harmed who subsequently brought a claim.
Brian Paige, representing the city, said that a crime does not require a specific victim and the judge agreed, noting that Utah laws allow the state to prosecute crimes, and cities like South Salt Lake to prosecute Class B misdemeanors occurring within their boundaries.
Richards determined that at this point in Tyler's case, there are no grounds for dismissal, but he said there may be at a later point. He declined to dismiss Pierce's case Thursday, as well.
After the other hearings Brockman stepped up a second time, asking the court to dismiss her charges, Richards declined, saying he would see her at a pretrial conference scheduled for next month.