CEDAR CITY, Utah (AP) -- A judge in the case against Iron County Sheriff David "Dude" Benson has issued an order to vacate the trial, possibly delaying it from the starting date scheduled for next month.
Fifth District Judge G. Rand Beacham filed the order this week, citing a backlog of cases and with a higher priority than the one pending against Benson, who is not incarcerated.
Benson is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice; witness tampering; misuse of public money; two counts of theft; stealing, destroying or mutilating public records by custodian; and misuse of public money.
"I am very disappointed that this may cause a delay in the trial going forward," said Benson, who has been on paid administrative leave for nearly a year. "It's important to me that it does. I look forward to getting on the stand -- the people of Iron County need to know what took place, and why."
The Utah Attorney General's Office is trying to get another judge to hear the case without having to reschedule the July 12 start.
"The order clearly says the trial date has been vacated," Benson's attorney Ed Brass said. "It's disturbing to me that the attorney general's office is in the process of getting a judge."
Beacham was assigned to the case July 31, 2003, after Judge Eric Ludlow recused himself. Beacham presided at the preliminary hearing and has ruled on all the motions since his assignment.
Chief Deputy Utah Attorney General Kurt Torgenson said he understands Beacham's decision.
"As long as the court works with us to keep it on schedule, that's all we're asking for," Torgenson said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)