Karen Scullin reporting More than a hundred felony criminal cases have mysteriously disappeared from the books, in what could turn out to be a stunning "courthouse scandal" in Salt Lake City.
A joint -investigation by KSL TV and the Deseret News raises a big question at the Matheson Courthouse. Did a high-ranking court employee take -justice into her own hands?
It's a matter being investigated by the FBI and the District Attorney's Office. Both want to know how and why so many cases simply disappeared.
It appears that over several years, a huge number of felony cases were wiped out of the system. Not by a judge, but allegedly by a supervising clerk.
Those accused of a crime are supposed to answer for it in court. But it appears many defendants -- some accused of dangerous crimes -- didn't need to worry about it. That's because a supervising clerk in third district court allegedly popped possibly hundreds of criminal cases, right out of the computer sytem. They were labeled "dismissed in the interest of justice" or dismissed for "age of the case and lack of prosecution."
The FBI has been investigating the allegations for several months and the case is now in the hands of the district attorney's office.
Dan Becker/State Court Administrator: "We are conducting an internal review to see if procedures were followed, and then to check for any necessary changes in the system."
State court administrator Dan Becker is also concerned. He told Eyewitness News,"we are conducting an internal review to see if procedures were followed, and then to check for any necessary changes in the system." He referred all other questions to the district attorney's office which declined to comment.
The employee in question has been suspended. KSL, working with the Deseret News, uncovered evidence that well over one hundred felony cases were illegally dismissed over the last several years
For example, our investigation found that on October 26, 2000, 52 cases were kicked out -- on January 18, 2001, 41 cases mysteriously disappear, marked "Closed." without a judge, or any other officer of the court, knowing about it.
At least some of the crimes in question happened between 1991 and 1995. The majority are felony drug cases, but other cases include theft, forgery, and robbery. KSL and the Deseret News also pulled the actual files of ten of those cases at the criminal court clerk's office. Nine of the ten files did not include an order signed by a judge, as required to dismiss a felony case.
It's likely at least some of the hundreds of defendants who didn't go through the court system committed new crimes. It's also likely that members of the community were victimized during a time when the defendants should have been behind bars.
You're no doubt wondering why someone would do this. Speculation is that the suspect thought it would look better if cases were moving fast through the system. The employee has not been arrested or charged, but criminal charges could come next week.
There are check and balances in the system, and administrators are looking into the current system. But these cases seemed to have been dismissed during the stage where no judge has been assigned the case, and the case isn't far enough along to have been assigned to a prosecutor.