Ex-Provo councilman Steve Turley asks for venue change after recusal of fourth judge
Attorneys for a former Provo Municipal councilman charged with multiple counts of fraud are asking for a change of trial venue after a fourth judge has recused himself from hearing the case.
Steve Turley, 44, is facing seven counts of communications fraud, two counts of exploiting a vulnerable adult, and one count of engaging in a pattern of criminal activity, all second-degree felonies stemming from private business dealings.
On Wednesday, attorneys Brett Tolman and Eric Benson filed a motion asking for the case to be moved into Salt Lake County after 4th District Judge Lynn Davis indicated during a telephone conference last week that he also will recuse himself from the case.
"[Davis] had concerns about his relationships with a number of potential witnesses in the case and the effect it may have on the appearance of impartiality," the attorneys wrote.
According to the motion, Davis is the fourth Utah County judge to excuse himself from the case. Three others Claudia Laycock, Christine Johnson and Steven Hansen have recused themselves since the case was filed in July 2011, all citing conflicts of interest because of relationships with potential witnesses, investigators or defense attorneys.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Alex Ludlow said Friday that his office hopes to keep the case in 4th District Court, saying there are two 4th District judges who hold court outside of Utah County.
"All the other judges have done it because of personal relationships," he said. "I think we still have very viable options to find a judge here in the 4th District."
Ludlow said he's not surprised that so many judges have passed on the case because of Turley's high profile in the community.
A preliminary hearing for Turley's case had been scheduled for Thursday, but was cancelled after his attorneys filed a 166-page motion asking for a judge to order prosecutors to hand over more evidence or dismiss the case.
"As [I] began to review the discovery in order to defend the case, it became apparent that significant portions of evidence had either been inadvertently withheld from the production, or were purposely not disclosed to the defense for some reason," wrote Tolman.
Ludlow said Friday that his office is currently working on a response to the motion, but is stalling until a new judge is assigned to the case.
"I think there's a lot of generalizations that are being made that are not accurate," Ludlow said of the motion.
Turley resigned from the council in September 2011 after an investigation found he violated council rules on conflicts of interest and used information he obtained as a council member for personal gain.