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Former Utah attorney charged with making pot by-product appears in court

Published March 13, 2014 3:42 pm

Courts • He and sons are accused of operating a makeshift lab in Sugar House home.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The father placed a hand on his sons' shoulders as they exited the courtroom Thursday.

He led his family down the hall, away from the gaggle of television cameras and reporters, back to their Sugar House home, where, prosecutors say, former Salt Lake City attorney James Wesley Robinson and his two adult sons were making a marijuana byproduct called "Dab" or "Shatter" in a make-shift lab.

The family made its first appearance Thursday morning before a 3rd District judge to answer to several felony charges related to the alleged drug operation.

Robinson, 50 — who was fired from his job with Salt Lake City on Feb. 24 — was charged with first-degree felony operation of a clandestine lab, second-degree felony drug possession with intent to distribute, second-degree felony drug possession, four third-degree felony counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, and one count of class A misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

His sons, 21-year-old Alexander Jordan Robinson and 18-year-old Zachary Ryan Robinson, were each charged with first-degree felony operation of a clandestine lab, second-degree felony drug possession with intent to distribute and class A misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

The trio appeared out of custody Thursday, flanked by their high-powered attorneys: James Robinson, an city attorney, is represented by attorney Ed Brass; Zachary Robinson is represented by Ron Yengich; and Alexander Robinson is represented by Loni DeLand.

They all were ordered to return to court on March 28 for scheduling conferences before Judge James Blanch.

As the men stood at the front of the crowded courtroom, the youngest Robinson fidgeted, shaking his blonde hair out of his eyes.

According to charging documents, police went to Robinson's Sugar House home on Feb. 18, after a burglary was reported there.

Inside, officers noticed a strong smell of marijuana and saw several bongs and other items of drug paraphernalia strewn about the home, documents state.

In executing a search warrant, police found several pounds of marijuana, dozens of bongs, grinders, pips, rolling papers, scales and $26,230 in cash, charges allege.

Officers also found in multiple locations in the home a caramel-like substance commonly referred to as "Dab" or "Shatter," which field-tested positive for THC, according to court documents. In the basement, officers found a pressure cooker with Dab in the bottom, as well as glass tubes, a butane torch, and numerous cans of butane.

Police also report having found firearms, several bags containing more than 2½ pounds of marijuana, a temperature controller commonly used in marijuana cultivation and a box containing "grow lights."

According to charges, marijuana, marijuana pipes, Dab and $6,900 in cash were found in Zachary Robinson's bedroom; in Alexander Robinson's bedroom, police found marijuana pipes, bongs, Dab, a scale, a vacuum sealer and $2,500 in cash; in the father's bedroom, police found a 9mm handgun and a vial containing a white substance that field-tested positive for cocaine.

An informant, identified in charging documents as A.D., told police she had purchased marijuana from the two sons on numerous occasions, and that Alexander Robinson had told her they wanted to expand their business.

Possession of a firearm is illegal if the owner also is in possession of illegal drugs, according to Sgt. Robin Heiden. Heiden has declined to disclose who reported the burglary.

The Robinsons' home is within 400 feet of Clayton Middle School, which enhances the clandestine lab charges.

James Robinson worked for the city attorney's office since 2000. According to an online profile, he previously worked at the state attorney general's office.

Robinson had been representing the police department in civil matters for most of the past year and worked in an office in the public safety building. But Heiden has said he did not have regular contact with rank and file officers, nor was he involved with criminal cases.

Robinson was on paid administrative leave from the time of his arrest on Feb. 18 until he was fired on Feb. 24, said Art Raymond, spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

"He was terminated due to lost faith and confidence in his ability to serve as effective counsel to the police department or any other city department," according to Raymond.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae