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Did politics sway alleged Utah terrorist’s case?
Courts » Stiles belongs in a mental hospital, not jail, his attorney says.
First Published Apr 13 2014 06:16 pm • Last Updated Apr 14 2014 11:01 am

On Aug. 11 of last year, Jack Harry Stiles called 911 because he was afraid.

There was no burglar in his home, no sounds of gunshots ringing through the night. He was afraid of his own impulses, of what he might do.

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Stiles told crisis workers at Pioneer Valley Hospital that he wanted to kill "as many people as possible" at the downtown City Creek Center mall in Salt Lake City, according to court documents, and then do away with himself.

More than a month later, he was arrested and charged with second-degree felony making threats of terrorism. Since then, he has not seen the outside of the Salt Lake County jail, where he is being held in lieu of a $1 million bail.

Defense attorney Neal Hamilton has long maintained that Stiles made threats he was never able to carry out, that he needs a doctor, not a jail cell.

But the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office has not backed off the case.

At a preliminary hearing in June, prosecutors will ask a judge to order the 43-year-old man to stand trial.

Their reasons, a defense motion filed in 3rd District Court this month alleges, are political — meant to appease law enforcement and City Creek Center officials.

According to the motion, prosecutors had agreed to enter into a diversion agreement, in which the charge against Stiles would have been dropped in exchange for his entering a mental-health treatment program.

Court documents reveal that Stiles had been put on track to enter mental health court and the criminal case against him would be resolved.

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But last month, everything changed.

The case resumed its march toward a preliminary hearing, at which prosecutors would lay out the evidence against Stiles and try to convince a judge there is probable cause to bring him to trial.

If convicted, Stiles could spend up to 15 years in prison.

This was no spontaneous about-face, Hamilton alleged in court documents filed last week.

"In explaining its decision, the State explained it had received communications (including emails) from officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department and from [City Creek’s attorneys] regarding the anticipated resolution and dismissal of Mr. Stiles’ case," the motion states. "The State clearly represented that it was under pressure to not dismiss this case, and that in light of the publicity a different resolution needed to be reached."

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has denied the allegations that his office did anything for any other reason than the pursuit of proper justice.

Gill declined to discuss the particulars of the Stiles case, as the alleged conversations happened under the privacy of plea negotiations.

"We talk about a lot of different things in plea negotiations, but whatever we discuss with defense counsel we don’t discuss in the press," Gill told The Tribune on Sunday. "There’s no constitutional right to a plea bargain. When we discuss things and look at all the options that we have, ultimately we make our final decision based on that."

Judge Robin Reese will eventually rule on the defense motion, which asks that prosecutors turn over all communications, emails and other exchanges they had with Salt Lake City police and City Creek lawyers.

Hamilton said Sunday he’s not sure whether these communications exist or what they contain, but he was told they played a role in the county’s decision to continue prosecuting his client.

"We don’t have the luxury of wondering if these communications were made. We are required to find out because if they were made, such statements would absolutely be usable at trial," Hamilton said. "Most troubling to me is the representation that there might be some veiled or not so veiled threats that were made to my client."

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