Judge tosses all but one fraud charge against former Provo official
Six months after hearing testimony at a preliminary hearing, a judge ruled Tuesday that a former Provo city councilman accused of real-estate fraud will stand trial on only one of 10 felony charges originally filed against him.
Steven Turley, 46, was charged in 2011 in 4th District Court. But after reviewing transcripts from the February preliminary hearing, Judge James Taylor ruled prosecutors presented evidence that supported only one charge: a single count of second-degree felony communications fraud.
That charge is in connection to a loan agreement Turley allegedly made with Trudy Childs in 2008. According to the judge's ruling, Turley contacted Childs in an effort to buy 80 acres of property near Spanish Fork Canyon. When Childs told Turley she needed cash for ranch operations, Turley loaned her $30,000, according to the ruling.
Childs signed a document, Taylor wrote, agreeing that if she did not repay the $30,000, Turley would "have an option to purchase the property."
Childs testified that she thought "the property" was just the 80-acre parcel of land, but when she didn't repay the money, Turley came back to her with an offer to buy the entire ranch.
"Viewed in the light most favorable to the state, there is evidence from which a jury could conclude that Turley bargained for an option to purchase 80 acres but later fraudulently inserted the description to include the entire ranch," Taylor wrote in his ruling. Prosecutors allege that Turley committed a number of other crimes between July 1, 2006, and December 2009, according to court documents. However, Taylor dismissed three charges of communications fraud last November because the statute of limitations had expired, and dismissed another six fraud-related charges this week after ruling prosecutors did not show there was enough evidence that Turley committed the crimes. Those charges included a pattern of unlawful activity, communications fraud and exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
Turley, who was charged in July 2011, resigned from the City Council in September 2011, just before his colleagues were to vote on whether to remove him from office.
Childs is facing charges on an unrelated crime. Accused of malnourishing her horses, both Childs and her son, Rory Childs, are charged in Utah County Justice Court with 20 counts each of misdemeanor cruelty to an animal. The Childses have pleaded not guilty and are expected to be in court on Sept. 9.
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