Judge steps aside in Provo councilman's felony case
Provo • Embattled Provo Municipal Councilman Steve Turley on Wednesday made his first court appearance on 10 felony charges, but his second will be before a different judge.
Fourth District Judge Claudia Laycock recused herself and is handing the case to Judge Christine Johnson in American Fork for a hearing next month.
After a private conference Wednesday with Deputy Utah County Attorney Marianne O'Bryant and defense attorney Brett Tolman at the front of the courtroom, Laycock said she would transfer the case to her colleague.
"For reasons revealed to counsel," Laycock said, "I will recuse myself."
O'Bryant said Laycock worried that she may know some of the witnesses and stepped aside to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Tolman, a former U.S. attorney for Utah, declined to reveal what Laycock said in the conference.
"She has her reasons for recusing and has decided to do so," Tolman said, "and I won't argue with that decision."
Turley is charged with seven counts of communications fraud, two counts of exploiting a vulnerable adult and one count of engaging in a pattern of criminal behavior, all second-degree felonies. If convicted, he could go to prison for one to 15 years on each count.
The charges stem from an investigation by the Utah County Attorney's Office into complaints about Turley's business dealings.
Turley did not speak publicly at the hearing, nor did he speak with reporters afterward. He is taking a leave of absence from the council.
Tolman said the two-term councilman, who is not seeking re-election this year, looks forward to telling his story in court. The attorney said the facts in the probable-cause statement were "wrong" and would be challenged.
In a criminal case, Tolman said, "it is often difficult to convey that someone is not a bad person when you look at 10 [felony] counts."
Turley is also the target of an ethics investigation launched by Provo Mayor John Curtis.
Retired 4th District Judge Anthony Schofield is conducting the probe, and Curtis said he is meeting with Schofield on Friday for a progress report.
Provo Municipal Councilman Steve Turley is scheduled to appear in 4th District Judge Christine Johnson's American Fork courtroom Sept. 13 at 8:30 a.m. for a hearing on waiving a preliminary hearing in the case.