A week after a 19-year-old was arrested on allegations she committed a hate crime against a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office deputy, the sheriff has issued a statement in support of its officer.
Sheriff James D. Perkins wrote that the deputy, Cree Carter, acted in a “proactive and compassionate manner” during a July 7 traffic stop, while the woman “singled out and attacked” him for being a law enforcement officer.
The woman was charged with criminal mischief, which is normally a class B misdemeanor but was enhanced to a class A misdemeanor because of the hate crime allegation. If convicted, she could face a year in prison.
The case has drawn national attention, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah recently released a statement Monday saying the charges weren’t appropriate.
“This kind of charging decision sends an extremely chilling message to the community that the government will seek harsher punishment for people charged with crimes who disagree with police actions,” the group said.
Perkins said Carter pulled over a group of three cars on July 7 after Carter saw them traveling 50 mph in a 30 mph zone.
Carter didn’t write the drivers a ticket, Perkins said. A group who’d been with the cars but left briefly returned with a “Back the Blue” sign, according to the police.
The teenager, who is from California, is then alleged to have stomped on the sign, crumpled it “in a destructive manner” and threw it away, according to charging documents, “all the while smirking in an intimidating manner towards [the officer].”
The documents say Carter didn’t believe the woman’s story for how she got the sign and thought she must have taken it from someone nearby.
In Perkins’ statement, he alleges the sign was made in Panguitch.
He went on to say that Carter is a military veteran and has not received a complaint during his time at the department.
“We are greatly disturbed by the hatred shown to law enforcement officers for no apparent reason. We are hopeful that this country can mend and heal from this division,” Perkins wrote. “Meanwhile, this case will go forward in a professional manner.”
This is at least the second time Garfield County prosecutors have charged someone with an anti-police hate crime.
A 32-year-old man was charged in August 2020 after spray painting “Bisexual” over the “Blue” on a “Back the Blue” sign.
He was later convicted and ordered to two days in jail as part of his suspended 1-year sentence. The judge also ordered him to write an apology letter.