Hate crime charges dismissed against Sandy 19-year-old in retaliatory vandalism case

Charges stand against a 17-year-old first accused of assaulting a gay teenager.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) A 19-year-old has been released from jail and charges against him have been dropped after police accused him of ripping down Pride flags at the home of a gay teen who had previously been assaulted.

Prosecutors have dismissed hate crime charges initially filed against a 19-year-old man who was accused of ripping down Pride flags at the home of a gay Sandy teenager whom police said had been assaulted by another teen.

On Aug. 15, the 19-year-old was charged in 3rd District Court with retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony; and criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor. But on Monday, a judge dismissed the charges at the request of the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, and the man was released from jail, where he was being held without bail.

Although suspect’s lawyer had said that the 19-year-old was 150 miles away from Sandy when the crime occurred, prosecutors did not specify why the charges were dismissed.

“During routine follow-up of the investigation, we learned additional information that required us to dismiss the case against [the 19-year-old] at this time,” according to a statement released by the district attorney’s office. “To protect the integrity of the case, the ongoing investigation, and the interests of [the 19-year-old’s] ongoing presumption of innocence, we cannot speak any further about the matter.”

The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled at a later date. The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name defendants unless they have been charged with a crime.

The vandalism was believed to be a response to the previous arrest of a 17-year-old. On July 30, Sandy teenagers Christian Peacock and Jacob Metcalf were hugging outside Peacock’s Sandy home when a car drove by and the occupants yelled homophobic slurs at them, according to police.

The car returned about 45 minutes later, when several occupants got out and yelled, “We don’t like f-----s” at the gay couple, police said. The 17-year-old suspect allegedly taunted Peacock and Metcalf and eventually hit Peacock in the head, sending him to the hospital, where he was treated for a concussion and brain swelling.

The 17-year-old suspect remains in juvenile detention. He was charged in juvenile court with assault, a third-degree felony; and initiating a riot, a second-degree felony. According to the charges, he told police he approached the couple and “clearly targeted” them due to their sexual orientation.

Two weeks later — and 12 hours after the 17-year-old was booked into juvenile detention — security cameras at the Peacock home recorded someone pulling down Pride flags, which had been put up by a community group in a show of support. A witness identified the 19-year-old as the person in the video footage, and he was arrested.