Provo • When it came to the case surrounding the arrest of BYU football player Chaz Ah You on Feb. 9, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt described it Wednesday as a touchdown that was called back due to a penalty.
Leavitt declined to prosecute Ah You on any of the five charges brought to his office due to lack of evidence, but also because the 21-year-old was arrested for a non-arrestable offense.
“Firstly, we protect our community by prosecuting people who were a danger to us, but also, maybe most importantly, we protect our community by not prosecuting people when there is no evidence of a crime,” Leavitt said. “And Chaz Ah You was stopped and arrested for various crimes. There is no evidence to support [those] crimes, and because of that, my office declined to prosecute the case.”
Sitting in his office Wednesday morning, surrounded by a small group of media members he invited for an informal news conference to talk about his decision, Leavitt was adamant that this was not a case of a public figure (in this case a BYU football player) getting preferential treatment.
“Whether you’re a bricklayer from Salem, Utah, or a high performance football player at Brigham Young University, you get the same treatment,” Leavitt said. “And there simply wasn’t a case to prosecute here. … The public shouldn’t be outraged because we’re letting someone off who broke the law, there simply was no evidence that would suggest that what he was charged with could ever be proven in court.”
The sheriff's deputy involved in the case stated in his report that he “observed a vehicle driving at a rate of speed heading West bound on Pony Express. I paced the vehicle going 75/35.” However, Leavitt said there was no evidence from the arresting deputy to prove that Ah You was indeed speeding.
The patrol car was also not suited with a dash cam, as far as Leavitt is aware.
“I assume that if there was a dash cam, I would have seen it,” he said.
The deputy also initiated the stop because he saw the vehicle in question “following too close to other vehicles on the road as well as unsafe lane travel, changing lanes abruptly without signaling.”
According to Leavitt, the deputy followed Ah You for approximately seven miles before initiating the stop, and the improper lane changes were conducted over a three-mile distance.
“I would suggest that there’s not a single person in this room who has not done that in the last week,” Leavitt said.
So, the deputy’s claim wouldn’t have been strong enough for a case unless there would have been additional evidence documented, he said.
As far as the other three offenses — driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, reckless driving and drinking in or about a vehicle — are all immediately thrown out because they were a result of what Leavitt called an illegal search.
The deputy arrested Ah You based on reckless driving. As of 2018, reckless driving is not an arrestable offense, and instead can only result in a citation as a Class B misdemeanor.
Because the inventory search — which resulted in the discovery of two alcohol containers (one empty) and a THC vape pen — was conducted due to the reckless driving, which isn’t a cause for arrest, there’s no cause for the search. Therefore, any findings are inadmissible.
Leavitt said that even if the deputy had conducted his search on the basis of a different violation — based on the smell of alcohol or marijuana coming from the car — there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude the issues Ah You had during his field sobriety test — which took place at the Utah County jail — necessarily add up to impairment.
As far as the results of the blood and urine test, Leavitt said he had “no evidence to suggest that” Ah You was intoxicated.
When asked if the deputy would face disciplinary action, Leavitt said that was a question for the sheriff’s department as “it’s not my area.”
Spencer Cannon, public information officer for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, said the department was working on a statement that will be released late Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday afternoon Spencer Cannon, public information officer for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, released a statement to address the issue. According to the statement, Sheriff’s Office officials were made aware that there may have been procedural errors during Ah You’s arrest. The deputy, who was in training at the time, searched Ah You’s vehicle because he intended to impound the vehicle following the arrest.
The evidence found during the inventory search would not have been found, but for the physical arrest of the driver and the inventory of his car. It seems the deputy involved has already dealt with the consequences, although the exact disciplinary action wasn’t disclosed.
“In addition to these concerns, there are procedural concerns about how Field Sobriety Tests (FTS’S) were administered,” Cannon said in the release. “The Deputy’s inability to articulate the facts of the traffic stop lead to the dismissal of the case be the Utah County Attorney’s Office. The actions of the Deputies involved in this arrest have been evaluated and appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that a situation like this will not happen in the future.”