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Did Utah County sheriff plan rave raid?

Memos show action was plotted before the Aug. 20 party

Published: Sunday, Oct. 9 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

OREM — Utah County Sheriff James Tracy spent the afternoon of Aug. 20 formulating a raid on a dance party in Spanish Fork Canyon instead of simply warning the promoters of the event that they were out of compliance with county code, according to internal memos and initial police contact reports.

Attorneys for the promoters argue the documents — internal memos, affidavits and initial police contact reports — show Tracy planned to shut down the gathering after only a few hours, even though the county allows more than 250 people to gather without a permit, if they meet for less than 12 hours.

Because of the raid, the sheriff and other county police agencies are now embroiled in litigation in federal court, brought by the concert promoters who say their First Amendment rights of gathering and free speech were violated.

The documents — from such law-enforce- ment agencies as the Utah Department of Corrections and Provo police department — indicate that Tracy not only knew about the rave party, but alerted some enforcement agencies days before.

Tracy, according to the papers, asked officers from the various agencies to be prepared to help raid and disband the DJ-music party. Then, hours before the evening event, he called again and they gathered.

The police agencies included members of the Utah County Sheriff's Office, the Utah Department of Corrections Special Operations Unit, Provo police, Provo-Orem SWAT team, and the Department of Public Safety SWAT team.

"At the sheriff's office, an operation plan was developed, assignments made and a briefing conducted for all officers involved with the raid. The mission was to disperse the gathering of people because they had not acquired the proper permit for a gathering of more than 250 people," says an internal memo from the corrections department from a lieutenant to the division director.

At about 11:30 p.m. — two hours after the event started — officials surrounded the event. They said they shut down the party because the promoters, Uprok Records, did not obtain the necessary permit required by Utah County code for events involving more than 250 people for more than 12 hours.

But the promoters say the event was scheduled for less than 12 hours — and therefore was not a violation of county code and should not have been raided.

"You don't get 90 militarized officers all together in a matter of an hour," said Brian Barnard, an attorney representing the party promoters and land owners.

The newspaper obtained the documents from the promoter's legal team.

"If there's going to be a problem, sheriff," Barnard asks, "why don't you just go tell these people they don't have a permit and stop them, instead of waiting two-and-a-half hours into the event?"

County officials believe they were justified in their actions, saying that the gathering would have extended beyond 12 hours because of the nature of the event and the fact there were tents and campers at the site. Undercover officers also say they witnessed illegal drug sales and usage at the event.

That night, after officials confirmed there were more than 250 people in the area, armed officers broke up the event, telling people they needed to leave.

During the raid, they video recorded their actions, which is routine, said Peter Stirba, an attorney representing the county and sheriff.

"There are some videos," Stirba said. "I'm sure that through the discovery process they will be exchanged. There are videos taken of certain segments, videos taken out of the helicopter . . . to document what occurred . . . what law enforcement did and the propriety of what they did."

A number of officer reports state that no force was used and people were generally compliant, according to the documents.

Tracy was not deterred by the possibility of a lawsuit, based on comments in the documents.

They outline that Tracy warned law-enforcement officials during the briefing session that promoters would be expecting police involvement.

"A lawsuit could reasonably be expected to follow, and officers needed to be careful in dealing with the crowd . . . they may be attempting to set up officers," according to the corrections department memo to the division director.

Police had previously shut down a party at the same site on July 16, which has also been listed as a factor in the lawsuit, even though Uprok was not the promoter.


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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