George Frey, AssociatedPress/Pool
OREM A high-profile California attorney on Tuesday blasted the Orem Department of Public Safety for prosecuting a grandma with a dead lawn.
Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred was in Utah to support 70-year-old Betty Perry, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanor charges arising from a tussle with police on July 6 over failing to water her lawn at 1568 S. 800 East in Orem.
"This case has captured worldwide attention after Ms. Perry was bloodied and injured when police came to her home, put handcuffs on her and took her to jail for allegedly having a brown lawn," Allred said, surrounded by news reporters outside Orem's 4th District Court. "This ill-conceived action ensures Orem's law enforcement authorities first place in the Guinness Book of World Records for stupidity."
Perry said she didn't want to give Orem police officer Jim Flygare her name when he asked why she wasn't watering, so he grabbed her hand, which caused her to fall.
He then cuffed Perry, placed her in the police car and drove her to the police station where she sat in a cell for more than 30 minutes.
When law enforcement authorities realized what had happened, they released Perry and drove her home.
Orem's mayor and city officials later issued an apology, but city prosecutors charged her with two misdemeanors on Aug. 17.
A review of the incident by the Utah Department of Public Safety cleared Flygare of any wrongdoing. The review, released Aug. 20, found that Flygare did not commit assault but did what was necessary to "prevent escalation of the situation."
Orem Police Lt. Doug Edwards, the spokesman for the Orem Police Department, sent by e-mail this message when asked about the case: "No comment."
But city prosecutors said they're not swayed by media or public opinion, nor do they believe they made a mistake when they filed the charges.
"We don't ever feel that it's a bad idea to file charges where a criminal offense has occurred," said Andrew Peterson, Orem city prosecutor. "We look at all the evidence that we can get our hands on ... and once all of that (is) in, then we make our charging decision."
"We don't ever make our charging decisions based on political considerations or based on public-relations considerations," Peterson said. "We also don't make our charging decisions based on age, gender or characteristics of the suspect."
There were initial rumblings that a civil lawsuit was on its way against the Orem police, but Allred, who has had several high-profile clients, including Amber Frey, the girlfriend of Scott Peterson, who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, denied a suit was on file and emphasized that she flew in to support Perry.
"I ask the citizens of Orem, how many of you would like to have your great-grandmother taken from her home, with bruises and blood, and placed in handcuffs?" Allred asked, holding a rusty pair of shackles. "Let's bring sanity back to law enforcement and to Orem, Utah."
Provo-based attorney Paige Benjamin is handling the criminal case, which was set for a pre-trial conference Oct. 11 at 8 a.m.
"I look forward to having her case heard in court, to show that in fact this has been a case that has not been dealt with fairly," Benjamin said. "We're looking for a good, fair resolution."
Neither Benjamin nor Allred would explain what a fair resolution would mean, but said it's too early for discussions with Orem prosecutors.
Peterson said he is open to resolving the case appropriately."It seems to be that a lot of people in the community have rushed to judgement on both sides," he said. "That generates a great deal of controversy. What we would hope is that everyone in the community simply reserve judgement until all evidence is presented."
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