Prosecutors filed charges Thursday against a Salt Lake man who allegedly threatened to kill a witness who was testifying in 3rd Circuit Court.
John T. Mills, 24, was charged with tampering with a witness, a third-degree felony, and disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor. Investigators said Mills made obscene gestures and threats towards Alama Tausinga, 18, who was in court Tuesday to testify in a preliminary hearing about a gang-related drive-by shooting.Deputy sheriffs said they warned Mills to stop making threats, but they later arrested him after he threatened to kill Tausinga, court documents state.
Before Tuesday's hearing, attorneys told Judge Dennis Fuchs they were worried about problems in the courtroom that could arise because of the ill will that apparently existed between the many friends and family members of both the victims and defendants in the drive-by shooting case.
They asked him to clear the crowded courtroom of all spectators, including some supposed gang members. But Fuchs said the public had a right to attend and refused their request. He sternly warned the courtroom, however, that he would not tolerate any disturbances.
Mills was arrested in the hallway outside the court during a recess.
When the hearing resumed Thursday, Fuchs said he was not aware of what had happened outside his courtroom Tuesday and was surprised when he read about the arrest in Wednesday's Deseret News. He commended court spectators for their behavior, but repeated his warnings not to discuss the case with any witnesses.
Benny Lee Gardner, 18, Trentin M. Giles, 18, and Gary Archibald, 23, all of Kearns, each face two counts of attempted second-degree murder and two counts each of aggravated assault in connection with a drive-by shooting in Kearns on Oct. 15. Tausinga and Fatafehi Samani, 15, were both hit during the shooting and suffered several puncture wounds.
Tuesday, witnesses testified that the shooting was part of an ongoing gang dispute.
Fuchs stopped Tuesday's preliminary hearing after a conflict developed because attorney Don Bybee was representing both Archibald and his brother Giles. He continued the hearing until Thursday to allow Archibald to get another attorney.
A legal defender was appointed for Archibald, but did not show up for Thursday's hearing. The judge delayed the hearing again and will hold a scheduling conference Monday to decide if a new preliminary hearing needs to be held.