The former police chief of Wendover who pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine was hospitalized for chest pains shortly after he was sentenced to prison, but he apparently did not suffer from a second heart attack.
A. June Carter, 36, was released from University Hospital and taken to the Utah State Prison on Monday, where he is in the Reception and Orientation Unit.Tooele County deputy sheriffs were transporting him to the Point of the Mountain on March 7 - six days after he was ordered to serve a zero-to-five-year sentence for his guilty plea - when he complained of chest pains, said Lane McCotter, director of institutional operations at the prison.
"They diverted in route and took him directly to the University Medical Center," he said.
Carter's attorney, Steven Lee Payton, sent a letter to 3rd District Judge Frank Noel on Tuesday, explaining that Carter suffered "from what appears to be a heart attack." He was kept under watch of an armed guard at the hospital until he was released Monday.
But University Hospital spokesman John Dwan said Carter did not suffer a heart attack. He underwent a series of tests and received a procedure to check the arteries around his heart for blockage.
Payton said his client's hospitalization has been something of a secret. "His own family didn't even know he was in the hospital," said Payton, explaining that Carter was not allowed to place or receive any phone calls.
And Payton said he has had a hard time getting details from hospital officials. "I don't understand why everyone's being so secretive about it," he said.
Dwan said prisoners taken to the hospital are considered wards of the state and the hospital does not report to the patient's family. "The fact of the matter is we're not supposed to," he said.
"Legally, the hospital only relates information to the prison officials."
Carter suffered a heart attack in December - the day before he was scheduled to finalize a plea bargain with prosecutors in court. "We note that previously the Utah attorney general's office was crass enough to suggest that he had `faked' his previous heart attack" to delay his prosecution, Payton wrote to the judge.
But he said the most recent hospitalization should silence any doubters, since Carter had already been sentenced and had nothing to gain.
"We are advised that, given his age and his previous health problems, the likelihood of further problems is very high, and even a fatal heart attack is something he may reasonably expect," Payton wrote. "In any case . . . his life longevity is subject to question."
In the letter to Noel, Payton questioned the "need and necessity" for incarceration in light of Carter's medical problems. Payton told the Deseret News he is not asking the judge to re-sentence Carter but plans to petition him to do so in the near future.
Payton said if he can prove there are legal reasons to bring the case back to district court, the judge may have to re-sentence Carter. Although Carter's medical condition in and of itself is not reason for a new sentence, it may contribute to a list of other reasons he plans to present.
"If it comes back before the (district) court, his health is one of those things we want to reconsider," the attorney said.
Payton has also asked Noel to document an error in Carter's pre-sentence report, which was used to help the judge determine Carter's sentence. In the report, the sentencing matrix indicated Carter should serve a minimum of 12 months for the crime. Payton claims that figure is inaccurate and should indicate a minimum of only six months.
Such a recommendation does not mean Carter will necessarily be released after six or 12 months, however. The recommendation is simply used a guideline and is one of many tools the Board of Pardons uses to determine parole dates.
Carter will be sentenced for obtaining a prescription under a false pretense, a class A misdemeanor, on March 25. Payton hopes to correct the matrix in the report so that the recommendation will not adversely affect his client when he is sentenced on the misdemeanor. A correction would not change his zero-to-5-year sentence.
Carter was originally charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute after agents discovered cocaine, metal scales and plastic bags in the trunk of his police car. The day before, his wife - Janese Carter - was arrested in downtown Salt Lake City for selling the drugs from his marked police vehicle.
Janese Carter is currently serving a 1-to-15-year sentence for distributing drugs. She, too, is a former Wendover police officer and also worked as the department's evidence custodian.