Two men normally allied on any law-and-order issues - Sen. Orrin Hatch and U.S. Attorney Brent D. Ward - have engaged in a mild verbal feud over the early release from prison last week of convicted AFCO swindler Carvel R. Shaffer.
Hatch on Saturday criticized remarks Ward made last week, saying the prosecutor should not second-guess U.S. District Judge David Sam for releasing Shaffer from federal prison to a halfway house after Shaffer served 14 months of an eight-year sentence.But Ward said his office may yet appeal Shaffer's early release because it was not granted soon enough after a defense motion to reduce Shaffer's sentence. Ward said Hatch isn't taking into adequate account the continuing effects of the AFCO swindle on its victims.
And at least one victim said it's inappropriate for Hatch to defend Shaffer's release.
"How could they possibly release Shaffer? It's really a travesty of justice, and I question why (Hatch) would even say anything about it," said AFCO victim Kent Allsop, Bountiful. "(Shaffer) was convicted on 12 of 12 counts. If Shaffer is released then (convicted AFCO mastermind) Grant Affleck should get out too."
Hatch said he commented on the Shaffer release because Sam, who convicted and sentenced Shaffer last year, should not be criticized for showing mercy and compassion within his judicial power.
Shaffer and his family have suffered enough, Hatch said, and Ward can make his point as a tough prosecutor without resorting to criticizing judges.
"We don't have enough room (in jails) for hardened criminals, so when a judge decides to release a man who is no threat to society and has already suffered tremendous pain, it's his right to do so without criticism," the senator said.
"I'm not saying white-collar criminals shouldn't put in their (prison) time. But that's why we have judges, to decide when the time has been put in and when mercy should be shown. Perhaps (Sam) was considering (Shaffer's) wife and children as well."
But Ward said Shaffer's family is not the only one still suffering because of the AFCO swindle.
"I don't believe the senator knows all the facts in the case or he might not have reached those conclusions," Ward said. "Again I'm referring to the impact on the victims. It's their interests I'm most aware of and most closely allied with."
Allsop said he invested in AFCO to establish a trust fund to finance his son's religious missionary work. Allsop mortgaged his home to make the investment and accepted Shaffer's pledge of property Shaffer owned as a guarantee of the invested money.
But when AFCO collapsed, Allsop found the property supposedly securing his investment also had been pledged to secure the investments of many others.
"I had to wait in line," behind other AFCO creditors, Allsop said. "I feel sorry for (Shaffer's) family. They're good people, and they were hurt by this. But my family got hurt too. For four years we lived under the threat of losing our home. This (early release) makes me wonder if attorneys get treated to different justice than the rest of us."
Other AFCO victims, some of whom borrowed as much as $100,000 to invest, told similar stories at the time Shaffer was sentenced: of resulting emotional hardships that affected marriages, other family relationships and job performance; of stress-related health problems; of postponed retirements; the loss of religious faith; the sudden inability to pay children's college tuition because of AFCO investment losses.
One victim who spoke to the Deseret News on condition of anonymity said Shaffer's early prison release only adds to the frustration, the feeling that AFCO victims are "criminals, and (Shaffer) is the good guy."
Shaffer, an attorney and former president of AFCO Enterprises, was convicted with Affleck for swindling hundreds of investors of an estimated $20 million borrowed against home mortgages.
Affleck is serving a 10-year sentence. Shaffer could serve another three years in a federal halfway house in Salt Lake City, and must pay restitution to AFCO victims.
Ward said Shaffer's release was " an act of infamy" and "a mockery."