Judge Don Tibbs has suppressed evidence that was seized when officers raided the home of an environmentalist after bulldozers were vandalized on the Burr Trail.
The Burr Trail dispute has centered on environmental issues, and before the vandalism some conservationists had threatened civil disobedience if the county tried to upgrade the 66-mile road.Grant Smith Johnson was charged in December 1987, shortly after the vandalism that damaged four bulldozers. Material had been dumped into the engine oil of the machines, Garfield County officials said.
The machines - belonging to the county, Lincoln Lyman Construction, Rodney Rasmussen Construction and Stratton Brothers Construction - were repaired for about $57,600.
Garfield County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Moore found unusual footprints near the place where some of the bulldozers were parked, and one just outside the locked gate at the entrance to Deer Creek Ranch, where Johnson lived in a tepee and a small travel trailer.
Officers said a search of the prem-ises turned up marijuana, marijuana seeds, LSD and peyote (a cactus containing mescaline).
Johnson was charged with four counts of vandalism and one of producing a controlled substance, possession of peyote, possession of LSD, two counts of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, two counts of possessing drug paraphernalia and one of possessing marijuana with the intention of distributing it.
In December 1988, all of the vandalism charges and the production of a controlled substance charge were dismissed because the footprints at the vandalism scene did not match Johnson's shoes.
Now Tibbs has suppressed all drug evidence found on the Deer Creek Ranch.
"He ruled there was no basis for a finding for probable cause, given the affidavit for a search warrant," said David Bird, Johnson's attorney in Salt Lake City.
According to Bird, an affidavit filed for the search warrant stated that the basis for the request was plaster of paris footprint casts taken from the scene. But at the time of the warrant, he said, "there weren't any plaster of paris casts."
"The information wasn't correct," he added. The sheriff said he had intended to take casts later, Bird said.
Casts that eventually were taken did not match Johnson's footwear, leading to the dismissal of the vandalism charges. However, the state has asked for permission to refile the vandalism counts, and both sides are awaiting a ruling.
Meanwhile, the drug charges remain in effect but all evidence to back them up has been ruled inadmissible.
"We feel like it was the right result," Bird said.
"We felt the investigation was conducted in a hurried manner, and they focused on Grant because he was the only environmentalist nearby. So we do feel very happy about the result."