PROVO A man convicted of a felony DUI and sentenced to prison Wednesday morning blamed the prosecutors and his past but mainly the media for what he calls an unfair court process.
"I've seen a lot of media coverage of this," Robert VanDyke, 43, told Judge Claudia Laycock in 4th District Court. "The media doesn't care about you or I. We're just the means to get their laundry detergent, their soft drinks." VanDyke was convicted by a jury of driving under the influence after he left a Spanish Fork sports complex on Sept. 25, having consumed a beer a few hours earlier. He was sentenced Wednesday to zero to five years in the Utah State Prison.
Laycock assured VanDyke that she was aware of the media attention and carefully reviewed each of her decisions to ensure she was acting on facts,
not media pressure.
"If, as a judge, I cave into the will of the press or their readers or their viewers, then I'm not doing my job," she said.
The sentencing began with VanDyke's attorney, Shelden Carter, discussing why the jury verdict should be thrown out a motion Laycock denied.
Carter argued that the state never proved that VanDyke was unable to operate his vehicle safely.
"(The officer) followed him and during that period of time, (he saw) no violations of the law," Carter said. "In fact, Mr. VanDyke was operating his vehicle in a very safe and capable fashion."
The officer only pulled in behind VanDyke after he pulled over on Main Street in Spanish Fork. It was then that the officer observed VanDyke's slow response to questions, slurred speech and his refusal to take field sobriety tests. VanDyke was then arrested and taken to jail for DUI.
Carter and VanDyke and his family believe the jury got information about VanDyke's past that wasn't introduced at trial, including three prior DUI convictions and 10 alcohol-related arrests in the past 20 years.
"They had to know," Carter said. "The juries are not oblivious to the news sources. My suspicions are that they had some information."
The case had been covered fairly extensively in the media due to VanDyke's lengthy criminal history, which included an automobile homicide case from 2000 in West Valley City.
"He's been tried and convicted in the press," said VanDyke's father, Bob. "He's paying again for something he's already paid for."
VanDyke gave a statement to his family that expressed his apologies to the family of the woman he killed while driving drunk in 2000, for making them go through this again.
Only after the jury found him guilty did Laycock hear evidence about the prior DUI convictions and increase his misdemeanor to a felony.
Carter said they plan to appeal the case to the Utah Court of Appeals, which they have 30 days from today to do.
Laycock also ruled against another motion from Carter that would have allowed VanDyke to be given a bail amount and stay out of jail while his case is considered by the Utah Court of Appeals.
Prosecutor Craig Johnson denied the case was being handled any different than any other repeat DUI case.
"This is not a vast conspiracy against Mr. VanDyke, he's not being treated as a political football, we're not seeking to advance our careers on his back," Johnson said.
Johnson told the judge he was concerned about VanDyke's repeat offenses, as well as his failure to take responsibility, especially given VanDyke's claim that the prosecution "say we're sorry for breaking your constitutional rights because of your past."
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