SPANISH FORK — A Payson city councilman charged with assault for allegedly defending his property might be close to a plea deal.

Meanwhile, a Utah state representative has made known his intention to introduce a bill at the 2009 State Legislature that will ideally "bring clarification to the law allowing citizens to use force in defending their property."

Scott Phillips, 45, was cited June 16 with two misdemeanors of simple assault over an incident that happened May 10.

The councilman said he caught two men, around 18 or 19, trying to spray paint his truck. He said he grabbed them — but did not hit them — to stop them.

Salem city prosecutors, handling the case because of the conflict of interest, said they saw no evidence to charge the two men with graffiti but did believe an assault had occurred.

Thursday morning, Phillips appeared in 4th District Court for what was scheduled as an arraignment.

However, instead of entering a plea, both defense and prosecuting attorneys said they were still talking and working toward a resolution.

Phillips' attorney, Gregory Hadley, had no comments after the hearing. He's scheduled to come back to court Sept. 15.

Citing this May 10 incident as a primary reason, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, opened a bill file June 23 titled "Defense of Property Amendments."

After hearing about the charges against Phillips, Wimmer said he contacted the Salem prosectors and asked why the councilman wasn't covered under defense of property laws. Prosecutors told him defense of property laws didn't apply in this case because there was no damage done to his vehicle.

"That's ridiculous," Wimmer said. "That is something no American should have to do before they can use reasonable force to stop people from damaging their personal property."

Wimmer said he doesn't plan to get personally involved in Phillips' lawsuit, but he said he wants to make sure future cases like this don't happen again.

Wimmer didn't go into details on the bill, but he emphasized it would allow a person to use reasonable force to protect their property — emphasis on reasonable.

"If someone is trying to flatten your tires, obviously you cannot go out and shoot them," Wimmer said.


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com; jdana@desnews.com