AMERICAN FORK An eight-member jury has returned a not guilty verdict in the Brian Brent Olsen case after deliberating less than three hours.
They decided that the former Eagle Mountain mayor did not act intentionally or recklessly when accused of pocketing reimbursements for meetings he never attended.
Olsen, 36, spent four days in trial in 4th District Court listening to his former executive assistant, as well as city officials and investigators, testify about what they believe went wrong during his nearly 10 months as mayor.
He faced seven third-degree felonies of misuse of public funds, which total nearly $1,500, although Olsen paid back nearly $960.
"Do the right thing, find him not guilty," defense attorney Ron Yengich said earlier. "This is not a crime. This is maybe rank stupidity. It may even be bad policy, but if you read (the jury instructions) ... you cannot, should not, and hopefully for my client, will not find that it's a crime."
Yengich argued to the jury that his client's errors were not intentional or knowing or reckless but due to poor policies and procedures in Eagle Mountain and the advice of seasoned employees.
"Is there a policy, and did anybody know about it? Because if the people responsible for implementing it, they said they didn't know anything about it and had never used it before, how on earth can you legitimately take a crime out of (Olsen's actions)?" Yengich asked.
Yet prosecutor Craig Johnson asked the jury if Olsen had made a mistake related to a water-law conference in October 2006, why did he not approach the city as soon as he realized the problem not weeks later, and a day after he was called by an investigator from the Utah County Attorney's Office.
Olsen repaid the $960 travel and food costs for the water-law conference two weeks later after telling city employees he was worried this would "look bad" and that he had "enemies."
Yet Johnson reminded the jury of an e-mail Olsen sent his assistant, Angie Ferre, one day before the October 2006 conference, titled "mileage reimbursement."
"He is really trying to apply for a reimbursement for a conference he's not going to attend ... and he got caught on that," Johnson said.
Ferre first noticed a discrepancy in February 2006 when Olsen requested mileage reimbursement for a meeting she had attended in his place. She asked him about it and he said he had been to American Fork for a different meeting earlier that day.
There was no meeting earlier that day, although Olsen said on the stand he had been at the hospital with his son and simply misunderstood what Ferre had meant.
After that confrontation, "did Angie Ferre, in March, come to you and say, we better go over these more carefully?" Yengich asked.
"Did she say that in April? Did she say it in May, 'Let's go over these more carefully?"' Yengich asked and continued to list each month until October.
Olsen's answer each time was no.
Prosecutor Chad Grunander asked Olsen on Wednesday if he believes it was Ferre's responsibility to monitor the reimbursements, why is he on trial.
"That's a good question," Olsen said.
"Do you have an answer?" Grunander asked.
"I shouldn't be here." Olsen said.
"Why did you resign then, Mayor?" Grunander asked.
"I resigned because," Olsen paused, "when these charges came against me, my interest was for Eagle Mountain city to progress. (I thought) the honorable thing to do would be to step down."
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