PROVO — A judge has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit from a former Provo councilman who argued prosecutors filed bogus fraud charges against him in order to force him from office.
Steven Turley had claimed "malicious prosecution" on the part of the Utah County Attorney's Office, plus abuse of process, civil conspiracy and a violation of Utah rules of professional conduct.
After tossing several of Turley's claims last year, a 4th District judge dismissed remaining allegations on Friday, court records show.
Turley resigned from public office in September 2011 amid the allegations. By 2015, he was cleared of all 10 criminal counts and called the nearly four years he spent fighting the case "a nightmare" that devastated his family.
He alleged in the suit that a former rival on the Provo City Council sought to gather inflammatory information in order to oust him before prosecutors began investigating. Twenty-three Provo residents eventually filed conflict-of-interest complaints against him, alleging he used his public office for his own financial gain. The complaints kicked off an investigation by county prosecutors.
During a break in a meeting he had with the Utah County Attorney's Office, Turley alleged, a camera was left recording in the room and prosecutors listened to him speak with his attorney in real time. The tape was later destroyed after Turley and his attorney objected to it.
On Friday, the judge sided with lawyers for the county, who argued the statute of limitations on the claims had run out and Turley's Sixth Amendment argument — based on the secret recording — didn't apply because he hadn't yet been charged at the time of the misconduct he identified.
Heather White, one of the attorneys for the county, said even though the judge ruled on procedural grounds, her team believes it had the evidence to successfully fight Turley's claims.
"It's been a very emotional case, and we are glad the proceedings in the district court are finished," she said.
White said she awaits a possible appeal, but it was not clear Tuesday if Turley planned to ask a higher court to review the decision. One of his attorneys declined comment. Another did not immediately return messages.
Turley had alleged his reputation and business dealings suffered irreparable damage in the criminal case and called for greater accountability for prosecutors.
"I don't know how something like this can be made right," he said in 2015, when the charges were dropped.
In following years, Utah County leaders considered but later abandoned a plan to create a prosecutorial review board, an approach current Utah County Attorney David Leavitt calls "well-intentioned but not a good vehicle to accomplish what people wanted."2 comments on this story
Leavitt, who took office in January, declined to comment on the outcome of the suit, saying he didn't know the specifics. He said his office will take steps near the end of the year to start a conviction integrity unit that will review cases that come into question. But it is first creating a different program to divert criminal charges in favor of rehabilitation for offenders who qualify, he said.
Leavitt also personally reviews several of the cases his office files in order to "have more eyes" on them, he said, and reminds his employees that they serve not just victims but defendants, too.
"I feel a real duty to make sure we're doing it right," he said.