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AG Files National Monuments Amicus Brief

The cases challenging President Trump’s recent diminishment of two national monuments in the State of Utah are slated to be heard half a continent away.  We believe they should be heard locally.

This week, the Utah Attorney General filed a friend of the court brief in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the State of Utah, Garfield County, Kane County, and San Juan County.  It supports the Department of Justice’s request to transfer these two cases to Utah.

We argue that a court in Utah should hear these cases because

(1) Utah’s interests in them are greater than the interests of Washington, D.C.; and

(2) The cases could significantly affect Utah’s property interests in, and rights on, those lands.

You can read the Amicus Brief here: Consolidated Utah Monuments Amicus Brief.

 


Fighting Against the Opioid Epidemic

Utah currently ranks 4th in the nation for opioid drug overdose deaths, losing six people a week to the epidemic. This is a national health crisis and a priority of the Attorney General’s office since Sean D. Reyes took office.

In June, Attorney General Sean Reyes joined Brian Besser, DEA District Agent in Charge, in creating an executive Opioid Task Force to address the epidemic. The task force consists of skilled partners, including Speaker Greg Hughes, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, Rep. Steve Eliason, Senator Evan Vickers, Councilmember Jenny Wilson from the Salt Lake County Council, members of law enforcement, the medical community, academia, and congressional delegation staffers.

The Attorney General’s Office has been diligently working to help stem the tide of the opioid addiction in the state. Below is a list of actions taken by AG Reyes and the Opioid Task Force for the last few years.

2014 
FEB: Arrest of Victor Rax – known drug & human trafficker.

2015
OCT:  AG Reyes urges Congress to pass the Comprehensive & Addiction Recovery Act of 2015.

2016
JUL:    AG Reyes joins investigation by a bipartisan coalition of 41 state attorneys general seeking documents and information from manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids.

OCT:   AG Reyes files a lawsuit with 36 other AGs against Suboxone, an opioid addiction treatment drug, for blocking generic competitors.

2017
APR:   AG Reyes promotes turning in unused prescription drugs on for Utah Takeback Day.

MAY:  AG Reyes creates Opioid Task Force with DEA, Utah legislators, community members, and public health officials to act against the opioid epidemic.

JUN:   In conjunction with the DEA, Utah AGO assists in one of the largest heroin busts in Utah history, arresting 35 conspirators.

SEPT: AG Reyes urges health insurance companies to examine financial incentives that contribute to the opioid epidemic in Utah by co-authoring a letter with a coalition of 37 states and territories.

OCT:   AG Reyes joins a bipartisan group of AG’s encouraging 15 healthcare companies that provide pharmacy benefit management services to implement programs that mitigate prescription opioid abuse.

Utah Opioid Task Force alerts health care providers and law enforcement that Naloxone rescue kits, are legal and only used as an antidote to reverse an opiate overdose.

NOV:  AG Reyes advocates for and assists DEA in bringing DEA 360 to Utah.

DEC:   AG Reyes invited to White House to consult with on President Trump’s declaration of opioid crisis a “health emergency.”

MISC: AG Reyes partners to create the number for mental health support.

 


AGO Recognizes Susan B. Anthony Day

Attorney General Sean Reyes issued the following statement for Susan B. Anthony Day 2018:

“Today we celebrate Susan B. Anthony and her legacy of women’s rights and social reform. She remains, to this day, a prominent leader and instrumental voice in the fight for social equality and a woman’s right to vote. Her steadfastness in the face of persecution, ridicule, and harassment is a testament to those of us who long to make a similar impact in our own arenas.

 

Susan said, “There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” We at the Utah Attorney General’s office agree and are proud to partner with organizations like Better Days 2020, who are raising awareness about the value of women leaders in civil and corporate communities, such as Utah’s Martha Hughes Cannon. Being surrounded by strong women – mother, wife, colleagues – I know the value women bring to the decision-making table and want to make sure there are more chairs available. By doing so, we honor the work of women like Susan B. Anthony and all those who dedicated their lives to this end.”


Utah Attorney General

Attorney General Reyes’ Statement on School Shooting in Parkland, Florida

This evening, Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement regarding the school shooting in Parkland, Florida earlier today.

“Our hearts are breaking for the families of the shooting victims at Douglas High School in Florida. I can’t think of a worse nightmare for a parent. Our team has reached out to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to offer our condolences and support should they need additional therapists and advocates to help surviving students and the families of victims. We know Florida has generously sent personnel in the wake of mass shootings in other states.

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s Law Enforcement Division, in partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety, will continue to train officers from around our state in simulated active shooter situations, praying that we will never see a school shooting like today’s and hoping that we will never have to face the tragedy of another Utah mall attack, newsroom assault, or university gunman.”


Human Traffickers Receive Maximum Penalty

OGDEN COUPLE SENTENCED FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Utah Attorney General’s SECURE Strike Force Headed Up Prosecution

After pleading guilty to two counts each of human trafficking, Lynnsie Reddish and Terrance Jones were sentenced on Monday, January 22nd, to an indeterminate prison sentence of 1-15 years on each count, the maximum sentence for their offenses, for charges investigated and prosecuted by the Office of the Utah Attorney General (OAG).

Last July, the OAG’s SECURE Strike Force arrested and charged Reddish and Jones with sixteen felony offenses, including Aggravated Kidnapping and multiple counts of Human Trafficking, based on evidence of a long-term sex trafficking operation they ran out of a residence in Ogden City.

At a preliminary hearing last July, seven women testified about their experience working for the operation. They testified that Reddish and Jones exploited their drug addictions, poverty, lack of housing, and other vulnerabilities to recruit them to work in commercial sex. According to the women, Jones was the drug supplier and the “muscle” for the operation. He handled payment transactions and nearly all the money made went to him and Reddish.

Two of the women testified to the violence Reddish and Jones used against them when they tried to leave. One woman shared that Reddish and Jones held her in a room, cut off her hair, and beat her with a belt. The other, after refusing to have sex with a “client”, left the house, was chased down, and beat in the street. One of the women Reddish recruited is autistic and meets the definition of a vulnerable adult. According to the victims, Reddish knew about her disability and forced her to work anyway, often beating her up or locking her into a closest when she refused. This victim’s story is part of the basis for an upcoming bill this legislative session to increase penalties for human trafficking of vulnerable adults.

All Human Trafficking victims are referred to Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, a partner agency with the Utah Trafficking in Person’s Task Force (UTIP), for aftercare services.

Human trafficking tips should be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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NOTES:

  1. The Utah Attorney General’s SECURE Strike Force is tasked by the Utah legislature with investigating and prosecuting large-scale criminal operations including human trafficking. Read more about the SECURE Strike Force here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/uncategorized/secure-task-force.
  2. For more information about the Utah Trafficking In Persons Task Force, go here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/human-trafficking.
  3. To learn more about the work of the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, check out their website here: https://aau-slc.org/.

AG’s Office Releases Draft Opinion on 3rd Congressional District Special Election

UTAH AG’S OFFICE RELEASES OPINION ON CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS
Controversial request spotlights conflict between state law and legal ethics

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, the Attorney General’s Office received a waiver from Governor Herbert allowing it to release a legal opinion to the legislature on issues related to the special election in the Third Congressional District.

The opinion was drafted in May, 2017, but not disclosed due to ethical concerns with its release. Now that the threat of litigation has passed, and the governor has issued a waiver, the ethical barriers to sharing the opinion have been removed. The opinion was hand-delivered to the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and Governor.

The opinion indicates that Governor Herbert’s actions appeared to be within his statutory and constitutional authority to call the election as he did. The opinion letter, while in draft, was the subject of controversy– not due to its content, but because conflicting interpretations of the law, constitutional responsibilities, and legal ethics provided no clear ethical path for immediate release of the document. 

Now that the opinion is public, the Attorney General’s Office anticipates this will negate the need to pursue a petition for judicial review of the State Records Committee’s decision on this matter.

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NOTES:

  1. Find a PDF copy of the letter and related documents at https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2018-01-16-CD3-Ltr.pdf.
  2. Attorney General Reyes penned an op-ed in November regarding the elections opinion letter and finding an ethical path forward. You can read that here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/featured-content/op-ed-the-disputed-special-election-letter-and-the-ethical-path-forward.

Utah Attorney General’s Office Files Amended Complaint in Gold King Lawsuit

Amended complaint adds EPA and other parties to list of defendants

SALT LAKE CITY January 5, 2018 – The Utah Attorney General’s Office filed an amended complaint yesterday in the Gold King Mine blowout lawsuit. The amendment adds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States, and Weston Solutions, Inc., one of EPA’s contractors, as defendants.
 
Triggered on August 5, 2015, by the EPA and its contractors, the uncontrolled blowout of the Gold King Mine dumped over three million gallons of acid wastes and toxic metals, depositing hazardous wastes along the Animas and San Juan Rivers. The plume reached Lake Powell in Utah just nine days later on August 14, 2015.

“We will continue to work closely with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice to assess and monitor damages, devise a remediation plan or other remedies, and attempt to settle this case,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “The amended complaint was necessary to preserve the legal rights of Utah and its citizens and should not be interpreted as a breakdown in settlement discussions. Those negotiations are on-going to work out a settlement unique to Utah and commensurate with the harm.”
 
“The Gold King Mine blowout was an avoidable disaster, and it is critical that those responsible clean up the wastes and compensate Utah for the damages,” said Spencer Austin, Chief Criminal Deputy of the Utah Attorney General’s Office. “We are in talks with the EPA and hope to reach a resolution soon. Settlement in cases of this magnitude often takes years. If litigation should become necessary, the Utah Attorney General’s Office is ready for a fight. But our hope is to reach an agreement to work together with the EPA to protect our environment.”
 
With the amended complaint, the lawsuit names ten parties as defendants, including three EPA contractors and four mine owners.
 
Throughout the process, the State of Utah has been cooperative with the EPA, yet aggressive in holding that agency responsible for its actions. This cooperative approach has already paid dividends for the State of Utah and its people. For example, more than a million dollars has been reimbursed by the EPA to Utah for expenditures related to initial emergency response and monitoring. The EPA under the Pruitt Administration has been particularly responsive and willing to take responsibility for the mining blowout. 
 
A copy of the First Amended Complaint can be found through this link.
 
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AG Reyes Statement on the Passing of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson

Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement regarding the passing of President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I love President Thomas S. Monson, and I will miss him. Throughout my life, he has been an example of selfless service and visionary leadership. When I was a young leader of a Latter-day Saint congregation, I looked to President Monson for inspiration and was blessed by his example, and I have continued to look to him for spiritual guidance. His life was a living illustration of individual ministry to the lonely and the downtrodden. His example moved me then, as it does now, to come to the rescue of those in need and to lift those who are weary.

“I will always treasure the quiet interactions we shared together. In his presence, I knew I was speaking to someone intimately familiar with the Lord. Beyond his talks, teachings, and testimony, his service and charity towards his fellowmen were unsurpassed. His love for the human family, like his love for God, was unbounded.

“As a community leader, President Monson was peerless, and yet, he never sought the accolades of the world. His sights were set on a more lasting and transcendent goal of lifting the human spirit and condition to a higher plane. He was blessed with a wry sense of humor and a seemingly bottomless well of stories, a gift for language that he used to touch the lives of millions, as well as to lift each person that he met individually.

“Saysha and I express our sincere and deepest condolences to President Monson’s family, as well as to the members of the LDS Church who are mourning the passing of their prophet. We are all better because of President Monson’s service, and it is my hope that we might all, as he did, come to the rescue of those who are in need around us.”


AG Reyes Thanks Utah National Guard on Deployment to Afghanistan

Attorney General Sean Reyes thanked members of the National Guard for their service as they prepared to deploy for Afghanistan this week:

“We are grateful for members of the Utah National Guard who will deploy today to begin training for a mission to Afghanistan later this year. Our prayers are with each of them, as well as with their families, as they carry out their mission on behalf of our country. Similarly, our thoughts and prayers go out to all our men and women in uniform at home or deployed throughout the world.

“We are reminded of the sacrifice of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, many from our own staff, who have contributed to the Nation’s defense over many years of service.

“Our own Major Chris Earl will also be deploying soon, although on a different critical mission, and we express our support for his efforts on behalf of our country and send our love to his family.”


Quinlen Atkinson Sentenced for Human Trafficking

Weber County, Utah  December 20, 2017 –Attorney General Sean Reyes today announced the guilty plea and sentencing of Quinlen Atkinson to human trafficking.  Atkinson pled guilty to Human Trafficking, a second degree felony. Atkinson was arrested and charged by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, SECURE Strike Force, last year as part of its ongoing commitment to eradicate human trafficking in Utah. He will serve up to fifteen years in prison.
 
“Exploiting and abusing young people in this way is one of the most repulsive acts imaginable,” said Attorney General Reyes. “I want to thank the brave men and women of our Attorney General’s Office, especially Assistant Attorney General Dan Strong who brought the charges and to our elite investigative unit, the Utah SECURE Strikeforce, for bringing this predator to justice. I also want to invite the community’s prayers on behalf of the victims and their families for a recovery that will help them reclaim their lives and their innocence.”
 
Atkinson came to the attention of authorities after they received reports that he had recruited two high school students—one 17 years old and the other 18 years old—to work as part of his commercial sex operation. Witnesses reported that Atkinson substantially managed the commercial sex operation, including transporting both girls within and outside of the state for the purposes of commercial sex. Atkinson was alleged to have kept most or all money earned in this operation, despite promising the girls he recruited that he would invest the money and purchase them a house.
 
Atkinson was sentenced to prison by the 2nd District Court for Weber County. He will serve between one and fifteen years in prison, as determined by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
 
The Utah Attorney General’s Office administers and coordinates the SECURE Strike Force partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety and county, federal and city law enforcement agencies to combat violent and other major felony crimes associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking.
 
If you believe you have a tip about human trafficking, please call the tip line at 801-200-3443.
 

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EDITOR’S NOTES: 
 
1. The mission of the Utah Attorney General SECURE Strike Force is to carefully target major fraud, organized gun, drug and human trafficking, detect creation of fraudulent government identification and other documents, and prosecute these crimes with specialized investigators and resources and a dedicated Assistant Attorney General prosecutor.
 
2. The SECURE Strike Force is an integral part of the Utah Trafficking in Person’s Task Force.
 
3. Read more about the SECURE Strike Force here.


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