PROVO — A hearing on the evidence against former Provo City Councilman Steve Turley has been reset for February — and will now include fewer charges.
Fourth District Judge James Taylor dismissed three counts of communication fraud, a second-degree felony, following a hearing Monday, finding that the statute of limitations had ended before charges were filed. Turley, 45, will still face four counts of communication fraud, as well as two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult and pattern of unlawful activity, second-degree felonies, at a three-day preliminary hearing slated to begin Feb. 10.
Turley's attorney, Brett Tolman, said state law requires that fraud counts must be brought within four years unless they go unreported, in which case the statute gives police and prosecutors one year to file charges from the time they learn about the allegations. Tolman said there were newspaper articles about the alleged conduct and several individuals took the articles to both the Utah Attorney General's Office and Utah County Attorney's Office.
"They had them," Tolman said. "They should have been looking into them. This is not a technicality, this is one of the foundations of criminal law and that is the government can't bring a criminal charge against someone outside of the statute of limitations."
According to court records, Utah County deputy attorney Ryan McBride argued that the statute of limitations should not have begun with the publication of news articles or third party complaints, but when a "detailed report, investigation, etc. is introduced."
Still, the judge found law enforcement had been "adequately notified" and dismissed the three communication fraud counts on those grounds.
McBride could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
Turley was charged in July 2011, after 23 Provo residents filed a conflict-of-interest complaint against Turley, citing several instances in which the councilman allegedly used his public position for personal financial gain. The complaint led to an investigation by the Utah County Attorney's Office and ultimately the criminal charges against Turley, which related to his business dealings between July 2006 and December 2009.
After charges were filed, Turley's colleagues on the City Council called for his resignation, saying his continued presence on the council compromised the city's standards of ethics.
Turley refused to resign at that time, instead opting for a leave of absence. That sparked an internal investigation into the residents' allegations of ethical misconduct, headed by former 4th District Judge Anthony Schofield.
After the 45-day investigation, Schofield concluded that Turley violated the Utah Public Officers' and Employees' Ethics Act in at least five ways, including failing to disclose conflicts of interest and using his office to further his personal economic interests.
Turley resigned Sept. 27, 2011.
"I think Steve Turley had a lot of political enemies and a lot of civil litigation going and I think those individuals applied a lot of pressure and wanted to see criminal charges," Tolman said. "We're looking forward to getting to the preliminary hearing and pulling out the evidence and letting the judge look at this."