PROVO — Former Provo City Councilman Steve Turley says the 18-month-old criminal case against him was manufactured by his political and business enemies and he believes he can't get a fair trial in Utah County.
Turley, 44, faces 10 felonies accusing him of defrauding others for profit during business dealings between 2006 and 2009.
He believes the case against him is fueled by political opponents and attorneys representing people involved in pending civil litigation against him. Turley also alleges, through his attorneys Brett Tolman and Eric Benson, that a Utah County Attorney's Office investigator sought out "those who might have an ax to grind with Mr. Turley" to assist as victims in the criminal case.
The case is a result of a rivalry that formed between Turley and then-Provo City Councilwoman Cindy Richards over different political ideas and agendas, according to Turley's motion filed in 4th District Court. Turley took part in a grassroots effort aimed at preventing Richards, a three-term incumbent, from being re-elected.
Richards lost and Turley alleges that one of her "fierce supporters" held a meeting between Turley's political opponents and attorneys representing people involved in civil lawsuits against him. The group hired a private investigator to obtain evidence against Turley, the motion states, that was turned over to law enforcement.
After a news article was published detailing the allegations against Turley, he asked then-Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to investigate him in an effort to clear his name. He was later told that Shurtleff's office reviewed the case and did not intend to prosecute, according to the motion.
After this, Richard Hales, a criminal investigator with the Utah County Attorney's Office, was assigned to the case. Turley claims Hales followed leads provided to him by Turley's political foes and attorneys of those fighting him in civil lawsuits and sought to build up the case by enlisting other alleged victims.
"In Hales' ensuing conversations with these recruited victims, Hales went to great lengths to help the interviewees understand how bad Hales thought Mr. Turley was, how he had wronged them and others in many similar ways and how they could benefit from being part of the prosecution team," the motion states.
Hales is also accused of telling the alleged victims that he needed to have a number of cases to show a "pattern of unlawful activity."
Turley's attorneys are asking that a judge either dismiss the case against Turley or compel prosecutors to supply them with the evidence they seek, including information about Hales' communications with Richards, the meetings between political foes and attorneys of civil opponents, potential witnesses and details and histories concerning the alleged victims.
"The history of the case has already revealed that the Utah County Attorney's Office has adopted a 'win-at-all-costs' position, even if such a victory means abandoning its discovery obligations, its duty of candor towards the court and disregarding Mr. Turley's constitutional right to due process of law," the motion states.
Turley is also asking, in a motion filed Wednesday, that the case be moved from Utah County because four 4th District Court judges have already recused themselves from the case due to social and professional relationships with those involved. Turley believes it is unlikely he can get a fair and impartial trial in Utah County.
"We certainly don't agree with what's presented in the motion," prosecutor Alex Ludlow said Thursday, adding that his office is awaiting the appointment of a new judge before filing a response to Turley's motion.
Ludlow said he would prefer to keep the case in the 4th District Court, even if that means looking to judges in Juab and Wasatch counties.
Turley is charged with seven counts of communications fraud, two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one count of pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies.
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