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St. George Legal News for January 2017

St. George native Jeremy Johnson announced earlier this month that, after firing his attorneys, he now plans to represent himself in a federal trial, which is a wise move for someone looking to spend the rest of eternity behind bars. Tired of the daily grind are we, Johnson? Ready to kick your feet up and enjoy gruel three meals a day? Wishing you could declutter and minimize your wardrobe down to one single jumpsuit? These are the only possible explanations for this decision.

Johnson, along with ex attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, face accusations of straight up fabricating companies to process debit and card charges. When Johnson goes to trial next month he will need to defend himself against allegations of fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering. That won’t be an easy task, given that he himself told reporters that he offered bribes to Swallow and Shurtleff. If only there was someone who could help him. Some professional with litigation expertise. Oh well.

Judge Paul Warner has asked Greg Skordas, Johnson’s most recent attorney, to serve as standby counsel for Johnson. “He can assist you by advising and counseling and discussing issues with you,” Judge Warner explained to Johnson, then went on to say, “But he will not be the one to stand up and make an opening statement. He will not be the one to questions witnesses, he will not make objections.” Everyone knows the best kind of attorney is the one who remains silent during trial, so clearly Johnson made a smart move when he agreed to these terms.

In other St. George legal news, seven so-called masseuses have been arrested. Some for operating a massage parlor without proper licensing, which is pretty gross, and some for prostitution, which is really gross. In what feels like an especially juicy episode of Law and Order, the St. George Police department orchestrated a sting to clean up the city’s less than reputable businesses.

Officers made their arrests at Japan Massage, Golden Coast Massages, Massage Therapy, and Dixie Massage. Officers first visited each location posing as customers and learned that some of these massage parlor employees were offering sexual favors in exchange for money, and all were giving massages without being licensed to do so.

St. George residents Dong Ju Jin, Feng Fang Li, Jumei Qin, and Yuxoang Wang, have been arrested, as have California natives Shanmei Olmstead, Yuhua Liu, and Li Ying. An eighth suspect, known only as “Vicki,” is currently at large.

The massage brothel sting is the latest in an increase of of massage-related solicitation over the last year. So maybe check out the yelp reviews before you frequent any establishment with the word “massage” in its title.

The accused women have been charged with misdemeanors, and all but one of the defendants, Jumei Qin, have been released on bond. The women likely face more charges as the investigation progresses.

On the other side of the legal spectrum, an employee who has been found innocent of any wrongdoing wants his job back.

Former Dixie State University Professor Varlo Davenport was fired when the City of Saint George sued him on behalf of a student. The student claimed that Davenport assaulted her by pulling her hair during an acting exercise.

Other students, however, testified that they saw nothing out of the ordinary in Davenport’s interactions with the student, and the student admitted to missing class the day Davenport explained that “physically frustrating” the students would be part of his teaching techniques and students could opt out if they felt uncomfortable. I guess those high school teachers weren’t lying when they told us attendance was important.

A faculty review board cleared Davenport of the accusations and recommended that he be reinstated to his teaching position. That never happened.

So now Davenport’s attorneys have filed a suit against Dixie State University President Richard “Biff” Williams, other university officials, and the Utah assistant attorney general. The suit, filed by Davenport’s lawyer Aaron Prisbrey, cites civil rights violations and breach of contract.

Prisbey writes that the university wanted Davenport to be charged with a crime because the administration had made a mistake in firing Davenport without due process. You know what they say about two wrongs, but I guess Dixie State admins don’t.

Attorney Prisbey also alleges that that the university violated Davenport’s freedom of speech, claiming that Dixie State was run as a parochial institution and demanded that professors instruct in a manner compliant with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints even though the school is not affiliated with the church. Released emails suggest that some administrators found Davenport to be in violation of the arbitrary standards, and looked for reasons to fire him.

Davenport is seeking $5 million for emotional distress, mental anguish, and damage to his reputation, as well as $15 million in punitive damages. The Dixie State administrators are probably wishing that they had given Davenport his job back when they had the chance. Oh, hindsight.

If Davenport wins, he might be in the market for a new home. I suggest that he, and you, check out the 2017 Parade of Homes featuring 28 hoes around Saint George from February 17 - 26.

Or, if you’re looking for a holistic, healing experience without patronising a possible prostitution ring, try Somatic Yoga with Roman, every Wednesday night from 5:30 pm - 6:45 pm.

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