Three Imperatives for Salt Lake County
Taking Action to make Salt Lake County Safe
DANIELLE AHN'S PLANS
Danielle has specific and measurable plans to address the issues that plague Salt Lake County
No Plea Deals for Repeat Violent Offenders
Danielle Ahn promises to end plea deals for repeat violent offenders. Too often we read stories in the news of a suspect being charged with unthinkable acts of violence, only to be offered a plea deal and released back onto the streets. We then find that same person’s name a few months later doing something worse! Danielle is tired of reading story after story of people who commit unthinkable crimes being let off with plea deals when they should be in jail. There are four traditional reasons why someone is punished in the justice system, these reasons include retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, and incapacitation. Since retribution is an important enough reason to create and maintain a justice system that preserves societal order, Danielle’s platform addresses the other three reasons it is imperative to prosecute suspected criminals to protect our community.
Our justice system is designed to give the accused the benefit of the doubt. Once convicted, we generally do our best to give people a second chance. These two principles are foundational to who we are and it is what makes our society tolerant and merciful. Most of us believe that people can be rehabilitated. We recognize that people make mistakes and need time, counseling, and coaching to make things right and to put themselves back on track. Danielle believes that punishment can and should be used to rehabilitate when it is appropriate.
Unfortunately, most plea deals are not given because we believe in the principle of rehabilitation. Plea deals are usually a result of a lack of evidence, manpower, and willpower. Which is why it is vital to consider punishment for sake of deterring repeat offenders and incapacitating some offenders who may or may not be able to help themselves. While we can give you multiple examples of repeat violent offenders that evaded justice and went on to commit increasingly violent crimes since our current DA took office, but I will only list a few below:
1. Had Buk M. Buk Been Prosecuted, Aaron Lowe Would Still Be Alive
He was charged with multiple offenses from 2017-2019 in the Salt Lake City 3rd District Court, the Murray Justice Court, the West Jordan Justice Court, and the West Valley City Justice Court. Many of these charges were dismissed due to a belief that Buk may have been a minor at the time of the offenses, even though his stated date of birth was January 1, 1999 which would have rendered him an adult during these years. Nevertheless, multiple cases were dismissed as there was some apparent doubt on whether he was a minor or not.
The Assistant DA was supposed to refile the case in juvenile court but that never happened.
Regardless of whether the birth certificate is legitimate or not, prosecutors had knew in 2019 that Buk was a dangerous man. He had allegedly committed 6 prior offenses in 2017 and 2018. He then committed a heinous burglary offense where he admitted to breaking into a private home through a window and stealing property inside. It was also alleged that he assaulted a dog with a crutch while inside the home and evidence supported this assertion. He was on a dangerous path at this point. But he was not taken seriously.
Buk was subsequently charged in 7 more criminal cases in 2019. SEVEN! And this was all after his burglary arrest and charge. He was charged in two cases with providing false personal information; criminal trespass; obstructing justice and shoplifting. He was also charged in two new felony cases.
On October 19, 2019, it was alleged that Buk committed 2 counts of Aggravated Robbery, each a 1st degree felony, obstructed justice, a second-degree felony, and provided false personal information. The victim arranged to purchase a phone listed on KSL Classifieds and was sitting in her car when Buk and another male pulled a gun and knife, pointed the gun at them, and ordered to give money. A K9 located Buk and his co-defendant. Buk admitted to the robbery and then hiding the gun. This case is very heinous and clearly indicative of a dangerous criminal. However, Sim Gill did not take it seriously.
Days after Buk was charged with Aggravated Robbery, a new case was filed alleging a Robbery that occurred on May 20, 2019. Similar to the previous case, a person agreed to buy an iPhone on KSL and arranged to meet the seller, Buk. During the exchange, Buk grabbed the victim’s money, the phone too, and ran.
Buk pleaded to a reduced count of Robbery in the October, 2019 case, and to Robbery in the May, 2019 case. He entered the pleas on June 8, 2020 and was sentenced that same day, without any preparation of a pre-sentence report. Buk was sentenced to a year in jail and granted credit for the 240 days he had previously served. He was ordered to be on probation supervised by Adult Probation and Parole for a period of 3 years.
Buk was later released from jail and a new warrant was issued for an incident occurring on November 1, 2020 that violated his probation and new charges were file. Buk was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a second-degree felony, theft by receiving stolen property, another second-degree felony, and failure to stop at the command of a law enforcement officer, a class A misdemeanor.
In this new felony case, the fourth case in which Buk was charged with heinous felonies, it was alleged that a Salt Lake City Police Officer saw a stolen vehicle, pulled it over, and saw five occupants flee. Another officer arrived and detained the individuals, including Buk. A search was performed on Buk and ammunition was found in his pocket. A stolen firearm was found on the floorboard of the vehicle. The ammunition in his pocket matched the caliber of the stolen firearm.
Buk was arrested and later received a warrant for a no bail hold. A Preliminary Hearing was conducted where a judge heard the evidence in the case and determined to bind over the charges for trial. A jury trial was later scheduled. However, no jury trial was ever established.
On March 26, 2021, Buk pleaded guilty to only failure to stop at the command of a law enforcement officer, a misdemeanor, while the felonies were dismissed. Buk was given credit for the 115 days of jail time he received and was ordered to be released.
3 days later, Buk admitted to violating his probation with this new case. His probation was revoked and reinstated. He was ordered to serve an additional 30 days of jail. That was it.
Thus, while he was on probation for two separate robberies, one involving the threatened use of a gun and knife, Buk was found with bullets in his pockets with a firearm in the car he was in. He undoubtedly fled from police as well. He was granted the privilege of probation and violated it in a heinous way. However, the case was pled down to a misdemeanor and rather than going to prison, which should have occurred as he violated probation with a new case, he was given only a few weeks in jail and released again.
Six months later, on September 26, 2021, Buk allegedly murdered Aaron Lowe in cold blood.
Buk should have been in prison. He was a dangerous and violent criminal. One who had time and time again been charged with many offenses. One who had been charged with felonies in four separate cases. A man who wrought havoc on the community and drained precious criminal justice resources. A man who should have been in prison – but wasn’t due to Sim Gill’s failed woke policies.
A family, and a community, now mourns their lost son and brother due to a senseless act of violence perpetrated by a person who should have been locked up for the violence he brought to the streets of Salt Lake County, time and time again.
2. Had Joker Been Prosecuted, He Would Still Be Alive
Anei Gabriel Joker was a suspected rapist and violent felon with a long history of plea deals. The District Attorney’s plea deals culminated in a standoff that left two officers in critical condition when the police attempted to apprehend the Joker in connection to cases of rape and robbery.
Joker was convicted in Utah in July of 2021 for a drug possession charge that was dismissed after he pleaded guilty to driving on a suspended license in May of 2021.
In January of 2021, Joker was charged with an attempted felony for the discharge of a firearm from an incident in October 2020. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge – class A misdemeanor – he was given a suspended jail sentence of 364 days and credited with 94 days he spent at the time of his arrest and two years probation.
In April 2021, Joker was charged with a 1st-degree felony for aggravated robbery for an incident on January 17, 2021. My opponent claims that he wanted the Joker to spend some time in jail for this particular crime but he offered a plea deal that reduced the charge to a 2nd-degree felony. It is likely that the reduced charges lead to the Joker being given a suspended prison sentence of 1-15 years and placed on three years probation.
In May 18, 2020, Court records say Joker participated in stealing a gun at a house party in Salt Lake City. During the robbery, a shot was fired. He was charged with first degree aggravated robbery. The case was dismissed for “insufficient evidence.”
On February 9, 2020, Joker was charged with failure to stop at command of the police, speeding 97 in a 70, and driving without a valid license (no valid license was ever obtained). The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges as part of a plea deal, he was scheduled to appear for a court hearing in December of 2021 for a DUI in July of 2020.
In October 18, 2019 he was charged with driving with and being in possession of a controlled substance and driving on a suspended or revoked license. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. After years of delays, the case and charges were dismissed since the Joker was deceased.
Re-forging Relationships with Law Enforcement
A prosecutor has wide discretion concerning the progress of legal proceedings against individuals suspected of breaking the law. However, the prosecutor is limited in her ability to capture suspects, investigate crimes, and collect evidence. The police provide prosecutors with all of the ingredients they need to pursue charges against suspects and ultimately bring about convictions. That is why a strong relationship with law enforcement is vital to the work of a prosecutor.
Danielle Ahn is running for District Attorney to restore the public’s trust, respect, and confidence in the justice system. She recognizes that the District Attorney’s power is constrained by statute and that a collaborative relationship with law enforcement and other criminal justice stakeholders is imperative to fostering trust and inspiring confidence in the community. Law enforcement shoulders the burden that crime inflicts on the community. They run towards danger when others run away and they deal with stressors and trauma with a grace that exceeds expectation. Danielle has a deep abiding respect for the role of law enforcement and the sacrifices they make to keep the community safe.
Danielle Ahn believes in strengthening the law enforcement’s mission of stopping crime and vigorously pursuing justice by diligently screening cases and collaborating with law enforcement to fill evidentiary gaps. Danielle has already secured the support of the police and other criminal justice stakeholders because they are confident in her ability to collaborate with stakeholders and reestablish the trust that is foundational to an effective justice system. Unlike her opponent, Danielle has never backed down from a challenge and is willing to pursue justice without regard to the professional, political, or personal consequences. Danielle believes that by doing her job effectively, she will re-forge a cooperative and effective relationship with law enforcement.
“The Justice System Only Works As Well As We Do”
Danielle recognizes that the justice system is maintained by imperfect people and unfortunately, some bad actors. People make mistakes and wearing a badge does not shield people from their personal failings. That is why when cases of abuse or misconduct are brought to her office, Danielle has promised that she will swiftly and thoroughly review such cases and make a charging decision within 60 days of completing an investigation. She believes in fairly reviewing all cases brought to her office, without fear of political or professional consequences.
The incumbent has allowed cases of suspected abuse and misconduct by officers to languish for years. Our justice system is built on the premise that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty. By delaying decisions concerning suspected abuse or misconduct, Danielle’s opponent has already irreparably damaged, punished, and tarnished the lives and reputations of the accused without having ever proven their guilt. Danielle believes that an officer’s constitutional rights are not left at their precinct door and that they should be afforded equal treatment under the law.
Amplifying Victims' Voices
The District Attorney represents the residents of the jurisdiction, this includes victims. Victims deserve to be heard and involved in the prosecutorial process to the extent allowed under statute and rules of professionalism and ethics. Danielle Ahn promises to implement policies that ensure that victim’s voices are listened to, respected, and considered with respect and dignity from the first interview until the resolution of the case.
The interview and screening process can be very traumatic and embarrassing for victims because they are required to remember and share in particular detail what happened to them with complete strangers, specifically law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Due to the sensitive nature of their role in the justice process many victims will intentionally or unintentionally withhold key facts and details that prosecutors need to hold the accused accountable. Danielle Ahn promises to work with victim advocates and mental health professionals throughout the process to ensure that the needs of victims are being met and that victims are supported and defended throughout the prosecutorial process.
Danielle will lobby for resources and implement a policy requiring law enforcement officers and prosecutors to participate in joint training that will teach both stakeholders how to safely and effectively elicit the testimony and evidence needed to proceed with cases without causing additional harm to the victim.
Did you know that in Utah we have codified a Victim’s Bill of Rights? Certain laws require that a victim be notified of plea deals, hearing dates, trial, dismissals and release. Utah protects the right of the victim to give a victim impact statement at the end of trial. Victim impact statements serve the interests of justice by providing the Judge, defendant, and community with a glimpse into the impact the crime had on themselves or the victim’s family members. Impact statements are a valuable source of healing not only for victims or their loved ones, but also for the community as the community collectively grieves the loss or pain inflicted on them by the defendant. Danielle Ahn promises to protect the rights of victims and encourage victims and their family members as they prepare to present their victim statements by reviewing statements to ensure that they do not prejudice a case or violate any rules or requirements of the court.
Balancing Interest and Conflicts
Prosecutors have an ethical, moral, and constitutional duty to remain neutral when evaluating the evidence and law involved in a case. Prosecutors have a legal and ethical duty to disclose exculpatory evidence to the court and the defendant. Prosecutors also have a duty to dismiss a case or decline charging the accused if after a thorough review of the evidence they do not believe that they can prove the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Unfortunately, Sim Gill has failed to uphold his duty to victims and the accused by waiting months and sometimes years to make a charging decision, which violates the victim’s right to a speedy trial and the accused’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. This leaves both the accused and victims in legal purgatory, prejudicing the case by allowing the cold hand of time to draw away evidence that must be evaluated by a jury. Memories fade, witnesses move and die, and stories change as the clock ticks.
According to a recent study, only 12% of sexual assault cases presented to the Salt Lake County DA’s office resulted in charges being filed and only 7% of those cases resulted in successful prosecution. Sim claims that the majority of cases do not result in charges being filed due to a lack of evidence, but the study shows that only 10% of those chases were not pursued due to a lack of evidence. In Salt Lake County, 65% of sexual assault cases were not formally screened with the prosecutor’s office from 2012 to 2017. That’s marginally down from 66% when Valentine conducted the initial study. While Sim Gill didn’t participate in the study, based on the data he provided the author, along with victim’s testimonies, it is clear that the vast majority of victims have gone unheard, unnotified, and are left with a hollow promise that someday they may eventually find justice. Meanwhile, the accused are able to escape prosecution or are forced to live without an opportunity to challenge the accusations made against them.
Danielle Ahn refuses to allow this pattern of prosecutorial neglect to continue and promises to implement policies that require all prosecutors to work through the backlog of unscreened cases. Danielle is also committed to enact policies that require prosecutors to keep victims apprised of the status of their case, respond timely to a victim’s concerns, and in the event a prosecutor must decline or dismiss charges, explain the missing elements or evidence to the victim and their legal or ethical constraints before declining or dismissing charges against the accused.
Finally, prosecutors should avoid prejudicing a defendant with inflammatory public statements regarding a case prior to or during trial.
During the summer of 2020, protestors vandalized the District Attorney’s new building following an announcement that the DA and a citizen panel exonerated the officers involved in a justified shooting of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal. Instead of recognizing that the DA was barred from prosecuting the vandals due to the inherent conflict of interest and handing the case over to an outside prosecutor, the DA showed his bias and vengeance by charging the protestors with a gang enhancement which would carry a maximum sentence of life in prison for each of the accused. One of the accused protestors had merely purchased the paint. What is the lesson? Be careful what you pick-up at the local hardwood store.
Although Sim Gill eventually turned the case over to Judge Nolan to act as “conflict counsel” and proceed with prosecution, his decision to publicly announce that he was proceeding with charging the accused vandals, which could potentially have each of them spend the rest of their lives incarcerated was unethical, political, and prejudicial. Danielle is a passionate advocate for the community and promises to treat each resident fairly and impartially. Danielle is here to remove politics from prosecution by enacting policies that provide checks on each prosecutor’s potential personal or political biases so that the public can be confident that every individual is treated equally under the law.
Danielle firmly believes that communication and transparency is key to regaining the public’s trust in the justice system and maintaining law and order in the community.