Woman pleads no contest in race riot case

ST. GEORGE – A woman accused of inciting a racially-motivated riot last year pleaded no contest in 5th District Court Thursday and was given 18 months probation.

Heather Hill McCleery, 31, of St. George appeared before Judge Eric Ludlow and entered a no contest plea to a class A misdemeanor charge of riot that was originally a third-degree felony. The charge stems from a June 2014 incident at the skim park at 2700 E. Waterfront Drive in St. George where McCleery allegedly triggered a violent mêlée with a group of Hispanic individuals.

Heather Hill McCleery of St. George, Utah, booking photo posted June 23, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News
Heather Hill McCleery of St. George, Utah, booking photo posted June 23, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Deputy Washington County Attorney Rachel Shumway said the no contest plea, while not an admission of guilt on the part of the defendant, acknowledges the state has enough evidence for a possible conviction. McCleery was also able to enter her plea in abeyance, which will stand for 18 months. After that time, the charge can be removed from McCleery’s record.

“Because it’s a plea in abeyance, it’s not going to enter judgment,” Shumway said. “If she complies with the all the terms of probation, then she’s not convicted and she’s not sentenced.”

According to court records, witnesses said McCleery had been calling the Hispanics racial epithets and then called in others on her phone, telling them to “come fight the Mexicans.” A physical confrontation between the two sides ultimately unfolded that led to at least one person being hit by a tire iron or baseball bat.

McCleery was arrested following the incident and pleaded not guilty to the original felony charge in October 2014.

Shumway said she has been working with the victims in the case and also noted that a co-defendant in the case, Washington City resident David Reid, had recently died.

“In working with the victims, we felt this was a good resolution for both sides,” Shumway said.

Multiple people were taken to the hospital after a large fight broke out near Waterfront Drive and 2450, St. George, Utah, June 22, 2014 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Multiple people were taken to the hospital after a large fight broke out near Waterfront Drive and 2450, St. George, Utah, June 22, 2014 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

The state believes Reid was a big part of the riot, Shumway said, and was planning to refile the charges, but with the man’s recent demise, that is no longer an option.

“With him being deceased, it changed the dynamics of my case,” Shumway said.

Reid was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound the night of March 18 in the Colony Circle area of Washington City. The incident involved an alleged domestic dispute that started in St. George and then ended in Washington City. Witnesses reported shots, allegedly by Reid, in both locations. No one else was harmed in the incident that ended with Reid taking his own life.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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1 Comment

  • 42214 May 23, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    I wonder if she’ll keep her job at …?
    Ed. ellipsis.

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