Fired DSU professor continues to seek documents, judge agrees to request

ST. GEORGE – Additional documentation including any emails, correspondence and whistleblower hotline calls held by prosecutors must be provided to former Dixie State University professor Varlo Davenport and his defense attorney, a judge has ruled.

Dixie State University students and alumni pose for a photo with Varlo Davenport, back row center, at a rally seeking his reinstatement, St. George, Utah, February 2015 | Photo courtesy of JaNay Maxwell, St. George News

Davenport was fired from his 15-year tenured position as a theater professor at Dixie State University in December 2014 after one of his students alleged he had assaulted her during a classroom acting exercise.

A DSU faculty board cleared Davenport of any wrongdoing and recommended his reinstatement, however DSU President Richard Williams made Davenport’s firing permanent.

St. George City filed a Class B misdemeanor count against Davenport and a jury trial is scheduled for March 23.

In a pre-trial hearing Feb. 10, Davenport’s attorney, Aaron Prisbrey, requested any documentation that the defense had not received including emails, letters and correspondence pertaining to the incident which lead to Davenport’s termination from the university.

During a hearing held Thursday in St. George, Washington County Justice Court Judge Ronald Read agreed, ruling any relevant information to do with the incident involving Davenport must be turned over to Prisbrey.

St. George City Attorney Robert Cosson has an ethical duty to produce the information, Read said. Cosson is representing St. George City in the case. Assistant St. George City Attorney Joseph Hood was at the hearing in Cosson’s stead.

Prisbrey told the judge that he should have already received all of the information held by prosecutors.

“Not this piecemeal thing where an issue comes up in court, and they send me a little bit more,” Prisbrey said, “and (another) issue comes up in court, and they send me a little bit more.”

Utah Assistant Attorney General Michael Carter, who is representing Dixie State University, argued there are two separate issues; the criminal charges Davenport faces and his termination from the university.

Whether or not Davenport’s termination was justified is not being decided in court, Carter said, and is not relevant to the case. Carter objected to having the defense receive “extraneous things,” including DSU’s internal communications.

Prisbrey’s subpoena was “overly broad,” Carter argued, in seeking information that had to do with Davenport’s employment, including a tape of a faculty review, some parts of which are not relevant to the criminal case.

Prisbrey told the judge it is difficult to establish a timeline in the case because DSU Public Safety Director Don Reid created a Microsoft Word document three months after the initial incident, instead of entering information immediately into Spillman, a police records management database.

Prisbrey is seeking emails and correspondence between Reid and several others, including DSU President Richard Williams, Davenport’s department chair, the dean of student affairs, and parents of the student who was allegedly assaulted.

Read said he would review any information Carter believes is not relevant to the case privately, or “in camera.”

Prisbrey expressed frustration with the delays in getting all the pertinent information in the case.

“We shouldn’t have to file motions and have hearing after hearing after hearing as to whether we can get this information,” Prisbrey said. “The government might have unlimited resources, but Mr. Davenport doesn’t.”

Read more: Controversy, unrest persist over Dixie State firing professor; prosecutor reviews complaint

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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