Davenport case: Trial approaches, subpoenas denied

Tenured theater professor Varlo Davenport was fired from Dixie State University after a student alleged he assaulted her during a classroom acting exercise, St. George, Utah, photo undated | photo courtesy of Varlo Davenport, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – With a trial date rapidly approaching, the judge in Varlo Davenport’s case denied subpoenas for several witnesses including Dixie State University President Richard Williams. The case has suffered from numerous delays and complications, but a trial date is set for July 13-14.

Davenport, a 15-year tenured theater professor, was fired from Dixie State after a student alleged he assaulted her during a routine classroom acting exercise.

A faculty review board cleared Davenport and recommended he be reinstated. However, Davenport was charged with a single class B misdemeanor assault by St. George City. The DSU faculty senate also voted to clear Davenport, said his attorney, Aaron Prisbrey.

At the hearing, Judge Karlin Myers quashed several subpoenas for witnesses including Williams. However, the witnesses will be “standing by,” Prisbrey said.

”So I’m wondering if anyone else gets this special white-glove treatment where a subpoena gets squashed,” Prisbrey said, ” … but they can just hang around until the judge decides it’s time for them to come on down.”

Myers denied subpoenas requested by Prisbrey for DSU President Richard Williams, DSU Director of Public Relations Steve Johnson, department chair Mark Houser, Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Lojko and Utah Assistant Attorney General Michael Carter.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that in 22 years that I’ve been practicing law,” Prisbrey said. “I’ve never heard of any other judge quashing a subpoena for witnesses that have relevant information.”

Myers did order a subpoena for Dixie State University Public Safety Director Don Reid, who conducted an investigation into the alleged assault months after the incident occurred.

Myers said if there is a problem with inconsistent statements that goes to a witness’ credibility, then Williams, Beatty and Houser need to be available to testify for those statements, court documents state.

During the hearing, Myers insisted that Prisbrey “present his case” by telling the judge what the witnesses were going to say, Prisbrey said. So the determination about whether or not to subpoena the witnesses was made on the basis of what he thought they might say, he said.

Delays and complications

The case has been plagued by delays and complications.

Judge Ronald Read stepped down after Prisbrey alleged in a motion filed April 1 that an illegal ex parte communication took place between Read and the prosecution; that is, communication occurred between them without the defense being notified or present.

Read more: Davenport case: Judge Read steps down

It also took many months for Davenport and Prisbrey to receive relevant documents from Dixie State University.

Prisbrey has been asking for the information since August 2015. Feb. 19, Judge Read ordered that any relevant information be turned over to Prisbrey. When documents were finally turned over there were only five pages, rather than the boxes of evidence Prisbrey was expecting.

During a hearing June 10, St. George City Attorney Robert Cosson argued repeatedly that his office has complied with all of the orders and insisted that all of the information requested has been turned over. Doajo Hicks, Dixie State University’s general counsel, was present at the hearing and also denied the existence of any additional emails.

When the emails were finally turned over to the defense in response to Myers’ order, there were an estimated 15,000-17,000 of them, Prisbrey said.

Read more: Davenport case: Judge orders DSU to turn over emails

Carter, who represents DSU for the state, failed to appear at a May 23 hearing; causing yet another delay.

Hicks said at the May 23 hearing that Carter was out on medical leave and that neither he nor Carter were served with notice of the hearing.

However, the court administrator produced a certificate of delivery showing Carter did receive notice of the hearing. Hicks then told Myers that Carter’s mail was apparently just sitting on a desk unopened at Carter’s DSU office.

Read more: Attorney general misses hearing, Davenport case delayed again

At the June 30 hearing, a request by the defense for access to Davenport’s classroom videos was discussed. In an objection and supplemental response to the defendant’s discovery request filed with the court June 28, the prosecution objected to the request and asserted that the university had not provided the videos to St. George City.

The same videos were referenced in a report given to the defense “months ago,” the objection states, and the report states the videos were reviewed and that there were no video recordings for the date and time of the incident that triggered charges against Davenport.

However, the videos were brought up at Thursday’s hearing, according to court documents. Myers ordered that if a security video Reid had referenced exists, it should be delivered to Prisbrey as soon as possible.

After a court recess, however, Utah Assistant Attorney General David Jones, who took over prosecution from Carter, informed the court he had contacted the university and that no security video exists although the matter was researched.

Trial date set

A jury trial is scheduled for July 13-14 at 9 a.m. at the Washington County Justice Court, 87 N. 200 East in St. George. There is a possibility the trial will take three days instead of two, deputy court clerk Janet Thorpe said.

Four jurors and possibly an alternate will be impaneled for the trial, Thorpe said. A jury of four is specified in Utah Code 78B-1-104 Jury composition in cases which carry a potential penalty of incarceration of six months or less.

Jury selection is expected to take some time, Thorpe said, because 45 jurors have been called.

Due to media coverage of the case, Myers requested in June that 45 jurors be summoned for potential jury duty rather than the usual 25-27 in order to avoid any potential delays during jury selection.

Cosson and Myers have declined to comment on the case.

Ed. note: Corrected names of those who declined comment.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • Bob July 1, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    You know, I may rail on about corrupting zionist influences in modern society, but i think these old boy mormons are every bit as bad, and if these old boy mormons were even half as cleaver as the zionists they could probably do a lot of damage. In some ways their small minds and never ending greed keep them in check, and keeps them forever predictable. They’ll never be as good at the game as the chosen ones, but they keep trying, LOL.

  • Bob July 1, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    misdemeanor simple assault be prosecuted by the city. LOL. They should throw in a few “improper lane travel” charges while they’re at it…

    • ladybugavenger July 3, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Gotta love the improper lane travel tickets and he would have been better off forgetting a child in a hot car for hours. #fundraiser

  • Bob July 1, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    then get him into the mormon sharia courts for failure to pay 10%

  • Waid July 1, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    The DSU/St. George City saga of sleaze continues. “Justice” (what a hoot!) court — the judge preventing witnesses from testifying for the defense — unbelievable! DSU withholding evidence — to be expected. The good-old-boys and their kangaroo court are really circling the wagons to prevent the truth about this sham from becoming public. “Assault” indeed — what a disgusting farce. It would be interesting to know what badass or badasses Mr. Davenport wronged at DSU and/or the city to cause this … storm to come down upon him. I feel for the guy. And, after seeing how “justice” works in this case I feel sorry for anyone who gets caught up in this bush league imitation of a municipal court system. Oh, and don’t ever piss off Biff. He might just sic the big dogs on you, too!

    Waid Reynolds

    Ed. ellipsis.

  • ladybugavenger July 2, 2016 at 10:30 am

    A great example of the corrupt court system. This is an outrage. It’s an unfair and biased court of law. There is no justice in that. This corruption is everywhere. no city, county, or state is immune to it.

    Mr Davenport I hope the best for you. You have been dragged in the mud. You have also exposed a deep corruption.

    • .... July 3, 2016 at 7:15 am

      Amen to that ladybug ! ☆☆☆☆☆

  • .... July 2, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Hey St George News did you read the comment from. Waid Reynolds before you posted it ? I’m asking because he used the word . .…* .. really ? so is this another one of those. it all depends who you are deals ? I know if I used the word. .…*. .you would of censored me in a heartbeat. !

    must be nice to be able to use the word. ..…*… on St George news. so does that mean we can all use the word. ..…*. …in our comments now ? so if I type ..…*.. in my next comment am I getting censored ? or is this just a mood thing with St George news ?

    • Joyce Kuzmanic July 3, 2016 at 5:26 am

      Missed it, got it now. Ed. ellipsis in place. Thanks Dot.

    • .... July 3, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Ha ha I got edited. !!

  • mesaman July 2, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    For what it’s worth, Varlo, this group of retired DSC faculty members want to extend their support to you and wish you best of luck. A fair trial might appear to be as fictional as the term “university” but we can hope.

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