ST. GEORGE – At the final hearing before trial begins Wednesday in Varlo Davenport’s jury trial, Judge Karlin Myers quashed another subpoena Monday and set boundaries for a planned rally to support Davenport.
Davenport, a Dixie State University theater professor with 15 years of tenure, was fired from his position after a student alleged that he assaulted her during a classroom acting exercise.
The exercise aimed to get the student to connect emotionally to the scene, Davenport said in an earlier interview, and included having other students stand around the girl and annoy her in different ways such as poking her and tossing her hair in her face to help evoke the emotions needed in the scene.
Finally, Davenport said, he stepped in himself and started flipping the girl’s hair and nudging her as her fellow students had previously done.
The student never expressed discomfort with the exercise or asked for it to stop, Lizzy Peterson, wife of a DSU music professor and a student in the class that day, said in a witness statement for a faculty review board.
The 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.
Supporters of Davenport are planning to show their support by meeting at the Washington County Justice Court, 87 North 200 East in St. George, Wednesday morning. Davenport’s jury trial is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday.
The “Stand with Varlo” gathering is a Facebook event, and supporters plan to meet at the courthouse at 8 a.m.
St. George City Attorney Robert Cosson expressed concern that jurors or even potential jurors might be influenced by having to walk through a crowd of Varlo Davenport’s supporters.
Myers ordered that “any rallies be limited to the public sidewalk area so potential jurors do not have to walk through them,” according to court documents.
More quashed subpoenas
According to court documents which were made public late Monday afternoon, Myers quashed a subpoena for St. George City Councilwoman Michelle Randall after hearing arguments from both the prosecution and the defense.
As previously reported, Prisbrey told Judge Ronald Read at a hearing in February that there had been issues with inappropriate contact between the City Attorney’s Office, a city council member and the Davenport family.
Read stepped down in April after Prisbrey alleged ex parte contact had occurred between Read and Utah Assistant Attorney General Michael Carter. Carter has since been replaced by David Jones. Neither were present at Monday’s hearing.
Andrea Davenport, Varlo Davenport’s wife, said after the hearing in February that St. George City Councilwoman Michele Randall called her a couple of days after charges were filed.
“Michelle Randall called me when the charges were brought against Varlo back in March,” Andrea Davenport said in February.
“She called me like the day after and she said ‘I talked to (St. George City Attorney Shawn) Guzman and he said that Varlo should not – she asked if we were using Aaron (Prisbrey) – that she heard we were – and that we should not use Aaron because he has a problem with the city but that we should use Doug Terry or a public defender.”
“And she said Varlo should plead out, and they would make it all go away,” Andrea Davenport said.
Andrea Davenport said that while Randall told her she was calling as a friend the two hadn’t spoken in years.
Randall has a different version of events; she said she did call Andrea Davenport, but there was nothing “sinister” about the conversation.
“We have been neighbors for about 15 years, I called her as a neighbor, (I) did not call her as a city council (representative),” Randall said.
Randall said she had great empathy for what the Davenports were going through because she had gone through a similar experience.
“She was talking about a civil lawsuit against the university. I gave her two names of a couple of attorneys in Salt Lake City that I said I thought would be really good to contact if they went that route,” she added.
Randall said she told Andrea Davenport that if she was in her position, she would hire a criminal defense attorney, and she did not think Prisbrey practiced criminal defense.
“I was not calling her as ‘Michele Randall, council person,’ it was ‘Michele Randall, your neighbor for 15 years,’” Randall said.
At Monday’s hearing, Myers said in the interest of “speedy justice” he would not allow any “alternative theories” Prisbrey had brought up in previous hearings.
“We could take weeks on this trial, we could take weeks, I see that. If we did everything, every person, every avenue, every idea, every thought, we could take weeks on this. We’re not going to do that,” Myers said.
Instead, Myers said the court will focus on the alleged assault.
This is not the only subpoena that has been denied to Prisbrey.
“It does my client no good to have the right of compulsory process if every subpoena that is issued to the individuals who conducted the investigation (who) were involved in what appears to be manipulation of evidence are not required – we can’t get them in here to testify,” Prisbrey said.
“What good does it do to have the right if the judge is going to eviscerate the right?” he asked.
At a hearing June 30, Myers denied subpoenas requested by Prisbrey for DSU President Richard Williams, former 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.
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 the credibility of a witness, then Williams, Beatty and Houser need to be available to testify for those statements, court documents state.
Ed. note: Corrected address of Justice Court.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.