Stewarts family starts, stops, starts, stops website fundraising effort following state warnings

Mar 6 2012 - 7:28am

Images

In January, Michael Stewart holds a photo of his son Matthew David Stewart, who is accused of shooting six police officers and killing one. The family had resumed raising funds for Matthew's defense but stopped after being reached by the Standard-Examiner on Monday and told that the Utah Division of Consumer Protection was looking into the issue. Michael Stewart has filed the appropriate paperwork to raise funds, but the application has not been approved. (Associated Press file photo)
Matthew David Stewart
In January, Michael Stewart holds a photo of his son Matthew David Stewart, who is accused of shooting six police officers and killing one. The family had resumed raising funds for Matthew's defense but stopped after being reached by the Standard-Examiner on Monday and told that the Utah Division of Consumer Protection was looking into the issue. Michael Stewart has filed the appropriate paperwork to raise funds, but the application has not been approved. (Associated Press file photo)
Matthew David Stewart

OGDEN -- The father of Matthew David Stewart abruptly stopped renewed fundraising efforts on a website Monday night for his son's legal defense against capital murder charges following warnings of possible fines from the state.

Michael Stewart, of Ogden, said Monday afternoon he was unaware of the new warnings from the Utah Division of Consumer Protection until contacted by the Standard-Examiner.

"We want to comply with the law," he said in a phone interview.

Stewart is charged with killing an Ogden police officer and wounding five others during a drug raid Jan. 4 at his home, prompting prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Family members, who are using the website www.helpmatthewstewart.org to gain support for Stewart's defense, were initially ordered last month by the state Division of Consumer Protection to stop raising money because they had not received a permit under the state's Charitable Solicitations Act, designed to protect the public from fraud.

Fundraising was halted on the website, and Michael Stewart filed an application for a permit Feb. 28.

However, the website announced Sunday it was again accepting donations.

"Please understand that we are not operating as a charity, and donations are not given to a charity or charitable organization," says a post on the website.

"That means that there are no tax deductions or other tax benefits possible for any contributions to this cause. 100 percent of all donations go directly to the parents of Matthew David Stewart and are used to pay their son's legal fees."

The Division of Consumer Protection issued a statement Monday that Matthew Stewart's family does not have permission to raise funds because they don't have a permit.

"The division has 20 days to review the application and determine whether the filing meets applicable requirements," the statement reads.

"To date, the division has not issued a permit, nor has it given this group permission to continue soliciting donations through their website with an amended disclosure. The division has contacted the attorney for the website's owners and made them aware that they must discontinue solicitations immediately until they come into compliance with the law and obtain a legal permit. Failure to do so will potentially subject this group to a citation and fines."

Fundraising was renewed based on legal advice that group's efforts were not charitable in nature, Michael Stewart said.

Funds raised will be used to help pay Randy Richards, a private attorney retained by Stewart's family to work with his two court appointed public defenders.

Stewart is accused of killing Ogden Police Officer Jared Francom, who was assigned to the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force.

Wounded in the shootout were strike force agents Shawn Grogan and Kasey Burrell, both of the Ogden Police Department; Sgt. Nate Hutchinson, of the Weber County Sheriff's Office; and Jason Vanderwarf, of the Roy Police Department.

Ogden Officer Michael Rounkles also was wounded when he tried to help the injured strike force agents.

Stewart, who was shot multiple times during the incident, has been charged with aggravated murder, seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, a dangerous weapon penalty enhancement and production of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone.

He remains in Weber County Jail without bond.

Sixteen marijuana plants were found inside Stewart's house, prosecutors say.

From Around the Web

  +