lawyer: Stewart home not seized properly

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 12:11 PM

Tim Gurrister

OGDEN — Papers have been filed to halt, if only temporarily, the seizure of police shooting suspect Matthew David Stewart’s home.

The motion to "quash service of process" alleges the seizure documents were not served on Stewart in accordance with the law regarding his home at 3268 Jackson Ave. and lack the proper supporting affidavit.

Stewart is charged with aggravated murder for a shootout with police at the home Jan. 4 that left one officer dead and five injured. Narcotics officers were serving a search warrant at the home for Stewart’s alleged marijuana crop when the gunfire erupted.

Ogden officer Jared Francom was killed in the exchange that also left Stewart injured, shot several times. He faces the death penalty for Francom’s death.

Prosecutors have seized the home pursuant to a statute that allows forfeiture of property linked to drug profits.

In forfeiture documents filed by the Weber County Attorney’s Office, police say they found 16 marijuana plants in the home after the shooting.

Ogden lawyer Emily Swenson filed the motion to quash the forfeiture Tuesday in 2nd District Court after consulting with Randy Richards, one of Stewart’s three defense lawyers. She declined comment on any financial arrangement for her involvement in the case.

"Randy said he hadn’t had time to file an answer to the forfeiture action, so when I offered, he said, ‘Go ahead,’ " Swenson said.

"I felt like somebody has to stick up for his (Stewart’s) constitutional rights," she said. "All we’re asking is that they follow proper procedure. If they’re going to seize a guy’s house, do it properly."

Swenson is alleging technical violations in the documentation of the forfeiture, saying it lacks a required affidavit and was not served properly. The law’s requirements as to who served the document on Stewart is precise, according to the motion.

That includes an attorney, a county sheriff’s deputy or a designated constable, none of which were employed in serving Stewart, reads the motion, which claims an Ogden city patrol officer served the documents.

Officials will have to serve the documents again if her motion succeeds, she said, which would halt the forfeiture. She said other strategy may be involved if the house has any equity, but declined to elaborate.

Francom was assigned to the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force at the time of the raid that turned fatal. Strike force agents Shawn Grogan and Kasey Burrell, also of the Ogden Police Department; Sgt. Nate Hutchinson, of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office; and Jason Vanderwarf, of the Roy Police Department, were wounded.

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

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