OGDEN — Even a judge thought the video had been destroyed.
The Weber County Sheriff's Office three times rebuffed an attorney's attempts to obtain jail security video in 2017 that might show law enforcement personnel drawing Hyrum Geddes' blood and then booking him into jail.
Without the video, Geddes lost efforts to challenge the blood alcohol evidence against him, and he eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of impaired driving.
Then, in a $2.48 million civil rights suit filed Oct. 24, 2018, against the county, Geddes claimed jail personnel beat him during booking, using potentially deadly force, and violated his constitutional rights by destroying or losing the video.
But now, in response to questions about the lawsuit, a sheriff's office spokesman says the video was never destroyed, and it has been retrieved and turned over to attorneys representing the county in defense against the civil suit.
"I’m not too concerned about the litigation after viewing the video," said Lt. Joshua Marigoni. "It speaks for itself."
Marigoni said jail video is closely held for security reasons, so copies are not provided to anyone outside law enforcement, including criminal suspects and their attorneys.
After Geddes was arrested and charged, his attorney, Matthew Nebeker of Layton, filed an open records request for the jail video. According to court records, the sheriff's office denied the request but told Nebeker he could come into the office to view the video.
"We do not give out copies of video taken in the jail without a subpoena signed by a judge," the sheriff's records clerk said in a letter to Nebeker Aug. 17, 2017.
Nebeker next filed a subpoena for production of evidence, but the sheriff's office denied that request as well, citing law enforcement protections under the state public records law.
Apparently weeks later, Nebeker tried to get the video through the Ogden City prosecutor's office. Prosecutor Greg Burdett asked the sheriff's office, which answered in an email from the records clerk.
The clerk, Dee Greenhalgh, told Burdett in an email Dec. 5, " ... I was told that there is no video available."
She said the jail recently changed a computer system that involved jail video capability.
"When the old video software / server was removed there was a discussion to allow access to view the previous video," Greenhalgh wrote. "In this discussion the fees were too excessive and it was decided to just remove the equipment and not have access to the previous jail video."
Nebeker then filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the loss of the video being a violation of Geddes' due process rights.
Justice Court Judge Michael Junk denied the motion, ruling it was unfortunate the sheriff’s office refused the request for a copy of the video, and “even more unfortunate that the video was ultimately destroyed.”
But he said the county did offer an option to view the record and he said Nebeker could have appealed the denial of the public records request.
Asked about the video in an interview Nov. 8, Marigoni said, "It was never destroyed (and) we have not had a system change."
Marigoni said he's the usual point of contact for video requests and he had "never received a phone call" about the Geddes video.
"It's possible someone had spoken to someone here and got bad information," Marigoni said.
On Tuesday, having been asked about Greenhalgh's email, Marigoni said he thinks there had been a misunderstanding about what video Burdett had requested. He said the jail in 2017 did replace its system of video monitoring of visits with inmates, and the old visits video archive was shut down.
"That may be the answer to this mystery," Marigoni said. "It is unfortunate."
Told that the booking video exists, Geddes' civil attorney, Gregory Stevens, said by email, "That's very odd," because Geddes and Nebeker "were informed that it did not exist."
Stevens added, "Of course, if it actually recorded the events at issue in this civil action, it would be useful."
The sheriff's office also recently endured a calamity involving management of its criminal case evidence and property room, which is not related to the jail security video process.
Candice Follum, accused of consuming methamphetamine while working in the sheriff's evidence locker, pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to 20 counts of destroying or altering public records and 20 counts of possession or use of a controlled substance.
Investigators said the evidence tampering tainted dozens of criminal cases.