SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys have asked a federal judge to dismiss a slow-moving lawsuit in which a man alleges Weber-Morgan drug agents had ulterior motives in a 2014 police shooting and covered up their actions.
Leonard Russell Marion, shot by an agent Nov. 20, 2014, filed a $24.5 million suit against two agents and their employers in 2018.
Attorneys representing the defendants — Ogden and Roy police officers on the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, plus the two counties and the two cities — filed documents July 29 urging U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby to dismiss the case.
Marion, now 40 and serving a 16-year prison term, claims he and the Ogden officer had intimate relationships with the same woman.
He alleges the two officers from Ogden and Roy who showed up at Lee’s Mongolian restaurant on Washington Boulevard beat and shot him. Then, with help from other police, they covered up the circumstances and removed security video from the restaurant, Marion alleges.
Police and prosecutors’ accounts of the incident differ dramatically from Marion’s.
In court records, authorities said the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force agents were on Marion’s trail for dealing methamphetamine and he pulled a .45 caliber handgun on them, firing one shot, as they entered the restaurant.
One of the officers was treated at a hospital, records said.
Weber County prosecutors filed charges of attempted aggravated murder, possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm by a restricted person and interfering with an arrest.
Five months later, Weber County dismissed the charges and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City charged Marion with two felony drug dealing charges and two firearms charges related to the day of the shooting and an earlier narcotics investigation.
On Aug. 4, 2016, Marion agreed to a plea bargain and admitted one of the drug charges while the others were dismissed.
A U.S. District Court judge on Oct. 19, 2016, sentenced Marion to 16 years in federal prison and another five years on probation. Marion is held in a medium security prison in Colorado, Bureau of Prisons records show.
Marion’s civil suit, filed by his attorney Jonathan Hanks of Ogden, offers a raft of allegations against the strike force and its agents, Weber and Morgan counties, Ogden and Roy cities, the two drug agents and the deputy prosecutor who handled the case.
Marion said he was finishing his meal with the woman when the agents entered the restaurant wearing plain clothes. He said they did not announce themselves as police or say they were arresting him.
His alleged rival for the woman’s attentions tackled him and beat him with his fists, then drew his handgun and shot Marion several times, the suit said.
The suit contends police intentionally delayed allowing medical personnel into the restaurant and that the agents changed into their police uniforms. One agent worked for the Ogden Police Department and the other was from the Roy department.
The strike force is made up of officers from various agencies in the two counties.
Marion said he nearly died in the incident and lost a finger, teeth, and suffered facial and back injuries.
He next was put into solitary confinement at the Weber County Jail and was denied appropriate care for his injuries, the suit claimed.
The agencies that employed the officers “knew or should have known” the officers “were emotionally compromised because of the parallel intimate relationships,” the suit claimed.
Various officers helped the two agents “in altering the crime scene to make it appear as if (the agents) had been wearing police uniforms ... and give the appearance” Marion assaulted the officers, the suit alleged.
After Marion filed a legal claim for damages with Weber County in 2015, a deputy prosecutor initially offered him a plea bargain that included a provision that would have required him to renounce any civil claims, the suit alleged.
Causes of action listed in the suit include assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence, defamation, excessive force, and abuse of due process.
Dani Cepernich, an insurance pool attorney representing the cities, the counties and the officers, is urging Shelby to throw out the suit on largely procedural grounds.
The document she filed last week contends Marion’s attorney missed statutory deadlines for filing the suit and for serving defendants with notice of the claims. Notice was served only two months ago.
“Defendants do not admit the truth of any of Mr. Marion’s allegations and reserve the right to challenge the same at later stages in these proceedings,” Cepernich wrote.