Violations led to the removal of all Utah State inmates from the Daggett County Jail
SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah September 6, 2017 – The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced today that former Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen and former Daggett County Sheriff Deputies Benjamin Lail and Joshua Cox entered guilty pleas to charges related to an investigation by the Utah Department of Corrections Law Enforcement Bureau (UDC). Earlier this year, the UDC received allegations of criminal activity at the Daggett County Jail, which houses inmates for the Utah State Prison. Following an investigation, UDC asked the OAG to review the case for possible prosecution. The numerous policy and criminal violations uncovered by UDC led to the removal of all Utah State inmates from the Daggett County Jail and all of the deputies involved were put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The UDC investigation found that Cox had brought a stolen Taser into a secure area of the prison and used it on five inmates after promising them a soda if they could endure the Taser for at least five seconds. On another occasion, Cox used the Taser on inmates who wanted to earn outside work privileges. Lail used the Taser to intimidate and threaten an employee at the jail during a training, pointing the Taser at the employee’s feet.
Jorgensen failed to investigate these allegations or discipline or otherwise supervise the deputies under his control. After charges against Cox, Jorgensen, Lail, and two other former deputies were filed in Daggett County, a motion for a change of venue was granted to move all five cases to Summit County.
Prosecution of the five deputies was spearheaded by the Special Prosecutions Section of the OAG, led by Assistant Attorney General Steven Wuthrich. Two remaining co-defendants have cases in Summit County Justice Court.
“We don’t enjoy prosecuting members of law enforcement, but when it is required we will do our job to hold accountable those who violate the law and erode public confidence,” said Dan Burton, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. “The actions of those prosecuted here do not represent the vast majority of those in law enforcement or in the Department of Corrections, who have our full confidence.”
Cox pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree felony aggravated assault, a third-degree felony for transporting a weapon into a secure facility, and a class A misdemeanor theft. The court ordered a pre-sentence report on Cox and scheduled his sentencing for November 6, 2017. As part of the plea agreement, Cox agreed to surrender his Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification for life.
Jorgensen pleaded guilty to a class B misdemeanor official misconduct, held in abeyance for 6 months, and was ordered to pay a $500 fine or complete 50 hours community service. Lail pleaded guilty to class A misdemeanor reckless endangerment and was sentenced to 365 days jail. The jail time was suspended and Lail was ordered to complete 12 months of probation and pay a $2,500 fine. Jorgensen and Lail were ordered to surrender their POST certification.
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