Massive Court Corruption
Published – March 16, 2021
Massive Court Corruption
Two public defenders from the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association, Heather J. Chesnut and Daniel Torrence, conspired to put their own client in jail for challenging his charges and refusing to plead guilty. They are now being sued.
Their client Luis Sanchez, since the inception of the criminal case, had been claiming his innocence and had demanded a jury trial. He had also made multiple and unsuccessful requests to have crucial video evidence released to him concerning the arrest.
For years, his defense attorneys had been pressuring him to plead guilty without ever receiving or reviewing video evidence that police had in their possession. Sanchez felt so frustrated by the lack of help he had been receiving from his primary attorney Heather Chesnut, that he was forced to file his own legal motions in District Court.
The case stemmed from a charge that alleged that Sanchez had failed to stop at the command of a police officer. In an early December morning of 2014, police had been dispatched near a residence where a party had taken place, and where a fight had been reported. When police arrived, Sanchez and multiple other people in different vehicles were in the process of driving away.
One responding officer was Jared Cardon from the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake. In his police report, officer Cardon states that once he arrived near the residence, he saw three vehicles getting ready to leave. Officer Cardon then states that he stepped out of his patrol vehicle and stretched his arms out and signaled the vehicle closes to him to stop.
Court records from an evidentiary hearing offers testimony where Sanchez declares he was the second vehicle in line. Sanchez as well as officer Cardon, state that the first vehicle in line had stopped once Cardon gave him a gesture to stop. Both Sanchez and officer Cardon then declare that the first car in line drove around the officer and accelerated away.
Next is where the issue arises. Officer Jared Cardon claims that Sanchez was driving the first car in line. He also states that he slammed his hand on the hood of Sanchez’s car in an effort to order him to stop.
Mr. Sanchez and multiple other witnesses affirm that Sanchez was the second car in line and that they never saw any officer slam the hood of Sanchez’s car, nor any other vehicle that was about to drive away.
Sanchez states he was never given a direct order to stop. He reveals that he only drove away after waiting a significant amount of time after officer Cardon had ran into his patrol vehicle, due to the first car that had sped away. Believing they were not being sought by police, Sanchez and the other vehicle behind him resumed driving.
Officer Cardon refutes this and claims that the first car in line was that of Sanchez. He alleges that Sanchez willfully ignored numerous commands to stop and that he sped away while the other two vehicles waited. He explains that the blatant disregard to his commands to stop, led him to charge Sanchez with fleeing and subsequently with DUI and resisting arrest.
Systematic Police Corruption
Officer Cardon’s version of events and the order of the vehicles is heavily contradicted through court testimony and by multiple witnesses.
In March of 2017, after hearing the testimony of multiple witnesses concerning the arrest and specifically the order of the vehicles, Judge Bruce Lubeck determined that, “The second vehicle, a Toyota Camry, was driven by defendant.” Judge Lubeck was convinced that Mr. Sanchez was the second car in line when officer Jared Cardon approached the scene. Nonetheless, the case and the charges against Sanchez continued.
Throughout the case, Sanchez had been persistent in attempting to acquire police dash cam, and police station recordings because he believed he could prove that officer Jared Cardon was lying about what really occurred that morning of his arrest. He was convinced the video would prove he did not flee, resist arrest, nor that he was impaired to drive as he affirms that he had performed all field sobriety tests and completed them successfully.
Officer Cardon declared in court that Sanchez only took one field sobriety test and refused further testing. At a different time, he stated he did not remember if Sanchez completed them, at even another hearing, he declared that Sanchez did complete all tests but failed them all. Officer Jared Cardon changed and heavily contradicted his own testimony throughout the case. Video recordings of the arrest would have clarified all doubts of what truly had occurred.
Five years into the case and Unified Police Department failed to ever provide any videos regarding the arrest. They claim that the dash cam recordings of the vehicles were never saved due to a system malfunction and that the videos from the police department were ultimately deleted and never saved.
This destruction of exculpatory evidence was a clear violation of Sanchez’s constitutional right to due process. The state is required to retain and provide any exculpatory evidence that was ever in their possession and that may help a defendant in their case. Due to the destruction of this evidence, Sanchez was not afforded the opportunity to adequately defend himself against the State and its actors. This constitutional violation could have forced the prosecution to dismiss the charges against Sanchez if Heather Chesnut and Daniel Torrence would have brought it to the attention of the court.
Heather Chesnut and Daniel Torrence not only failed to represent Sanchez adequately, but they also used the criminal justice system to punish him for attempting to exercise his constitutional right to be tried by a jury of his peers.
Despite constant pressure from his attorneys to plead guilty, Sanchez remained determined to go to trial. This unwavering determination angered Heather Chesnut and Daniel Torrence. This meant they would have to prepare for the case and subsequently go to trial.
Sanchez states that on one meeting, Heather Chesnut questioned him why he wanted to go to trial and become a felon for the fleeing charge. She asked him if he was intending to be initiated into a gang, that this was the only reason why she believed he would want to go to trial. Sanchez replied that he did not want to plead guilty for something he did not do.
Conspiring Against their Own Client
On the morning of March 19th, 2018, Sanchez was scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference at 9 a.m., but Heather Chesnut and Daniel Torrence had a different plan. They conspired to have a warrant issued against their own client, by having his case called early and before he was to be present in court. This was all caught by courtroom audio and video recordings.
In a video acquired by Sanchez, Torrence is heard whispering to Chesnut, “Let’s call it and get a warrant,” as he proceeds to laugh. Chesnut points to the clock on the wall, the time is 8:39 a.m., Sanchez and dozens of other individuals are not scheduled for court for another 21 minutes.
“Is it time?”, Torrence asks Heather, “8:40? Ok. Four Minutes? 8:45.”
Five minutes pass and Chesnut tells the judge they are ready to proceed on Sanchez’s case. It is 8:45 a.m., and the prosecutor walks over to address the court and participate in the scheme.
Prosecutor and Judge – Corruption at the Highest Level
Torrence gets up from the attorney’s table and calls for Sanchez as he makes a show of scanning the courtroom in search of him. As he doesn’t see Sanchez, he shrugs his shoulders and immediately turns and looks at Prosecutor Nathanael Swift. Swift, right on cue, exclaims – “But he always comes in late”.
Judge Katie Bernanrds-Goodman calls Sanchez’s case and asks Chesnut and Torrence if they are not expecting Sanchez to arrive, as she is aware of the time and that court hearings are not to start for another 15 minutes.
Torrence explains, “I always expect him although last time he was not here, and it was only after my secretary called him that he remembered to come”.
Court documents show that on the previous court hearing, Daniel Torrence failed to appear for the scheduled pretrial conference, and that judge Bernards-Goodman was forced to reschedule it. Torrence’s statement was nothing but a deliberate and false accusation against his own client.
Prosecutor Swift then exclaims, “Mr. Sanchez has a history of coming in very late. He has missed a few altogether.”.
Court records indicate that Mr. Sanchez had been late to court once, and that he had missed two court hearings in the span of 5 years of which the case had been active. In one of the missed court hearings, Sanchez’s bond company called the court explaining that they had given Sanchez the wrong court date.
It was now clear to the judge what was taking place. A concerted act by both defense attorneys and prosecutor, to have a warrant issued against Sanchez for failing to appear.
Judge Bernards-Goodman proceeds to order a $15,000 cash-only warrant against Sanchez. A cash-only warrant meant that Sanchez would not be able to seek the services of a bail bond company. The full bail amount would be required to be paid in cash in exchange for his release.
Once the warrant was ordered, the court clerk asked the judge, “So, what are we going to do when he shows up?” the judge replied, “We’re going to take him into custody”, as she proceeds to laugh.
Sanchez Enters the Lion’s Den
On an interview given to The Salt Lake Tribune, Sanchez tells reporter, Jessica Miller, that on the hearing of March 19th, he had arrived early to court. He said he spent a few minutes waiting in his car to kill time before entering the court.
Sanchez states he was outside the courtroom doors by 9 a.m. He also claims he attempted to walk inside but that the courtroom was overcrowded. This was evident from courtroom video recordings.
Sanchez said he waited outside for the courtroom to clear up a little before he attempted to find a seat. He explains he did not go in because he had many times been instructed to wait outside and not block the doors for it being a safety hazard.
At 9:07 a.m. the courtroom had briefly cleared up and Sanchez walks in. A few minutes later, the courtroom again overflowing, and bailiff Steve Adams can be seen instructing people to go outside.
At 9:17 a.m., Sanchez eventually walks up to Chesnut and asks her where Torrence is. She informs him that his case had been called and that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. She instructs him to wait until his case is once again called by the judge. In the video, prosecutor Swift can be seen looking directly at Chesnut and Sanchez while they are speaking.
Sanchez then waits for over an hour-and-a-half before prosecutor Nathanael Swift finally decides to tell the judge that Sanchez is present. Judge Bernards-Goodman replies by saying that she will wait and see if Sanchez calls his case as she proceeds to laugh. She finds it amusing what is taking place and what they’re about to consummate.
A few seconds pass and judge Bernards-Goodman orders bailiff Adams to arrest Sanchez. He is arrested and spends almost two weeks in jail until he is able to come up with the bail amount.
Assault on the Justice System
This was not only an assault on Sanchez, but more severely, it was an assault on our Justice System. If people lose trust in their system of justice, what grave consequences can follow? It puts the fabric of our society in jeopardy.
Why would people willingly walk into a courtroom if they know they have no chance at a fair trial nor due process – where an entire courtroom is willing to act with complete disregard of the law and without any consequences.
As of March of 2021, there have been no consequences to any of the perpetrators. Judge Bernards-Goodman retired with full benefits; prosecutor Nathanael Swift still holds his position. Salt Lake Legal Defender Association zealously defends the actions of Heather Chesnut and Daniel Torrence. Officer Jared Cardon and the Unified Police Department keep violating people’s constitutional rights. Nothing has changed since the initial release of this video.
If nothing is done after irrefutable video evidence of the systematic corruption withing the justice system, nothing will ever be done.
We demand that a criminal investigation be initiated against all parties involved in this heinous attack on our system of justice. All these attorneys should be disbarred including the prosecutor and judge. We will not rest until something is done.
We will be contacting different government agencies responsible for investigating such acts and we will be reporting their response and actions in regard to this case. We will see how deep the corruption goes and how far they will defend these crimes against the people they are supposed to protect.
Luis Sanchez was offered a significant amount of money in exchange for his silence. If accepted, he would have been barred from speaking about what happened to him and about what goes on in our courts, he refused. “This case is bigger than me. This case is more important than money. Something needs to be done, something needs to change. I don’t want anyone to go through what I did.”, Sanchez expressed in an interview.
The Entire System is Corrupt
Corruption withing the entire system of justice was necessary in order for this case to be possible. From false police reports, deliberate withholding and destruction of evidence from UPD, to an entire courtroom participating in the unlawful arrest of Sanchez.
We are in the process of producing an updated video of this incident with responses from government agencies in charge of investigating cases of governmental corruption. It will also cover in detail, the false reports from police and their contradicting statements in court, as well as their deliberate withholding of evidence. It will also contain more evidence of Chesnut and Torrence’s egregious actions against Sanchez.
This is not in isolated incident. There are more people who have and who continue to suffer from similar actions from their attorneys, police, and court actors.
You Can Make a Difference
Sanchez is still in the process of challenging his criminal convictions via the Postconviction Relief Act due to the heinous actions and ineffective assistance of his attorneys. If you would like to help with his attorney fees and expenses, please donate here. Any additional funds will be used to fund our investigations and production costs.
You can also help by contacting the Attorney General’s Office and demand that a full investigation be made against all perpetrators involved in this case.
Send an email to the Attorney General’s Office and demand a full and transparent investigation at [email protected]
You can make a difference. Let your voice be heard.