|Fourth Amendment doesn't search just anyone|
This letter is in response to Ed Kociela's column on Nov. 19 titled "Religion no excuse for crimes." In this column, Mr. Kociela made a stab at Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for not prosecuting the estimated 40,000 polygamists in Utah and a county sheriff that refused to knock on a door where it was thought Warren Jeffs was hiding because of a lack of probable cause. Mr. Kociela, for reasons unknown, did not name that sheriff, but I will.
My name is Sheriff Mark Gower of Iron County, the sheriff made reference to in this column. I will now give you the other side of the story as to why Iron County deputies did not venture onto private property and attempt to search a home without probable cause.
On the day in question, Nov. 11, the Cedar City public safety dispatch center received an anonymous phone call from a person who would not identify who they were. This caller reported that several vans had pulled into an address in western Iron County and several people in black suits had unloaded out of the vans. This caller never saw Warren Jeffs, but thought there might be a chance he was in one of the vans. The information provided by this caller was unreliable and in no way it could be followed up on or investigated to develop probable cause for a search warrant of the home and property. Mr. Kociela failed to report in this column that Iron County deputies followed up on the tip and made a traffic stop on one of the vans in Iron County as it left this address. Washington County deputies stopped the other two vans in Washington County, and it was discovered that the occupants were a choir group. Warren Jeffs was not located in any of these vans.
I think Mr. Kociela needs a lesson or refresher on the Constitution of the United States, specifically the Fourth Amendment, so here goes. This amendment requires police and other officials to have specific search warrants when they make investigations of people, homes, or private property.
"The Fourth Amendment provides the right of the people in the United States to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Law enforcement officers have books of rules to go by when they do their job, but criminals have none.
It appears to me that Mr. Kociela would like law enforcement to act on erroneous and unreliable information to search homes and people and forget there is a Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. I think Mr. Kociela would be singing a different song if law enforcement had just searched his home without probable cause or a search warrant.
In conclusion, I would like to say that Mr. Kociela needs to get both sides of the story before writing his columns and making people believe that law enforcement is not doing its job. There are several people at-large in Utah with warrants for their arrest for crimes just as serious as Warren Jeffs, but Mr. Kociela is making a big deal out of Warren Jeffs just to get a headline and sell papers. Mr. Kociela is a master at reporting all the problems in Utah, but a failure at coming up with reasonable solutions for these problems.
Iron County Sheriff Mark O. Gower
Editor's Note: Tape-recorded interviews with Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower made on the night of the incident show that twice he denied that Iron County Sheriff's deputies followed the vans in question. During that interview, he was also asked about what was thought to be a stop made by Washington County Sheriff's deputies near Enterprise, which he said he had no knowledge of.
Originally published December 9, 2005
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