These complaints claim that Sim Gill tried Shaun Cowley, the officer who is facing manslaughter charges for the shooting death of Danielle Willard, in a court of public opinion. They claim because of Gill's very detailed press conferences Cowley won't be able to get a fair trial.
Nine months after a West Valley City Police officer shot and killed Danielle Willard Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill held a press conference where he announced the shooting was unjustified.
During a press conference last August Gill said, "It is the conclusion of the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office that the shooting that resulted in the death of Danielle Willard on November 2nd, 2012 by Detective Salmon and Shaun Cowley was not justified."
During the press conference Gill concluded the evidence from the shooting and the detectives stories didn't match up.
"This actually shows the trajectories of the bullets extend into it,” explained Gill.
In a recently filed bar complaint the Fraternal Order of Police claim Gill violated the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct when he made “extrajudicial statements” concerning Shaun Cowley, essentially trying the case in the "court of public opinion.” The complaint reads, "What Mr. Gill did was tantamount to giving his opening statement, if not his closing statement, publicly, before the entire local community and beyond. The annunciation of the state's case should have been reserved for court, after an impartial jury is selected."
FOP spokesperson Mike Howard told ABC 4 Utah, "He's presented all basically everything to the public before a trial has ever been made. There hasn't been a trial and he hasn't been able to have his due process.
Following the Fraternal Order of Police Shaun Cowley's attorney Lindsay Jarvis filed a similar complaint saying "We strongly believe Mr. Gill must have known that he was going far beyond the bounds of what is permitted in the context of a potential criminal case."
ABC 4 contacted Sim gill's office Thursday morning. They have not seen the complaints yet, but say Gill followed the law by limiting his comments to what was available in the probable cause statements, information that's available to the public.
But Cowley's attorney argues quote "It is hard to believe there is some public record calling detective Cowley a ‘bad officer’ for example."
Greg Skordas, a past president of the salt lake county bar association, tells ABC 4 Utah complaints to the bar aren't uncommon, but this one is rare.
Skordas explained, “You’re really alleging that an attorney came out in public and now made it impossible for you to get a fair trial by comments that he made. That's not the typical lawyer misconduct we think about.
Skordas says he doesn't expect the complaints to go very far. The FOP says they just want the district attorney following the same laws their sworn to uphold.
Howard said, "The FOP stands that we're not above, officers aren't above the law, and we have to follow the rules just like everybody else but we want the same rights as well when we make a mistake we want to be able to have that same fair trial, unbiased and untainted."
Now that the complaints have been filed the Utah State Bar has to review them. If it finds that there is some validity to the claims they'll send a copy to Gill and give him so many days to reply. They then might decide to refer it to a screening panel. The panel can either dismiss it or file a formal complaint and let a judge decide the appropriate punishment. The judge can then dismiss it, issue Gill a caution, suspend his license or potentially even disbar him.
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