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More Details Emerge About Hatfield's Arrest

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The Unified Police Department released a statement alleging specific circumstances surrounding Hatfield's arrest. The details and some analysis below. The facts alleged are frightening, but it's not open and shut.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

More Information:

What follows is the statement from the Unified Police department, setting out their perception of the circumstances that led to his arrest. This document is not a formal charging document or a police report, and may not contain all of the information that the police have related to this case. To my knowledge, Hatfield has still not been charged with a crime.

Unified PD Statement

Unified Police Department's statement about Dominique Hatfield's arrest

Probable Cause Statement
Probable Cause Statement with additional details of the arrest


Legal Analysis:

To be absolutely clear: I don't know all of the facts of this case, and I'm not representing Mr. Hatfield in any capacity. I've seen exactly what you have seen, and I'm just using my legal expertise to shed some light on these facts. I'm not giving legal advice or speaking for anyone but myself.

These facts are very ugly at first blush. There's a wide range of circumstances that can constitute aggravated robbery. Sometimes, it's as simple as a person going to attempt to recover property they believe was stolen from them and a fight breaking out.  Intentionally setting a trap for a victim and robbing them of cash at knife point is a dramatic set of facts, and if true do not bode well for Mr. Hatfield.

However, it's important to recognize that these facts may not be the complete or true story. A few facts have been released that cast considerable doubt.

The first fact that stands out is that Mr. Hatfield was not arrested while committing the crime. He was persuaded to return to another sale at the exact same location. It would be unusual for someone who had just committed a violent robbery to return to the scene of the crime to make another sale.

The second fact that stands out is that it's not reported that a weapon was recovered from Mr. Hatfield when he was arrested. One would expect that he would continue to possess that weapon, and the documents we have seen do not mention one. Mathew Piper (Salt Lake Tribune) has since reported that Mr. Hatfield was not armed when he was arrested.

The third fact that stands out is that the positive identification was procedurally suspect. The alleged victim arrived on the scene and identified Mr. Hatfield as the perpetrator. ID procedures are carefully proscribed by constitutional law, and there's no reason that an ID couldn't wait until Mr. Hatfield could have been put before a line-up of similar looking individuals. It's relevant that Mr. Hatfield is African-american, particularly if the alleged victim was white. Eyewitness identification is notoriously unreliable, and this is the kind of situation where it is at its worst. It's also relevant that Mr. Hatfield might otherwise be recognizable in the community. Failing to do a neutral lineup was a major procedural error by the police.

This does not look to me like an open and shut case. It could get considerably stronger, or it could weaken and fall apart, depending on what other evidence exists. It's possible that Mr. Hatfield's well-known status in the community or some other unknown factor prompted a false report of some kind. It's important to remember that Mr. Hatfield does not need to prove he did not commit a crime, but merely has to establish reasonable doubt that he did so. In my opinion as an attorney, if the UPD does not possess more evidence than they have released in this statement, a skilled defense attorney could make a strong case that reasonable doubt exists. Hopefully Mr. Hatfield has retained someone who can protect his rights through this process.

We will continue to work to get more information and keep Ute fans updated on these developments. I would again caution everyone to withhold from personal judgments of Mr. Hatfield or the alleged victim until every fact is known.  There are always multiple sides to a story, and we have not had a chance to hear Mr. Hatfield's.

UPDATE:

Dominique Hatfield has been charged with Aggravated Robbery, a 1st degree felony, and Theft of Mislaid/Lost/Mistaken property, a Class A misdemeanor.

Charges Filed