clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hatfield Charged: New Evidence and What it Means

New, 3 comments

Early Thursday afternoon, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office filed formal charges against Dominique Hatfield. The charging documents revealed some new information, and helps to set expectations for when we might see Hatfield back on the field again, if ever.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Hatfield was formally charged on Thursday afternoon. In addition to the armed robbery charge on which he was additionally booked, Hatfield was also charged with Theft of Lost or Misdelivered Property, a Class A misdemeanor.

Class A misdemeanors are serious crimes in their own right; they are tried in district court and convicted defendants serve any sentenced jail time in state prison, not county jails as with a lower grade misdemeanor. This particular offense involves taking property that the defendant allegedly knows does not belong to them, and not taking 'reasonable measures' to return the property to the owner.

You can read the entirety of the charging documents here, which provide more complete detail and better insight into what happened prior to police arriving on the scene and the manner in which Hatfield was apprehended. The documents specifically mention a few additional pieces of evidence: an eyewitness to a person matching the description of the alleged robber (which may or may not have been Hatfield) in a nearby convenience store; a backpack which was left at the scene of the robbery; and Hatfield's statements to police that he obtained the phones at parties "where sometimes drunk people would leave their phones", and "acknowledged he made no effort to return he[sic] phones to their owners".

Hatfield is being represented by Greg Phillips of Howard, Phillips and Anderson, PC and by Greg Skordas of Skordas, Caston, and Hyde. Mr. Phillips is Andy Phillips' father; Mr. Skordas in particular has an extremely good reputation and is one of the finest defense attorneys in Salt Lake City. Hatfield posted bond and was released from jail on Thursday evening.

Timeline

Since charges have been filed, Hatfield is looking at a lengthy process before he can hope to have this situation resolved. He will appear before the court in the near future to enter a plea of not guilty, and then will have a date set for a "waiver hearing". Prior to that hearing, Hatfield's attorneys will attempt to negotiate a resolution with prosecutors. If they are unable to reach a resolution, it's likely that Mr. Skordas and Mr. Phillips will schedule a preliminary hearing as a way of trying to reduce Hatfield's charges.

At any time during this process, Hatfield may file motions objecting to the use of certain evidence, including the eyewitness identification and Hatfield's statements to police. His attorneys may also file a motion seeking to split the cases in two, so that a different judge and jury would hear about the alleged robbery than the ones hearing about the alleged theft of lost property. 

If Hatfield's attorneys and the prosecutor's office are able to reach a resolution, the case could be resolved in as little as 60-90 days. If they are unable to reach a resolution and choose to take the case to trial, a timeline of up to a year is a reasonable expectation. This case has unusual facts and a trial, although unlikely, is a distinct possibility.

Legal Analysis

To reiterate, I'm not offering legal advice here, I'm just offering my professional analysis. I have not spoken to Hatfield or his attorneys, and have only the facts that I have shared with you.

There are really two quite separate events here: the armed robbery and the theft of lost property. Whoever made those posts on KSL did so under an alias, and it's possible that more than one person kept an eye on that phone number and responded to text messages sent to it. It's important not to let one's impression of the first event color the second or vice versa; this is why Mr. Skordas may move to separate the case into two.

There is additional evidence which may help to identify the person who allegedly committed the armed robbery. Hopefully video surveillance from the convenience store will be able to conclusively confirm or deny if that person was Hatfield, but even if not, if Hatfield's clothes do not match, it lends weight to the idea that Hatfield was not present for the armed robbery. The backpack left at the scene may also contain evidence which can tend to prove that the alleged armed robber was or was not Dominique Hatfield.

The most difficult evidence for Hatfield to overcome are his statements to police. The charging documents declare that these statements were made after Hatfield was read his Miranda rights. There are a number of grounds that can cause a statement made to police to be ruled inadmissible, but it seems most likely at this point that those statements will be admitted into evidence.

To qualify as a Class A misdemeanor, the stolen property Mr. Hatfield was charged with stealing must have a value greater than $500 but less than $1,500. The agreed upon price for the two phones was $380. At first blush, it would appear that the goods had a value of less than $500, which would be properly classified as a Class B Misdemeanor. The prosecutor's office is well within their rights to charge this as an A, but a B Misdemeanor is handled in a different court and is a considerably less serious crime.

Because of Hatfield's incriminating statements, Mr. Skordas has his work cut out for him on the theft charge. It's likely that he will attempt to reach a plea agreement on at least this part of the case as quickly as possible, in the hopes of getting the more serious felony offense either dismissed by the prosecutor or by the judge.

With regard to the Felony charge, it remains to be seen whether the additional evidence tends to connect Hatfield to the armed robbery, or tends to implicate another, unknown assailant. If that evidence implicates Hatfield, expect Mr. Skordas to seek a plea agreement on both charges. If it implicates an unknown assailant (for example, there's CCTV video of a person who is clearly not Hatfield shopping at the convenience store), it's quite likely that the prosecutor's office will dismiss that component of the charges. If the additional evidence doesn't cast light one way or the other, we can expect to see a more drawn out battle between the two sides.

These additional facts are not good for Hatfield's chances at a clean record. It's going to be up to Coach Whittingham to determine how egregious of an offense this was and what kind of sanctions it warrants within the football program. There is still a lot more to be learned here before we have anything approaching all of the facts; I will again caution everyone to withhold their judgments. I'll do my best to keep you updated and informed about the process.