The fourth judge may be the charm.
Fourth District Judge Lynn Davis is now presiding over the criminal trial against former Provo municipal councilman Steve Turley, who was charged in July 2011 with 10 felonies, including communications fraud and a pattern of unlawful activity during his time on the council. He set a preliminary hearing date -- the third in the 14-month-old case -- for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
However, whether the case will get to that point in this courtroom is anybody's guess. Three other judges have recused themselves, including 4th District Judge Steven Hansen, who is presiding over a civil trial in which Turley is the plaintiff. Before Hansen had that case, Davis had it. In January 2011 he recused himself, citing only a conflict.
But the judge made no mention of recusal on Wednesday, instead pushing the two sides to set a preliminary hearing date so the case could move forward.
Defense attorney Brett Tolman said the new judge doesn't change his plans. He is waiting for additional documents from the prosecution and is planning on a preliminary hearing in four months. He said he doesn't plan to request the judge recuse himself but admitted he wasn't sure it wouldn't happen.
"I've been surprised by how many judges we've had on this," Tolman said outside the courtroom.
The preliminary hearing is an opportunity for the state to prove to a judge that it had enough evidence for the charges filed -- seven for communications fraud, two for exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one for pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies. It typically includes only prosecution witnesses, but Tolman has said that he may call exculpatory witnesses to demonstrate Turley did not commit the crimes of which he is accused.
Turley, who was on the municipal council for almost eight years, resigned in September 2011, three months before his second term ended. He was not running for re-election. His colleagues on the council were planning to remove him after an ethics probe by former judge Anthony Schofield indicated Turley had violated the municipal ethics act.