On Friday, Sept 25, The Independent reported about two Iron County Sheriff deputies who had resigned after a night of drinking and fighting led to the injuries of one of the deputies. At that point, no arrest had been made, but charges were pending. However, the Washington County Attorney’s Office has now charged former Iron County Sheriff Deputy Ronald Skeem with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, for his alleged involvement in the Aug. 22 incident. Skeem was also charged with public intoxication, a class C misdemeanor.
According to the police report, Skeem and the other former deputy, Adam Burton, had been drinking together off duty on the night of Aug. 22 when they began verbally arguing. Skeem then allegedly punched Burton in the face.
Skeem left the house and began walking with Burton following him. Burton told officers Skeem continued to hit him as they were walking down the road.
The report states that while following Skeem, Burton allegedly started arguing with a neighbor while Skeem continued walking. Burton called “Skeem 10-78,” a code used by officers to call for help.
“Skeem then walked back and found Adam face-to-face with the neighbor,” the report stated. “Fearing another assault would occur, Skeem tackled Adam from the rear and held him there until the police showed up.”
Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said both men have since resigned from their jobs at the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, and the case has been referred to the Police Officer Standards in Training Council to investigate.
The Cedar City Police Department was given the case to investigate due to a conflict by both the Sheriff’s office and the Parowan Police Department, where Skeem worked part-time.
After investigating the incident, CCPD referred the case to the Iron County Attorney’s Office who sent it to Washington County due to a conflict of interest.
CCPD Chief Bob Allinson said that no arrest was made that night due to the fact the incident did not occur in front of officers. However, prior to Washington County filing charges, Allinson told The Spectrum and Daily News, that had his officers arrested the two men, they would have likely only been charged with misdemeanors.
Under the Utah Criminal Code, aggravated assault occurs when there is an attempt to do bodily injury to another person, when a person causes or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another, or when someone actually causes serious bodily injury with unlawful force or violence. This charge also applies when the use of a dangerous weapon or force is likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.
Washington County Deputy Attorney Laina Arras said the reason she chose not to file any charges against Burton was that she believed the culpability for the former deputys’ actions that night belonged to Skeem.
“In my reading of the case and the evidence, the defendant who we charged is the one culpable,” Arras said. “When I look at a case, I look at the culpability, and in this case every time it came back to Skeem. Skeem created the problem from the beginning to the end.”
Arras chose not to arrest Skeem after filing charges against him, saying she generally does not issue a warrant for a defendant’s arrest except under certain circumstances.
“It’s not my standard practice to issue a warrant for arrest,” she said. “The only time I will have a defendant arrested is when I’m concerned about them fleeing, when they’re not cooperating or they’re hiding from us.”
Fifth District Court Judge Keith Barnes was originally assigned the case but declared a conflict of interest and turned it over to Judge John Walton.