Who is Lauren Gibson? Utah teen charged with hate crime for stomping on 'Back the Blue' sign
Lauren Gibson's class A misdemeanor charges are punishable by up to a year in prison with over $2K in fines
PANGUITCH, UTAH: A teenager has been charged with a hate crime and currently faces up to a year in prison, for allegedly stomping on a pro-law enforcement sign, crumpling it, and throwing it in the trash can. The Garfield County sheriff's deputy who made the arrest, also claimed the 19-year-old had ended up "smirking" at him in an "intimidating manner," after throwing the 'Back the Blue' sign into the bin.
The incident took place in Utah as a person was asked to pulled over for speeding near a gas station at Panguitch's Main Street on Wednesday, state the deputy-written probable cause affidavit. "As I concluded my traffic stop and released the individuals, I observed some of the individuals' friends approach them and attempt to console them," he wrote, reports St. George News. The affidavit continued: "I observed one of the friends, later identified to be Lauren Gibson, stomping on a 'Back the Blue' sign next to where the traffic stop was conducted, crumble it up in a destructive manner, and throw it into a trash can all while smirking in an intimidating manner towards me."
Who is Lauren Gibson?
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that when Gibson, 19, was asked from where she got the pro-cop sign she vandalized, she claimed it was her mother's, who lives in California. Authorities then told her the local sheriff's department produced those signs, and it was deduced that Gibson "had acquired [the sign] in our community," according to the affidavit.
The cops then read Miranda rights, following which Gibson allegedly gave "inconsistent stories" about where she got the sign from. Eventually, she admitted to finding it on the ground, the documents said. "Due to [the woman] destroying property that did not belong to her in a manner to attempt to intimidate law enforcement, I placed her under arrest," the Tribune quotes the affidavit.
The News reports that Gibson was subsequently booked into Garfield County Jail on suspicion of criminal mischief, which is a class A misdemeanor. She was also charged with disorderly conduct, which is an infraction. The charging documents reveal that her act was deemed hate crime and applied to the criminal mischief charge "due to the demeanor displayed by Gibson in attempts to intimidate law enforcement while destroying a 'pro law enforcement' sign." Criminal mischief, a class B misdemeanor in Utah is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Since the hate crime enhancement elevates the charge to a class A misdemeanor, Gibson faces up to 364 days in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
Hate crime charges slammed
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Utah slammed the hate crime enhancement, saying it's "extremely troubled and disappointed" by the decision made by the Garfield County Attorney's office in this case. "This kind of charging decision sends an extremely chilling message to the community that the government will seek harsher punishment for people charged with crimes who disagree with police actions," the ACLU said, reports the News. "This concern is even greater because we do not view the enhancement as supportable under the language of the statute. We consistently warn that enhancements are oftentimes used to single out unpopular groups or messages rather than provide protections for marginalized communities."
The union claimed that this case has "confirmed those warnings," said the News. "Bringing a charge against this person that could result in her spending a year in jail makes no sense both in terms of simple fairness and expending the county's time and money," they added. Gibson, whose place of residence has been withheld, was released from custody after promising to appear for the charges. A court date hasn't been set yet but reports say that the case was assigned to Sixth District Judge Marvin D Bagley.