SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Most Utahns will never find themselves in handcuffs or in the back of a police car…so why are our courtrooms and jails overflowing? Part of the problem is a small number of chronic repeat offenders who cycle through the system again and again.
Police officers and prosecutors jokingly call them “frequent flyers” but their effect on the justice system and taxpayers is no laughing matter.
The booking photos of 50-year-old Delbert Allen Tsosie reveal a lifetime spent in and out of the Utah criminal justice system. Officers have arrested Mr. Tsosie dozens of times since 1988 and he’s racked up over 350 charges in that span, mostly for alcohol-related offenses, trespassing, and theft. Typically, he serves just a few hours in a local jail before he’s released, creating a revolving door scenario that can exasperate officers and prosecutors.
“It is frustrating to have these people out,” Lt. Travis Lyman of the Layton Police Department said. “Oftentimes before our reports even done, they’ve bailed out and we may be dealing with them again.”
“There are a few percentages that take up more than their fair share of time in court,” Layton Assistant City Attorney Steve Garside said. “So we do have some chronic repeat offenders.”
“The frustration is that law enforcement is seeing them on a repeated basis,” Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told ABC4 News. “We as prosecutors really can’t hold them because there’s no room at the jail to hold them.”
Law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys tell ABC4 that many frequent flyers they deal with are alcoholics or drug abusers.
“We’ve seen that with drug addicts who return over and over,” Cache County Attorney James Swink said. “So they’re not only using drugs but they turn to committing crimes, property crimes and so it is a drain on the system.”
Utah spent $891,488,200 on its criminal justice system in the fiscal year 2019, some of that on 24-year-old Mauricio Navinick, who has been arrested 32 times in the last seven years, including a dozen times in 2019 on a variety of charges such as exposing himself and committing a lewd act in front of a 14-year-old girl on a UTA Frontrunner train.
“People repeat their sexual activity,” Swink said. “So if you have one victim, you almost always have multiple victims if not hundreds of victims in some cases.”
Following an arrest for theft and possession of drug paraphernalia on June 24th, Judge William Kendall wrote: “The court finds that Mauricio Adrian Navinick would constitute a substantial danger to other persons or to the community…therefore, the court orders that Mauricio Adrian Navinick is to be held without bail.”
He was still released from jail.
“They have jail overcrowding so they’re going to look to see if that person has a misdemeanor offense,” Gill explained. “Generally, it is usually a violent offense that will hold a person and even then sometimes we struggle to keep people held.”
Five days after he got out, police arrested Navinick on suspicion of exposing himself onboard a Trax train then in July, police say Navinick broke into a woman’s apartment and asked her to perform a sex act. She locked herself in a bathroom to call the police then he reportedly committed a lewd act on her couch and was still there, nude, when officers arrived to arrest him.
Prosecutors say the answer lies in diversionary programs to rehabilitate sex offenders, addicts, and alcoholics.
“There aren’t enough of these programs,” Gill said. “Even though when we can prosecute them, there isn’t sufficient oversight to get them into treatment so you can actually start to alter their behavior.”
Court records show that Delbert Tsosie was last arrested January 18th for intoxication and public urination. He is currently free with four charges pending against him. Mauricio Navinick has not been arrested since last summer when a judge ordered him to the State Psychiatric Hospital in Provo where he remains.
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