SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News)-Drugs, illegal immigration, violent crimes. These are big issues in Utah – and while you may not think they impact you – they do. That’s why the U.S. Attorneys Office in Utah has added six new prosecutors to its team.
In this weeks Behind the Badge report – we meet a couple of the new prosecutors and talk to the U.S. Attorney about how they are protecting Utah.
Cristina Ortega is an Assistant U.S. Attorney here in Utah.
“My primary focus in the violent crimes team is child porn. Child porn cases.”
That means she prosecutes those who prey on our children and unfortunately, that happens frequently in Utah.
“I came in ready to work and the work was there.”
The former Davis County and Salt Lake County prosecutor says this is what she has wanted to do since childhood.
“I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor when I was in elementary school. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Ortega is one of six assistant attorneys hired in the fall after the Trump administration allocated three hundred positions nationwide to fight violent crime, drugs, and illegal immigration.
U.S. Attorney John Huber talked about the value of his new prosecutors.
“I cannot overstate the positive impact these positions will have in Utah for decades to come. We competed nationally to get these positions.”
Huber says every one of the prosecutors is already handling about twenty cases.
“They range from domestic terrorism to court-authorized wiretaps of criminal organizations to child pedophiles and those who would exploit our children. Criminal aliens. Big fraud schemes.”
They also deal with gangs and violent crimes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tad May says “There are a lot of drugs in the valley and a lot of gangs in the valley and the interaction of the two can be really dangerous for communities and individuals.”
That’s May’s area of expertise. He says a lot of people don’t think of Utah as gang territory, but it is. And his job is to put them in jail and protect citizens often caught in the crossfire.
“They don’t deserve to have bullets flying in their neighborhoods. They don’t deserve to have drug transactions on their corners.”
For May and Ortega who both worked as prosecutors in Salt Lake County, this is a chance to go after people all over the state.
“Right when I came to the office – my first week. I was reviewing search warrants. I was presenting cases to grand juries. I was appearing in court – initial appearances.”
While she wishes crimes would not happen here – she’s glad to now be part of the team that stops it, punishes the perpetrators and helps the victims.
“I don’t have a magic wand to wave it and take away everything they have been through. As a sex crimes prosecutor you are part of a chapter in their recovery – to helping them to seek justice against the person who has violated them.”
There are now 56 prosecutors in the U.S. Attorneys Utah office. As part of this story, we also talked to U.S. Attorney John Huber about gangs, drugs, and fighting crime in the state. To hear what he says you can check out the web extra interview material here online. You are can also nominate an officer for a future behind the badge story at https://www.abc4.com/badge.