Home / Be The Change / Government Corruption / Utah Man Dies in Police Custody — After Being Arrested for Unpaid Medical Bills

Utah Man Dies in Police Custody — After Being Arrested for Unpaid Medical Bills

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Tremonton, UT — Bear River, Utah resident Rex Iverson, 45, died in the Box Elder County Jail on January 23 after being incarcerated for his failure to pay an ambulance bill. A deputy arrested him on a $350 bench warrant issued by the justice court on December 29. He was found unresponsive in his cell by a detention deputy a few hours after being arrested.

“We go to great lengths to never arrest anybody on these warrants,” Box Elder County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dale Ward told the Ogden Standard-Examiner. “The reason we do that is we don’t want to run a debtors’ prison. There is no reason for someone to be rotting in jail on a bad debt.”

Over the past three years, reports the Standard-Examiner, thirteen people have been arrested and jailed on civil bench warrants of the kind that resulted in Iverson’s fatal incarceration. Roughly half of those arrests arose from civil judgments obtained by government agencies, the rest from private debts. Apart from Iverson, all of those thus imprisoned were released within 12 hours after posting bail or making a promise to appear in court.

Iverson had no means to pay bail, or his $2,376.92 bill with the Tremonton City Ambulance service. City treasurer Sharri Oyler said that an attempt was made to garnish Iverson’s wages “but he didn’t have a job, that we knew of.”

Debtors’ prisons were formally outlawed more than a century ago. They are nonetheless ubiquitous, and highly profitable for people wired into the corporate prison-industrial complex.

“How can you get blood out of a turnip?” asks Josh Daniels of the Lehi, Utah-based Libertas Institute, a libertarian think-tank. “The thing about going to jail, your time does not pay your debt…. A person should be obliged to pay, but putting him in jail doesn’t solve the problem.”

Iverson’s unnecessary death has re-focused attention on Utah’s “justice courts,” which were lambasted in a report issued last October by the Sixth Amendment Center, an advocacy group promoting reforms in the indigent defense system. As with similar judicial (in this case, the appropriate term might be “quasi-judicial”) bodies in other states, Utah’s “justice courts” exist to monetize misery, rather than to carry out due process.

In Utah, most petty offenses are tried before “justice courts,” and many – perhaps most – of the judges in those courts are staggeringly unqualified: They are appointed from a pool of applicants by a six-member panel that uses selection criteria less rigorous than the admissions standards for DeVry University. No law degree or legal experience is necessary to serve as a Justice Court judge; in fact, any city resident with a GED and an advocate on the municipal panel would qualify.

More than 62 percent of defendants statewide “are processed through Utah’s justice courts without a lawyer,” points out the Sixth Amendment Center. Under relevant Supreme Court precedents, this constitutes an “actual denial of counsel” in violation of constitutional guarantees.

During the time frame examined by the Sixth Amendment Center, “defendants were arraigned and subsequently sentenced … to jail time or suspended sentences without any defense attorney present” by justice courts in every Utah jurisdiction except for Salt Lake City and County. In addition, “it is the practice of many justice courts to have prosecutors meet with unrepresented defendants to attempt to resolve the case prior to the defendant appearing before the judge. In others, the opportunity to meet with the prosecution is offered as though it is a chance to consult with an attorney who is looking out for the defendant’s interests.”

Some of the Utah bodies described as “justice courts” are almost impossible to recognize as “courts” within the American definition of the term:
“In many justice courts there are no prosecutors present and there are also no defense attorneys present. This leaves justice court judges responsible for all sides of the adjudicative process. Having judges judging, negotiating pleas, and advising defendants all at once creates a criminal process that is, in a word, non-adversarial.”

Other appropriate single-word descriptions would be “Surrealistic,” “inexcusable,” and “illegitimate.” This is especially true when the “judge” presiding over this incestuous burlesque of due process might be a high school drop-out who earned a GED with a D-minus average but was appointted to the position on the basis of family connections.

The crowning obscenity in this system is the fact that because these bodies are no courts of record (no official transcripts are kept of the proceedings), the rulings imposed by the be-robed ignoramuses cannot be appealed. Instead, a defendant has to file a de novo review in a distract court. Most of the hapless people summoned before the justice courts are poor, indigent defendants deprived of legal counsel to assist them in filing for that review – and devoid of the financial means to do so in any case.

As a result, Utah’s “justice court” system is a conviction mill.

“In 2013, there were 79,730 total misdemeanors and misdemeanor DUI cases head in all justice courts statewide,” observes the Sixth Amendment Center report. “Only 711 of such cases were reviewed de novo in all district courts combined (an appellate rate of 0.89 %). Further still, a de novo review can never change the underlying systemic flaws that resulted in the denial of the right to counsel in the first place.”

A bill currently before the Utah Legislature (HB 160) would require justice court judges to have law degrees. Raising the professional standards of the functionaries who serve as intake officers and revenue-gatherers for the state’s punitive apparatus won’t solve the systemic problems, however – such as the routine denial of critical due process rights and the lack of an appeal mechanism. Unless those elements are repaired, it would be better to destroy the “justice court” system root and branch – before it kills again.

  • GEE PENNN

    Why is anyone going to jail for a debt? Owing money isn’t criminal it’s a civil offense. We don’t have debtor prison.

    • Khadijah Haleemah Abdallah

      We do now!!!

  • Khadijah Haleemah Abdallah

    This is ridiculous!!! How can someone swear to “uphold and defend the Constitution” when they don’t even know what it says? That some ignoramus who has no understanding of the law can become a “judge” is apalling. Why are the real judges there not absolutely FURIOUS that these imposters are calling themselves judges? If you aren’t a licensed Architect, you cannot call yourself an Architect…or even “Architectural Draftsperson.” You cannot call yourself ANYTHING that has the term “Architect” in it. So, how the hell are these imposters being allowed to get away with it???

  • Cam Alft

    why arrest someone that you know…that you know can’t f’kn pay??WTF is wrong with the assclowns?the guy dies and no one mentions it!this is not an illegal act,you owe debt,yes,but if you can’t pay,work it out,not arrest the guy,it doesn’t work…except to create a cash flow for the system,the prisoncomplex is the only one that profits from this,off the taxpayer!this is a corrupt system and it has corrupt cops helping!no doubt they murdered the man?nothing on how he died so im going to guess it was the cops again that murdered the guy!this whole system is wrong!

  • I thought obama fixed all that?????

  • Obscene and unacceptable.

    • You need to stop beleiving shit you read on this fucking page. he was not arrested for failing to pay a bill. he was arrested because he was being sued for not paying a bill and didnt show up in court. You dont show up to court and you will be arrested.

    • Yea Mike, but still fucked up. If you don’t show in a civil matter, the judgement goes against you, and then the creditors can collect. Since when can a civil suit result in a bench warrant?

  • justice is for the rich

  • Afordable health care.

  • Its kinda obvious right there tht money is more important than human life , as far as the medical system and the justice system is concerned

    • It’s not about money, it’s about beating us into submission and about complete and absolute power and control.

  • Such a fake story I’m pissing myself with laugther at the false story.

  • Since when do the police get involved in collections

    • It has been happening more recently

    • They are involved because the ambulance company was sueing this man for a unpayed bill. The man failed to appear in court twice.

    • Do a court order I can understand

  • Cause of death?

  • People used to starve to death if they did not have a “sponsor” to feed them too. Then it was nobility, today it is corporations.

  • Debtor prison is a real thing. I have known a few people have gone to jail for unpaid bills.

  • Only in America

  • they put you in the credit bureau for unpaid medical bills. What country is this?

    • He was not arrested for failing to pay. he was being sued for the unpayed bill and he didnt appear in court twice to answer the summons.

  • Sadly this is a True Story.

  • Henry Rollins RIP

  • That’ll teach im’

  • next stop Albert Speer’s slave labor compounds..

  • WELL NOW THEIR NOT GOING TO GET PAID.

  • I’m screwed.

  • Un fuckin believeable

  • pay your bills or die

  • I live in Utah and have medical bills coming in the mail every day and I can tell you that all the places here are very easy to work with and offer payment plans ect. There has to be more to the story like the company made attempts to collect then take him to court and he failed to appear and got arrested on a warrant. Something is missing. Sad story though

    • did you read the whole story? the judges are not even judges…

    • Yes I read that however he had court orders to appear for his debt more than once and he didn’t so saying he got arrested for not paying his bill is false

    • Something’s missing alright. It’s your inability at this time to comprehend the most simple and basic things of life. Who are you, what are you PRESUMED to be on a fukin piece of paper and do you know that every time you use the LEGAL name you commit fraud ? Take all of the time you need with this, because it will indeed take some time for you and many other alike to finally find and know the Truth. Don’t take this as an offense but rather as a chance to awaken to reality.

  • My dad has bills for an ambulance that came to his house on accident or from a neighbor calling and been harrassing him like crazy.(I am afraid he may go to jail and I think he said they may take his tax return) Meanwhile illegal immigrants, people who can work but don’t want to, people who never paid a tax dollar in their lives get 100% free medical with ZERO co pay and free prescriptions.

    • I would have “Liked” that right up to the point where you made it into a competition with other poor people. Don’t be a bitch. Keep your eyes on the real enemy- the 1%.

    • The only poor I mentioned were people poor on purpose except illegals. But if I break the law to better my family I go to prison. So illegals should not get a pass. They and the Cartels down there should really fix their country. The Cartels could easily help fund the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and take the country in a good direction but NOPE… Anyway the people who are poor but can not help it(Disabled) I will not compare to.

    • Also the 1% are not the problem, the .001% are the problem.

    • Total lies

    • No lies.

    • If you are referring to my dad having bills and harrassment, no lies. He was working on his 1963 Chevy Nova when jack or jack stand slipped and the car fell a few inches but luckily he was not hurt, just scraped and stuck for a few minutes. He believes a neighbor called 911 and an ambulance came and checked him and tried to take him to the hospital(not sure if he went but I do not think so.. I was not there but this is what I heard a few years back. They likely got his information and trying to bill him. ( He works hard but does not have much money)., He cant afford health insurance and lives alone.

    • Oh and a guy just a few days ago had SWAT take him in for unpaid student loans. I know that is real because there is a video with the Judge talking about it and giving the guy a lecture on how non payment is ruining society.,

    • Why is no-on here asking how a civil offense gave the Police jurisdiction to allow this person to die in confinement! You’re all bickering about the wrong shit.

    • Chris Chandler well, yah.

    • they all nicely divided , and its as govt want it to be , the lower income brackets fighting and hating amongst themselves , while the ubermenschen 1% laugh it up , literally , at their expense

    • Chris Chandler, if an ambulance service doesn’t transport then there is no basis for a bill. If they did take him in, then one thing you can do is make “good faith payments.” It doesn’t matter how little the amount is, as long as he pays a little each month they can’t pursue him aggressively for non-payment.

  • This is beyond disturbing.

  • the details of this story are horrific judges with GED’s no due process what happened to the Bill of Rights?

  • … debt is paid off with death, no remaining balance pending ,debt free .

    • nope theyll try to go after his family for the money and then take them to court. then when they cant pay they face the same thing. only when no living relitive is left then the debt is cleared!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • In Macomb County, Michigan a man was arrested for an unpaid ticket and died because he was on medication for a drug addiction and the jail didn’t give it to him. He died from withdrawals WHILE ON SUICIDE WATCH, on cameras that were monitored. They also were suppose to physically check him every fifteen minutes.

  • sad indeed

  • LEGAL PERSON dies in police custody because he was just a LEGAL name, already LEGALLY dead, and not recognized as a living and breathing man who lived on a part of land that has some fukin imaginary LEGAL boundries that you can’t see, and was being held by a bunch of ignorant fukin morons that are LEGAL names. How do you all like that simple explanation? I know it’s rather difficult for most to grasp, but once you got the picture, it’s pretty fukin simple. It’s a shame the man died, but it’s also a shame that the fukin sheep don’t and probably never will get it. Be sure to have all of those LEGAL names and documents in order when the ignorant fuks come to exercise their LEGAL ASSUMED bullshit on you.

  • Wow… America isn’t a great country after all.

  • Debtor’s prisons never went away. They’ve just been re-named something else so the courts and the law can keep incarcerating people for their debt.

  • Awful!

  • the US is changing more and more to a system like north korea , and still the people sleeping and believing with the next election they can change something

  • Because when someone doesn’t have money to pay medical bills the state should pay even more money to lock them up…so they are incapable of earning any money to pay medical bills?

    • Same with child support and now student loans. We are all worth more as inmates than citizens.

  • Pro-tip: just pay $5/month for each medical bill, they cannot legally claim non-payment and they have to accept it.

    • True and very good advice. However, he was not arrested for the debt, he was arrested for repeatedly failing to appear.

  • what’s wrong with America ? Was a time when everybody would love to live there , but now is just incredible what happens , no respect for human life at all.

  • Shame on you US !!

  • How’s that affordable care working out?

  • They recently arrested a man for a $1,500.00 student loan as well.

  • Nobody should ever go to jail for a medical debt they can’t afford to pay. This man was not arrested because he didn’t pay the debt – he was arrested for repeatedly failing to appear in court. There is a difference.

    • He obviously was sickly

    • Marsha Chambers Was he? I didn’t see that in any of the articles I read.

    • Well he died while in custody so his health was obviously not that great…

    • Bailey Pitzer Marshall That’s not necessarily true. People can die suddenly for many reasons. I have read a number of articles about this and nowhere are we told that he was sickly. That may come but it isn’t evident now.

    • could easily have been a simple normal procedure police administered beating that caused the death , its PURE coincidence that he was sick , and then died in custody

    • Karl Neuman Where are you coming from? What source can you cite that even hints that his death was caused by the police? I have seen not ONE shred of evidence pointing to it. No source has inferred that he was assaulted by the police. Not one.

  • Welcome to America…

  • I don’t know how the system works in other states, but here in Pennsylvania we have magistrates, aka district justices. The magistrate judges send out their constables (who aren’t cops, aren’t required to do any training, but carry guns and arrest people) on a regular basis to arrest people with bench warrants for failure to pay on fines. You don’t have to fail to appear in court to have a warrant put out for you. They bring you to the magistrate’s office, in cuffs, you talk to the magistrate and some let you go, some don’t. Some accept partial payments, some don’t. They make you call everyone you know to get the money brought in to the office. They will even take you to the bank in handcuffs to get the money. If you don’t get the money it’s off to the slammer you go, where said “judge” determines how much credit you get per day in jail. Or you are released when the money is paid in full. There is no law here that requires a certain rate. It can be $1 a day if they don’t like you or you continue to fail on your payment plan. This is not an exaggeration. This is 100% fact. I have had it happen to me. I had a speeding ticket. The constables came to my house the day before thanksgiving (constables add fees for serving the warrant and mileage which goes directly into their pockets,so holidays and popular times to get arrested for fines.) I was taken to the magistrate in handcuffs and my husband brought $280 of the $310 that I owed for a $95 dollar ticket. The judge took his $280 and refused to release me until my dad brought the remaining $30. I did not fail to appear in court. I had a ticket that was 5 years old and I had never paid on. Yes, it was irresponsible of me, but come on!!! My dad had to leave work early so I didn’t spend thanksgiving in the county. There is no regulating body to tell these magistrate judges that what they’re doing is illegal and if you can’t afford to pay the fine I doubt you can hire a lawyer to stop these power abusing tyrants. Its easier to pay the money and forget about it. This happens in almost every jurisdiction in the Pittsburgh area. Most people come up with the money, but some sit off fines in jail. You can literally get a fine for not cutting grass, fail to pay and get locked up over poor lawn care. It happens often here. Sad but true.

  • the medical system is damaged by the war on the people.. END GOVERNMENT BULLYING

  • Poor man. He looks so sad.

  • some government parasite is making money at this

  • The system here in America is corrupt n fucked up

  • This truly is a horrific story that seems validated by many sources. It should never happen, but I wonder and suspect if there is more to look at. Could me wrong and would quickly admit such.

    I would just ask that people remember the legislature makes the law, people on the bench, in this case, order the police to do something. You don’t want to be a police and not carry out a court order. The visibility of the police, equates that the police did this. Not necessarily true and can be inflammatory writing. But to your credit, you described the Utah system. Now I have some snooping around to do.

    But, how sad that he was placed in jail by one of the most “compassionate” states in the union.

  • Wow

  • I don’t know what state yall live in but in Texas any debt collector besides IRS, federal student loans, or child support cannot even garnish wages! They can only stick it on your credit. Even with a court judgement that’s the end. Lordy, my husband is dialysis patient (9 yrs) and we’d been in the pokey a long time ago:). I’d be moving!

  • What is wrong ? AMERICANS HAVE TURNED INTO COWARDS !! That is what is wrong !

  • se geras

  • the rich get richer and the poor get prison.

  • WELL I CAN SAY RIGHT NOW THAT MEDICAL BILL WONT BE PAY NOW , SO IF THEY WANT TO GET THERE MONEY THE NEED TO ARESSTE OBAMA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF PEOPLE BEING ARRESST FOR UNPAY BILLS , IF THIS IS THE CASE THESE MEANS YOU CAN FILE BANKRUPTANCE ON ALL YOUR BILLS , MEDICAL ,SCHOOL LOANS, BACK TAXES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • This has just gone too far. Are we bringing back debtor’s prisons? This just sickens me.

  • Fernesque Golan

    What we see in this horrendous incident, is that the capitalistic system is more important than any human life. Our lives are ruled by debt and allegiance to an antiquated system that only enriches a few. We are slaves and victims whose lives are dedicated to keeping this inhuman system viable. Without the slaves and victims, the system would be a non-entity.

    Should we all turn on, tune in and DROP OUT?

  • And that’s why Canada rules!!!

  • No one should be jailed for the ‘crime’ of getting sick–ever! Single payer would solve this. Just follow the $$$$

  • WTF!!!

  • Oh the irony

  • kinda of becoming a free for all place since obaba is in the white house pretending to be someone he is not

  • There should be prison for bank ceo’s who took the bail-out money for their bonus.

  • Well crap, now he’ll NEVER pay that off…

  • This is TERRIBLE.The land of the free.not free health care though.And that bail bond System.you have those AWFULL bounty hunters that Dog And Beth.Seriously if they are the face of law enforcement there is something terribly wrong.They look like they are going to an S and M party or are extras in a Mad Max movie.Terrible people .law officers should look like proffessional people not like they look.

  • I already like your page, but your popup you claim is not a popup won’t let me read your article unless I subscribe. I guess I don’t like your page anymore, then. Too bad because y’all post some good stuff. I won’t subscribe.

  • Its to generate Fear. They are always looking for new /old Fear buttons they can push. This guy dies, and a lot of people eat instant noodles for the next 6 months by candle light to pay off everything they can. The finanical elite have destroyed the bankrupt laws, so there wont be any getting out. They will make sure you need a licence for eveything, a permit for anything you think you own, and constant upkeep on the lot, making sure you work those low paying jobs to barely keep up. Eventualy we are all going to have to stand up and deal with their shit.

  • Looks like Mormon utopia

  • Repo Man…

  • its all about money and not human life