Fired professor’s assault trial vacated; attorney continues fight for evidence

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The assault trial for Varlo Davenport, a former tenured theater professor, was postponed for the second time at a hearing Monday. 

The trial was vacated due to an unsanctioned conversation in February between judge Ronald Read and Michael Carter, Utah assistant attorney general and the legal representative for Dixie State University. Davenport was fired and charged with assault last year after an alleged hair-pulling incident in one of his theater classes.

Another reason the trial was vacated pertains to a file of evidence against Davenport from DSU that Davenport’s attorney Aaron Prisbrey said he has been trying to get his hands on for over eight months. He said the information contained in the file is necessary to develop a defense for Davenport’s trial.  

Carter said he looked through the file and brought all information relevant to the assault case to the court but wasn’t sure if Read had received it in time for the hearing because of how late it was submitted.

The file of evidence was compiled by DSU Security Director Don Reid. Davenport said he has “no idea what the heck” is in the file, why Reid was involved in the evidence, and why DSU officials are so protective of it.

“I just wonder what they’re trying to hide,” Davenport said.

Private, substantive conversations between one party’s attorneys and the judge prior to trials is not allowed unless the opposing party’s attorney is invited, Prisbrey said.

Carter said, at the time, he was unaware the conversation between him and Read was not allowed. He said he spoke to Read because he wanted to make sure Read had received the file of evidence he brought to the court.

“We also discussed a concern [Read] presented to me, and I said I was concerned about it’s relevance because of the old dates of those documents,” Carter said.  

Prisbrey said he can’t imagine the trial going forward “if what I think is in [the file] is in there.”

Davenport said there is a hypothesis that the information within the file is about a deal struck between the student victim and President Biff Williams. 

Davenport said he was given instruction by DSU administrators to give the student an “A” after the incident event though she had skipped class for three weeks and was failing the course.

Prisbrey said he wanted Read to be recused and replaced with another judge because of the conversation between Read and Carter. 

“I am bound to get this issue resolved before I do anything, and, from what I’ve heard so far, I’m not going to rule on that motion on my own,” Read said at the hearing. “I’m going to certify it to a presiding judge.”

Until the case is reviewed by a presiding judge, Davenport’s trial will not take place. A new date for the trial was not set. 

Davenport said he just hoped he would be exonerated and have a clean slate after the trial so he can continue his career teaching theater. 

“I spent 15 years at [DSU] building the theater program,” Davenport said. “I’d love to return and see where I can take it further, but that may never be an option for me at this point.”