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Personal Privacy Oversight Commission

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, along with Governor Spencer J. Cox and Auditor John Dougall announced their respective appointments to the newly created Personal Privacy Oversight Commission. The Commission was created by the Legislature during the 2021 session. (HB 243).

The purpose of the 12-member Commission is to develop guiding standards and best practices with respect to government privacy. The commission will also recommend minimum privacy standards for governmental entities for the Legislature in considering codifying into state statutes. Commission members will work with the new Government Operations Privacy Officer and the new State Privacy Officer, reviewing specific government privacy practices recommended by these privacy officers.

Attorney General Appointments: (63C-24-2-1(2)(d))

  • Jeff Gray, Utah Office of the Attorney General — a member with experience as a prosecutor or appellate attorney and with experience in civil liberties law; and
  • Mike Smith, Utah County Sheriff — member representing law enforcement.

“Privacy is a concern for Utahns now more than ever,” said Attorney General Reyes. “For those reasons, I am excited to help create, and work with the new Privacy Commission, which will focus on how the government handles personal information and the best ways to maintain our citizens’ privacy.”

Comments from Governor Cox and Auditor Dougall are available in this joint release. Click here.

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High Profile Arrest for AG’s ICAC Task Force

WEST JORDAN — The Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) arrested 29-year-old Joel-Lehi Organista on the evening of June 2, 2021. Organista has been charged with eight counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, a second-degree felony. Organista was a member of the Salt Lake City School Board and has resigned

Read more on the charges in the Probable Cause Affidavit

Acting on a Cyber Tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, officers uncovered numerous pictures and videos of child pornography on a Dropbox account belonging to Organista. Serving a search warrant, officers also discovered several dozens more such images, including evidence that Organista was communicating directly with children identifying themselves as between the ages of 12-17. Evidence is still being collected from other electronic devices belonging to Organista.

Because Organista is in a position of trust in the education field, he was initially being held without bail in the Salt Lake County Jail.

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Links to news coverage, June 3, 2021

Fox 13  https://www.fox13now.com/news/crime/salt-lake-city-school-board-member-arrested-on-child-pornography-charges

KSL/Deseret News: https://www.ksl.com/article/50179158/salt-lake-city-school-board-member-arrested-in-child-porn-investigation

KUTV: https://kutv.com/news/local/school-board-member-arrested-months-after-tip-asked-to-resign

KTVX:  https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/slc-school-board-leaders-respond-to-board-member-being-charged/

Telemundo:

Gephardt Daily: https://gephardtdaily.com/local/slc-school-district-board-member-facing-8-felony-sexual-exploitation-of-a-minor-charges/


Law Enforcement & Memorial Day

May is a unique month for us at the Attorney General’s Office. Not only is May the official month to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage (which is significant especially considering our current attorney general’s family heritage), but May is also the month to commemorate National Police Week (May 9 – May 15), Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), and Memorial Day (May 31).

On May 6 of this year, many of us (including AG Reyes) at the Capitol Office were invited to attend the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the western side of the Capitol grounds. It was a solemn event that was attended by many police chiefs and officers from the surrounding area. Also in attendance were the families and friends of this year’s two honorees: Officer Nate Lyday of the Ogden Police Department, and Officer Franklin Schaerrer of the Utah Highway Patrol.

We watched as the speakers described the two fallen officers and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. They had died as heroes, having given the ultimate sacrifice while protecting all that Utah stands for. Officer Lyday had died while in the line of duty in May 2020, and Officer Schaerrer died from wounds sustained in the line of duty in July 1945. We stood still and quiet as their families and friends were brought forward to place their memorial plaque on the wall of honor.

Along the top of the wall, it reads: “In Valor there is Hope”. Certainly these two men and their sacrifice is proof of that. Because of men like Officers Lyday and Schaerrer, Utah has hope for a brighter and safer tomorrow.

This year, we remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice while in defense of our state and our nation. We are indebted to all those who died protecting our country, its values, and its citizens. We celebrate their memories and their lives, and reflect and remember the lives lost to preserve our freedoms and our way of life.

We share our thanks and love for all Utah law enforcement officers, past and present. We share an equal measure of gratitude to all Utah servicemen and servicewomen who protect our great nation. We are indebted to each of you.

This Police Week, Peace Officers Memorial Day, and Memorial Day, we say: Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for being the best of us.


Operation Urban Mining | The Effort to Stop the Theft of Catalytic Converters

One of Utah’s newest task forces – the Crimes Against the Statewide Economy (C.A.S.E.) task force – was organized during the 2020 Legislative Session (H.B. 461) to address Utah’s growing fight against property theft. Reports continued to emerge reporting the state of Utah, Salt Lake City in particular, as one of the highest ranked locations for property crime, specifically porch pirates (theft of delivered packages), retail theft, and catalytic converter theft.

Catalytic converters are stolen for the precious metals contained within – palladium, rhodium, platinum, titanium, and other materials – and can be sold for as much as $400 per converter. Thieves crawl underneath vehicles in parking lots, parking garages, and residential driveways and use metal saws to remove the device. Sadly, however, these converters are a crucial part of a vehicle’s emission system, costing an average of $1,800 to replace and rendering a vehicle useless without it.

In 2020 and 2021, the newly formed C.A.S.E. Task Force began ‘Operation Urban Mining,’ a massive joint effort to fight the rise in catalytic converter theft. While the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles has been a growing problem nationwide, the theft of catalytic converters in Utah alone has risen nearly 600% in the past two years.

‘Operation Urban Mining’ combined the efforts of the Utah Attorney General’s Investigative Division, the Utah Department of Public Safety State Bureau / Investigations, the Sandy City Police Department, Unified Police Department, West Jordan Police Department, and West Valley City Police Department.

As the operation went on, investigators uncovered many legitimate scrap metal and recyclable dealers were not following Utah laws or best practices. The also discovered that many illegal catalytic converter transactions were taking place in the parking lots of large stores and strip malls.

All research and investigative efforts culminated in a multi-jurisdiction sting operation that included undercover law enforcement officers, scrap metal dealers and recyclers, and thieves attempting to sell stolen converters online. The sting operation resulted in 3 arrests, 6 criminal warnings, 13 criminal violations, 13 scrap metal dealer audits, and 124 catalytic converters seized as evidence. See the images attached to this post of the confiscated converters.

While Utah’s efforts to continue combatting additional property theft are ongoing, ‘Operation Urban Mining’ has been seen as a success. Thanks to the efforts of the AG Investigative Team, the AG’s C.A.S.E. Task Force, and other law enforcement entities, Utah is becoming a safer place for residents and businesses every single day.

See the links below for local media coverage of ‘Operation Urban Mining’:

KSL

Fox 13

KUTV 2

ABC 4


Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes Recounts Asian American Pacific Islander Contributions and Sacrifice on behalf of the United States of America

SALT LAKE CITY — During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Utah Attorney General Reyes recounts his own family connection and the many contributions and sacrifices the AAPI community has bestowed on the United States of America in the following statement:

“The Asian Pacific American (APA) Community has contributed in so many significant ways to the strength and exceptionalism of America. For example, the APA work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit have yielded tremendous business success. Whether in small shops, large boardrooms, restaurants or startup ventures, Asian Pacific Americans have generated great economic wealth and opportunity for all Americans.

In fields as diverse as academia, medicine, law, engineering and in so many other professional endeavors, APAs have overachieved. Their impact is abundantly evident in music and the arts, cuisine, culture, sports and so much else of what makes us uniquely American.”

“As an APA myself, and a second generation American, I honor my ancestors, my elders and the pioneers of the APA community for their sacrifice in coming to this country, serving and building-up these United States and creating more opportunities for me and the next generations to live the American dream.

However, too many stories of sacrifice and service by the APA community still remain unheard. Too few people know stories surrounding the Chinese Exclusion Act or forgotten Filipino War Veterans. Few understand the depths of humiliation and economic damage suffered by wrongfully incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII.”

“Having done nothing wrong and loyal to our flag, many Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps and had their businesses and property confiscated by the federal government simply because of their ancestry; this while their sons fought in the US Military for the country they loved.”

“As we celebrate all that APAs have given and continue to contribute to America, I hope we take time to better educate each other about the reality of these injustices, as well as those that are occurring more often in 2021.”

You can find more information on the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month here: https://asianpacificheritage.gov/.


AG Reyes Signs Letter Challenging Critical Race Theory (CRT)

SALT LAKE CITY (5/19/21) — Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined 20 other states in a letter to the Department of Education, urging the Biden administration to reconsider educational proposals aimed at imposing the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), the 1619 Project, and other similar curricula into America’s classrooms. The multistate coalition opposing federal efforts to bring such teachings into U.S. classrooms is led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, and addresses goals that are woven into a proposed new rule by the U.S. Department of Education establishing priorities for grants in American History and Civics Education programs.

Statement from Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes:
We can’t right the wrongs of racism in our nation’s history by entirely re-writing our history from a racist perspective. 

Our society, our schools, and the teaching of our history should allow diverse views on the American experience. They should absolutely recognize the elements of racism that have persisted in our past and continue in the present. 

Despite so many great things we have accomplished throughout American history, we have also made harrowing mistakes from slavery and segregation to exclusion, internment, and anti-miscegenation. 

I agree we need transparency and must own those mistakes collectively as a country. We should be as unafraid to confront these failures as we are proud of our successes. We must learn from the past and be diligent to not repeat or perpetuate these failings in the future.

But this education and reckoning should be based on facts—good, bad, and ugly—not the promotion of one ideology of discontent over the common experience and success of so many others. 

The 1619 project and particularly the Kendi version of Critical Race Theory are not the answer to providing more diversity, inclusion or accountability, particularly for elementary-age students. They are divisive and foment only more resentment along already fractured lines. For example, Kendi would go beyond education to indoctrination and promotion of his ideology as the sole truth. He asks not just for recognition and remorse for injustices but ascribes racist motives to all of America and our institutions for any negative experiences endured by people of color. He promotes equity instead of equality. Outcomes over opportunity. Blame versus accountability.

My fight is not with an honest telling of history from those who have been or felt oppressed. It is with those who would tell my children they are racist because they are capitalist and continue to believe in the reality of the American Dream.

Read a copy of the letter here.

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Utah A.G. Reyes Calls on Biden to Support Energy Infrastructure

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joins 18 other state attorneys general today called on President Joe Biden to support additional energy infrastructure – including the Keystone XL pipeline – following the Colonial pipeline shutdown that caused price spikes, fuel shortages, and Carter-style lines at gas stations across the south and eastern parts of the country. In a letter to Biden, they detailed the harm caused by his purported cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline and urged Biden to put Americans’ national security and the environment first. Read the letter here.

The Colonial pipeline situation showed the widespread panic and disruption that can result when just one pipeline system goes off-line. In the aftermath of the cyberattack, the Biden administration quickly relaxed environmental and safety rules to “secur[e] critical energy supply chains … alleviate shortages … [and] avoid[] potential energy supply disruptions to impacted communities.”

“Most Americans—particularly those not located along the coasts—now wish you had been so diligent and responsive before you determined that Keystone XL could be sacrificed on the altar of left-wing virtue signaling,” the letter stated.

In addition to supplying our own energy needs, energy infrastructure is needed to maintain our nation’s leadership as a net-energy exporter – a position that enhances our national security, increases global stability, and creates good-paying jobs for American workers.

“Americans depend upon safe and secure energy supplies, which is why we must build and maintain robust energy infrastructure that is resilient in the face of accidents and sabotage.  A temporary shutdown of one pipeline’s full-capacity operations shouldn’t bring half the country to the brink.  We need more safe and clean energy sources,” A.G. Reyes and the other attorneys general wrote to Biden. “But your Administration’s current approach exchanges those fact-based conclusions for the faddish preoccupations of your coastal elite constituencies.”

Biden purported to unilaterally cancel the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, even though Obama’s State Department concluded multiple times that Keystone XL was a net positive for the economy, the environment, and energy security.  And just days ago, Biden’s own Energy Secretary acknowledged that pipelines are “the best way to go” when it comes to moving fossil fuels.

“To be clear, we believe your Keystone XL decision was unconstitutional and unlawful, and many of the undersigned states are currently pressing those claims in federal court. But beyond the basic lawlessness of your decision, the current predicament shows what a poor policy decision it was,” the letter stated. “Your impulse to bow to an extreme climate agenda untethered to scientific fact or reality—exhibited by the Keystone XL cancellation and other similar actions—affirmatively deprives Americans of the safe and clean energy supply they need now.  It undercuts our energy independence by eliminating a large and secure source of oil in a time of growing global unrest.  It damages our reputation with geopolitical allies, like Canada, by reneging on our commitments.  It destroys sophisticated, high-paying jobs.  And it stunts sustainable economic growth in pipeline communities and throughout the country.” 

In addition to AG Reyes, the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming also signed onto the letter.

AG Reyes is also a part of 21-state coalition currently suing the Biden Administration over its unconstitutional revocation of the Keystone cross-border permit.

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A.G. Reyes Leads Bipartisan Letter to Congress: Support Antitrust Enforcement

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today is one of the leaders in a bipartisan coalition of 45 attorneys general who has sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting the federal government provide the necessary funding to support state antitrust enforcement efforts. Read the letter here.

“Helping maintain a competitive marketplace through Antitrust enforcement is a critical duty of the Utah Attorney General’s office. It benefits not only consumers who have more choice, it allows smaller and emerging players to compete, innovate, grow and push market leaders for even better products and services,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Our world is rapidly changing. Technology often accelerates the size, scope and timing of advantages for larger companies in the market. While states are empowered to pursue actions against large corporations including Big Tech, investigating these cases is complex and requires significant resources. In the meantime, consumers and smaller competitors remain vulnerable. Federal funding to the states would empower us to be more effective and will save the federal government and taxpayers money in the end.”

State attorneys general around the country, and from both parties, are currently leading cutting edge, resource-intensive antitrust cases against powerful and sophisticated Big Tech firms. Late last year, Attorney General Reyes joined a bipartisan coalition of 48 attorneys general in a lawsuit against Facebook for anticompetitive conduct[LF1] , as well as a bipartisan coalition of 38 attorneys general in suing Google on antitrust grounds[LF2] .

These are just some of the examples of the many types of enforcement actions states have and can bring to challenge anticompetitive conduct by major players with vast resources in a variety of industries. Often working closely with federal partners, states bring these enforcement actions in the public interest to protect consumers and the competitive process.

As the coalition — led by Attorneys General Letitia James of New York, Phil Weiser of Colorado, Tom Miller of Iowa, Doug Peterson of Nebraska, Ken Paxton of Texas, and Sean Reyes of Utah — notes in their letter to the chairs and ranking members of the respective Senate and House committees, as the nation’s economy has grown, so too has the need to staff and finance a greater number of antitrust enforcement actions that are fundamentally more complex and resource-intensive than in the past. There is a growing bipartisan consensus that antitrust is at a turning point, and Congress currently is considering a number of bills that would enable more robust enforcement. Whether antitrust investigations and litigation are pursued together with federal partners or in multistate coalitions they require massive commitments by lawyers and experts, as well as significant technological resources. Congress is already considering additional funding for the federal agencies, but funding for state agencies will enhance the states’ ability to fulfill their obligations as integral partners to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission and as part of Congress’ plan for protecting competition.

Attorneys General Reyes, James, Weiser, Miller, Peterson, and Paxton, are joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico in sending today’s letter to Congress.

Read the letter.

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AG Reyes to Facebook: Abandon Launch of Instagram Kids

*45 State Coalition of Attorneys General Send Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

SALT LAKE CITY — Citing serious concerns about the safety and well-being of children and the harm social media poses to young people, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes has joined a coalition of 44 attorneys general urging Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.

In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the coalition contends that social media can be detrimental to children for myriad reasons and that Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms. Read the letter here.

The attorneys general express various concerns over Facebook’s proposal, including research that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children; rapidly worsening concerns about cyberbullying on Instagram; use of the platform by predators to target children; Facebook’s checkered record in protecting the welfare of children on its platforms; and children’s lack of capacity to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including advertising, inappropriate content and relationships with strangers.

At a Congressional hearing in March, Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that social media is harmful to children, despite strong data and research that has shown a link between young people’s use of social media and an increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior, and suicidality. Instagram has been frequently flagged for increasing suicidal ideation, depression, and body image concerns in children.

Additionally, the attorneys general argue, young children are not equipped to handle the many challenges that come with having an Instagram account, including that they often lack a developed understanding of privacy. There is also a risk that predators may exploit children online and cloak their identities using the anonymity of the Internet. One report found an increase of 200 percent in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children over a six-month period in 2018. In 2020 alone, Facebook and Instagram reported 20 million child sexual abuse images.

Cyberbullying is also a major concern, and a 2017 survey found that 42 percent of young Instagram users had experienced cyberbullying on the platform, the highest percentage of any platform measured. As children spend more time online during the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues have likely been exacerbated.

The attorneys general also cast doubt on Facebook’s ability to protect children on their proposed Instagram platform and comply with relevant privacy laws such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). They point out that the company has a record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children. For instance, Facebook’s Messenger Kids app contained a glitch that allowed children to circumvent restrictions and join group chats with strangers.

Co-leading today’s letter are the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Vermont, and the letter is joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.  

Read the letter here.

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Attorney General Reyes Participates in Bipartisan Panel on Racism

Violence Against Asian & Pacific Islander Community on this Rise

WASHINGTON, D.C. (5/3/2021) — On Tuesday, May 5, 2021, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes will speak at a national, bipartisan conference called “A Community United: A National Convening Against Anti AAPI Hate”. AG Reyes will be on a panel focusing on how law enforcement is responding to violence against the Asian and Pacific Island Community nationwide.

The Panel, “Law Enforcement Responding to Hate”, will occur at 12:35 Mountain Time tomorrow. Click here for a link to stream the event.

“It’s very personal for me to increase awareness of current and historic bias, racism, violence and hate toward our Asian-American and Pacific Islander Communities,” said Attorney General Reyes. “While this aggression is being highlighted in today’s media stories, it is not new to those of us who have experienced it our whole lives. Whether it is conscious or unintentional, blatant or hidden, the consequences are still devastating. “

“I appreciate this opportunity to collaborate across various industries, disciplines and beyond political partisanship to examine how we come together as communities to address these cases,” AG Reyes continued.  “As a law enforcement leader, I feel an even greater responsibility to hold violent, hate fueled perpetrators accountable for the terror and trauma they inflict.” 

The national anti-hate convening is hosted by Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. The event will focus on raising awareness, on supporting the AAPI community and taking concrete actions to stop AAPI hate, and on creating a skillset toolbox to empower all participants to stand up to hate.

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