Former getaway driver arrested on charges of human trafficking

dt.common.streams.StreamServerA formerly convicted getaway driver in a deadly 1996 Utah motel robbery was recently arrested on felony charges of human trafficking, participating in a pattern of unlawful activity, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering.

Rettenberger Charged With Engaging in a Pattern of Unlawful Activity

Todd Jeremy Rettenberger, 37, was charged in Farmington’s 2nd District Court with two counts each of second-degree felony human trafficking for forced sexual exploitation and aggravated exploitation of prostitution; another second-degree felony count of participating in a pattern of unlawful activity; and third-degree felony counts of obstructing justice and tampering with a witness.

Rettenberger Threatened and Assaulted Two Women, Prosecutors Say

A probable cause statement sets forth that Rettenberger had taken two women from Utah to Oregon and back, forcing each woman into prostitution.  The two women told investigators that Rettenberger was their “pimp.”  One of the women admitted to investigators that while she had become involved in prostitution to keep up with her heroin addiction, during her time with Rettenberger, he threatened her and assaulted her on several occasions in order to keep her from leaving.

The other woman told investigators that she feared Rettenberger, who she described as a man with “a scary background,” and that he “did not like to be told ‘no.’”  Specifically, the woman told investigators that Rettenberger would refer to the 1996 motel slaying in which he was convicted, and that the women “understood the defendant to mean that if she crossed him, she would be killed like the [motel] clerk.  The other woman also said that when she tried to quit prostitution, Rettenberger would “take it out” on her with “violent sex acts” that included choking.  Prosecutors say that when the two women were arrested, Rettenberger told them to delete everything from their cellphones and not to mention his name.

Rettenberger’s Involvement in 1996 Death of Motel 6 Clerk

As mentioned, in 1996, Rettenberger, then 18, acted as a lookout and getaway driver in the slaying death of a Woods Cross Motel 6 clerk during a bungled robbery attempt.  In 2002, Rettenberger agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter charges arising out of the motel clerk’s death upon the promise that he would testify against his other two co-defendants, David Valken-Leduc and Elliott Rashad Harper.  Both Valken-Leduc and Harper were convicted, but Valken-Leduc’s conviction was subsequently overturned.  Rettenberger, who at the time had already spent five years in the Davis County jail, was sentenced to probation as part of his plea.

Following his conviction for the motel clerk’s death, Valken-Leduc was sentenced to five years to life in prison.  However, in 2009, Valke-Deluc’s conviction was vacated.  Valken-Deluc entered into what is known as an Alford plea, whereby he agreed to plead to a lesser charge of second-degree felony manslaughter with three years of probation.  The Alford plea meant that Valken-Deluc could maintain his innocence while conceding that prosecutors probably had enough evidence to convict him.

Rettenberger Arrested in 2011 on Charges of Exploiting Prostitutes and Drugs

In 2011, Rettenberger was again arrested, this time on charges of exploiting prostitutes, as well as drug possession in a separate case.  In July 2012, Rettenberger was sentenced to prison for up to five years on both cases.  Rettenberger was paroled in November, 2015, and wasted no time returning to a life of crime.

Prosecutors allege that Rettenberger’s prostitution ring began in early January 2016 and extended through mid-February.  The Board of Pardons and Parole issued a warrant for Rettenberger for absconding in early February.  Rettenberger was eventually arrested in Idaho on February 26th and booked into the Ada County Jail.  On March 4th, Rettenberger’s parole was revoked and he was transported back to the Utah State Prison.

Criminal Charges Under the UPUAA

In order to charge an individual with engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity under the Utah Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act (“UPUAA”), the state must show that the individual engaged “in conduct which constitutes the commission of at least three episodes of unlawful activity, which episodes are not isolated, but have the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise interrelated by distinguishing characteristics.”  When taken together, “the episodes shall demonstrated continuing unlawful conduct and be related to each other or to the enterprise.”

Under the UPUAA, approximately 64 predicate offenses are listed, which amount to “unlawful activity” under the statute.  Included in those offenses are the charges for which Rettenberger was arrested.  If the State is able to have at least three episodes of Rettenberger’s unlawful activity bound over for trial, then the State will be allowed to pursue its pattern of unlawful activity charge against Rettenberger.

A UPUAA charge is a second-degree felony, which carries a potential penalty of one to 15 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.  In addition to the aforementioned punishments, a person convicted under the UPUAA may be ordered to pay the state, if the case was brought by the attorney general, or to the county, if the county attorney or district attorney brought case, “the costs of investigating and prosecuting the offense and the costs of securing the forfeitures provided for” by the statute.  In lieu of any fine otherwise authorized by law, a defendant may not be fined more than twice the amount of the net proceeds the defendant received from his or her unlawful activity.  A court may also: 1) order restitution; 2) order the person to divest him or herself of any interest or control in any enterprise (as defined by the statute); 3) impose reasonable restrictions on the future activities of the person; and 4) order dissolution or reorganization of any enterprise.

UPUAA Provides Civil Remedies for Victims of a Pattern of Unlawful Activity

Beyond the criminal penalties for violating the UPUAA, the statute also provides a civil remedy for persons injured by a pattern of unlawful activity.  Such a claim allows a victim to recover double damages against a UPUAA defendant, and must be brought within three years.  The civil portion of the UPUAA also allows a prevailing party to recover “the cost of suit, including reasonable attorney fees.”  However, a victim must set forth their claims with particularity, and prove those claims by clear and convincing evidence.

Contact Our UPUAA Team Today

If you or someone you know has been charged under the UPUAA, please contact our Utah Rico attorneys for a consultation.  Your potential criminal, as well as civil exposure, under the UPUAA is serious, and requires the assistance of attorneys well-versed in criminal and civil law.  Our UPUAA attorneys can be reached by telephone at (801) 323-5000 or by email at Karra.Porter@chisjen.com or Mary.Corporon@chrisjen.com.

* Photo Cred.: sltrib.com

Copyright 2016

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *