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Prosecutors appeal ruling that Park City tennis coach used justified force against player

Lani Wilcox and defense attorney Clayton Simms in court Tuesday, Oct. 25 for preliminary hearing
Kimberly Flores
Lani Wilcox and defense attorney Clayton Simms in court Tuesday, Oct. 25, for a preliminary hearing. District court dismissed the charges against Wilcox at a justification hearing May 26.

District court dismissed the aggravated child abuse charge against Park City High School tennis coach Lani Wilcox, but Summit County appealed.

Wilcox’s attorney Clayton Simms said the Summit County Attorney’s Office is effectively “performing CPR on a corpse.”

“The case is over. It's dead,” Simms said. “They're trying to revive something that should not be revived.”

County prosecutor Patricia Cassell filed the appeal Wednesday. The state wants to overturn the Third District Court ruling that Wilcox was justified in restraining a player who slapped her.

The tennis coach is charged with aggravated child abuse, but Judge Richard Mrazik dismissed the charge in May, saying the use of force was justified.

The county attorney deferred a request for comment to the Utah Attorney General’s Office, which declined to comment. State-level prosecutors will handle the case at the appellate level.

Wilcox’s attorney noted how prosecutors’ burden of proof will only become more difficult if the appeal is successful.

If the appellate court rules that Mrazik’s legal reasoning was flawed, Simms thinks prosecutors need stronger evidence to prove Wilcox’s guilt.

“If they appeal, and they were successful, they'd have the even higher burden of ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt,’” he said. “So it's puzzling why they would appeal when they couldn't meet even the lower burden of ‘clear and convincing’ evidence.”

If the state wins the appeal, then the case gets kicked back down to district court and goes to trial.

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