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Is a plea deal justice for Lauren McCluskey?

Jun 4, 2019, 1:29 PM | Updated: Jul 1, 2019, 2:48 pm
The detective criticized for how she handled the Lauren McCluskey case has been fired, accused of not acting fast enough on another young woman's domestic violence complaint. Photo of Lauren McCluskey provided by the University of Utah

Lauren McCluskey died at the hands of someone who could not legally possess a gun.

McCluskey’s alleged killer, Melvin Rowland, could not pass a background check to buy a gun. But he knew people who could. Prosecutors say Nathan Daniel Vogel and Sarah Emily Lady got the gun for him.

According to court documents, Lady lied to bypass the required waiting period because Vogel wasn’t sure he could pass the background check.

Rowland reportedly paid Vogel $400 for it.

Illegal possession

Under Utah law, Rowland could not possess a gun because he was a felon. Rowland pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony on plea deal when was 21. He was initially charged with a first-degree felony for raping a minor.

Under Utah law, a restricted person such as a felon cannot possess a gun.

Under federal law, buying a gun with the intent of giving it to someone is illegal. It is known as a straw purchase.

Vogel and Lady appear to have broken these laws, talk show hosts Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic agree.

But this is not why Vogel and Lady have been convicted.

Lies that led to murder

On Tuesday’s Dave and Dujanovic show, Noriega and Dujanovic wanted to know whether a guilty plea in a case of lying by the acquaintances of a murder suspect really amounts to justice served for the family of Lauren McCluskey.

This happened in court on Monday. Court documents state that 21-year-old Nathan Daniel Vogel and 24-year-old Sarah Emily Lady accepted a guilty plea regarding the case of McCluskey’s murder. They pleaded guilty in court to making false statements.

Noriega and Dujanovic ask: can anyone truly be held accountable for Lauren McCluskey’s tragic and preventable death?

Nathan Vogel did not lawfully possess the gun, says John Huber, US Attorney for Utah, who joined the Dave and Dujanovic show to discuss pursuing those connected to McCluskey’s death.

Without the illegally possessed gun, Lauren McCluskey would have been safer, Huber suggests.

Noriega asked: If the murderer is dead, who is the next person we can hold accountable?

In exchange for the guilty plea, Vogel received just 36 months probation — paying a price, Noriega says, but not nearly enough of a price.

Dujanovic says Vogel should serve at least six months or a year in jail, noting that since McCluskey paid the ultimate price, a longer sentence is the only way to secure justice for her family.

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Is a plea deal justice for Lauren McCluskey?