Reign as ‘paper terrorist’ coming to end, Daniels says
SALT LAKE CTY—The man who pleaded guilty to murdering Kammy Mae Edmunds in Mt. Pleasant in 2017 has lost an appeal of a separate conviction for assault by a prisoner.
On June 28, the Utah Court of Appeals rejected Anthony Christensen’s appeal of a jury verdict, rendered in January 2020, finding him guilty of assault and being a “habitual violent offender.”
“He’s what we call a paper terrorist,” Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels said. “He tries to use and abuse the court system to gain leverage.”
During three years in the Sanpete County Jail from 2017 to 2020, Christensen fired his attorneys multiple times and repeatedly filed pro se motions (motions without counsel) in Sixth District Court. All of his motions were dismissed.
But Daniels said Christensen’s propensity to flood courts with lawsuits and appeals may be coming to an end. The 10 civil suits or appeals of judge decisions he has filed in federal and state courts since 2017 “have all been dismissed at this point,” Daniels said.
Between 2017 and 2020, Christensen continually demanded a jury trial on the murder charge and on some related charges, including obstruction of justice and desecration of a human body.
Such a trial, Daniels said at the time, would have cost the county more than $100,000.
The assault of a prisoner occurred in the Sanpete County Jail while Christensen was awaiting adjudication of the murder charge.
Ordinarily, the assault would have been a third-degree felony, Daniels said. But under a Utah statute dealing with “habitual violent offenders,” if a defendant has two previous felony convictions for violent crimes, charges can be bumped up two levels.
Christensen had served time in Wyoming for felony child abuse, and felony assault and battery of a household member. So Daniels tried the assault in the jail as a first-degree felony. According to Daniels, it only took the jury 8 minutes to find him guilty.
Then, on the same day, before the same jury, Daniels charged Christensen with being a “habitual violent offender.” Daniels says the jury only took 6 minutes to find him guilty. According to Daniels, that made Christensen one of a handful of individuals in Utah to be convicted of that charge.
The judge in the two trials sentenced Christensen to five years to life in prison. The sentence covered both verdicts.
“That kind of facilitated the resolution of the murder charge,” Daniels said, because Christensen realized there was no way to avoid prison, even if the unlikely event a jury found him innocent of the murder.
A couple of weeks after the two jury verdicts, Christensen pleaded guilty to murder and obstruction of justice. Two other charges, desecration of a human body and a different assault-by-a-prisoner charge, were dismissed.
The judge in the murder case handed down a second five-years-to-life sentence, along with a 1-15-year sentence for obstruction of justice.
But after sitting in prison about six months, Christensen was getting restless and wanted more court attention, Daniels said.
He appealed his conviction in the assault-by-a-prisoner case, even though winning the appeal would not have helped him get out of prison. He claimed he had not been provided with effective counsel in the jury trial because his attorney did not object to one item of what he said was hearsay testimony.
Daniels disputed the claim that Christensen didn’t have good lawyers. “It wasn’t like his attorneys laid down. They fought pretty hard,” he says.
An opinion written by Michele M. Christiansen Forster, presiding judge of the six-member Court of Appeals, said a conviction based on ineffective attorneys can be overturned only if the jury verdict would have been different with different attorneys.
“…The jury heard and saw a myriad of evidence,” she wrote, including a jail video clearly showing Christensen punching the victim.
And, she noted, Christensen himself stated twice, once in a taped interview with an investigator and once in the trial, that he had, in fact, punched or hit the victim. The trial jury heard or saw Christensen making both of those statements.
“Under these circumstances, Christensen cannot demonstrate that but for the trial counsel’s failure to object to the alleged hearsay statement, there is a reasonable probability that he would have been acquitted,” the judge wrote.