Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paralyzed Man Beaten by Phoenix Cops After Officers Say He Ran From Police

A Phoenix man who claims Polio caused severe paralysis on one side of his body is suing the Phoenix Police Department because three officers severely beat him after they claimed he ran from authorities.

In a complaint filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, Refugio Rodriquez says the officers' claim that he ran from police is impossible because of his paralysis.

"He walks with a cane," his attorney, Jimmy Borunda, tells New Times, "but they still beat him up pretty bad."

According to the complaint, Rodriquez was in a church parking lot when he was approached by the three officers.

"It was late at night, and they said they thought he was damaging the building," Borunda says.

When they approached him, Rodriguez claims the officers said "you better not run you fucking wetback." They then slammed him onto the concrete driveway "in a manner which obviously exceeded the minimal amount of force necessary to accomplish a lawful purpose and continued to brutally assault plaintiff Refugio in the driveway," the complaint states.

The officers then hit Rodriquez with a Taser and beat him "with their police-issued long flashlights."

Rodriquez was taken to the Maryvale Precinct, where he claims one of the officers asked him "what's the matter, you can't take an ass-whipping?"

Rodriguez was then taken to the Fourth Avenue Jail, where an intake nurse told him she was going to have him taken by ambulance to the hospital because of the severity of his injuries. However, Rodriquez claims, the nurse came back a few minutes later and told him "if she sent him to the hospital emergency, she was told she would lose her job."

After he was released on bail, Rodriquez was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where the emergency doctor told him "he could have died because a blood clot near his brain was beginning to develop,"

The problem with Rodriquez's lawsuit, his attorney points out, is that he already pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer, which will definitely be brought up should the case go to trial.

"He only pled to [assaulting an officer] so he could get out of jail," Borunda claims.

Rodriguez is seeking punitive damages and medical expenses for assault, battery, negligence, and civil rights violations. The city of Phoenix, Maricopa County, Maricopa County Correctional Health Services, and the three Phoenix police officers are all named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The Phoenix Police Department did not immediately respond to our request for comment.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tempe Police "Party Patrol" Brutalize ASU Golfer, Harass His Friends on Facebook, According to Lawsuit

Next time you're partying at Arizona State University, consider Noah Frochtzwajg, ASU student and aspiring golfer.

He was enjoying the company of friends at 2 a.m. on Sunday August 29, 2010, when the Tempe Police came knocking at his apartment.

Frochtzwaig saw two officers and opened the door to let them in. Once he opened the door they stormed the room with three more officers and knocked him to the ground.

From there, they handcuffed him, forced his friends to leave "one by one," and laughed at him, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court against the Tempe Police Department yesterday.

After 30 minutes, the police officers uncuffed Frochtzwaig and released him without pressing charges. Frochtzwaig addressed a complaint to Tempe PD's Internal Affairs office -- but then the sergeant in charge of the investigation started harassing his friends on Facebook with "personal and embarrassing questions."

The complaint further alleges that Tempe Police employs a squad of police officers known as the "Party Patrol" whose job is to go around shutting down parties.

But, the complaint alleges, their job isn't "simply [to] disrupt parties whose noise, etc., exceeded legal boundaries, or where underaged drinking had been established."

It's to "raid any student social gathering."

The complaint calls the police's actions "heavy handed and needlessly forceful," claims numerous abrasions and injuries to Frochtzwajg's body, and damage to his golf career.

He was going to attend the PGA's qualifying school last year when this incident occurred, causing harm to his career, according to the complaint.

"Golf was Mr. Frochtzwajg's first love, and the injuries have caused significant loss of enjoyment of life," it reads.

The complaint alleges nine counts, including unlawful civil rights violations, assault, battery, and wrongful imprisonment. It seeks unspecified amounts in damages.

Tempe Police Department Sergeant Steve Carbajal declined to discuss the pending litigation, per department rules.


3 in Sheriff's Office accused of drug, human smuggling

Three Maricopa County sheriff's employees, including a deputy in the human-smuggling unit, were arrested Tuesday by authorities who say they were involved in a drug- and human-trafficking ring and used Sheriff's Office intelligence to guide smugglers through the Valley.

Deputy Alfredo Navarrette, 37, has worked with the Sheriff's Office for nearly a decade, serving in a special unit designed to target human smugglers moving through Maricopa County. But investigators believe Navarrette was himself involved in human smuggling. Investigators found two undocumented immigrants in Navarrette's home when he was arrested early Tuesday morning in a sweep that concluded a yearlong investigation.

"The fight against drugs, illegal immigration and human trafficking is important not only to me but the citizens of Arizona," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. "That a deputy sheriff would provide information and associate with these drug and human traffickers is despicable."

Investigators from a multijurisdiction drug task force also arrested two sheriff's detention officers, Sylvia Najera, 25, and Marcella Hernandez, 28. They are accused of laundering money and moving drugs for a Valley-based drug-trafficking organization with ties to Mexico.

Arpaio said Hernandez is eight months' pregnant with the child of another suspect arrested Tuesday, Francisco "Lorenzo" Arce-Torres, who is described in court records as a member of the Sinaloa drug cartel and the leader of the Phoenix-based drug-trafficking organization at the heart of the probe.

Court records indicate Hernandez had $20,000 cash on her when she and Najera were arrested Tuesday morning on their way to work at the Lower Buckeye Jail.

12 suspects held

The sheriff's employees were among 12 suspects arrested Tuesday during a series of early-morning raids at 16 locations throughout the Valley where investigators had targeted members of the organization.

The group mostly moved heroin, according to investigators, and officials suspect each of the arrested sheriff's employees played a crucial role in moving the drugs and hiding the illicit profits. Authorities say the ring moved about $56,000 worth of heroin a week through the Valley.

Arce-Torres, who authorities say was the ringleader, arranged for heroin to be brought into the Valley after his brothers produced the drug on the family's ranch in Mexico, according to Superior Court and Justice Court documents filed Tuesday.

Once the drugs arrived in Arizona, they were shipped to two houses in the West Valley, where the heroin was diluted to create more product, investigators said in the court documents.

Hernandez's brother, Duran Joseph Alcantar, who was also among those arrested, is suspected of operating one of the stash houses, and investigators believe Hernandez coordinated the pickup and delivery of heroin from the drug houses.

Investigators say they believe Navarrette helped the ring by fortifying Arce-Torres' home with surveillance cameras, registering drug-courier vehicles in his name and laundering money.

Navarrette and Najera, the other arrested detention officer, helped set up a shell corporation called West Utilities Group Inc., which was used earlier this month to launder nearly $50,000 in drug proceeds, according to court documents.

Najera's name appears on West Utilities Group's corporation filings in Arizona, along with that of a Phoenix construction company owner who was arrested on suspicion of laundering money for the organization.

Investigators believe that, in addition to laundering money and doing other chores for the ring, Navarrette himself was smuggling humans.

"Navarrette assists this (human smuggling) organization by operating a drophouse and on at least five occasions transported illegal aliens from Arizona to California for the organization," records state.

Yearlong inquiry

A tip about the ring came into the sheriff's special-investigations unit almost a year ago, and the investigation moved slowly at the outset, according to sheriff's officials.

Navarrette remained on patrol duty until he was moved to the sheriff's training facility a couple of months ago for a violation of office policy that was unrelated to his suspected role in the trafficking ring.

Sheriff's officials said the probe was unique and had to be handled delicately because of the serious criminal allegations against law-enforcement employees. That meant that transferring one of the suspects to another role within the office, or even pulling personnel files, could have been enough to tip off friends that something was afoot and risk spoiling the investigation.

Navarrette had the most opportunity to gather information and influence investigations because of his work on the streets. Even he could not be moved out of his role in the human-smuggling unit, however, until supervisors found a violation of office policy that gave them reason to move him without compromising the probe.

"There was not enough to take any action against him, either, until very recently," said Deputy Chief Brian Sands, who oversees the human-smuggling group.

Navarrette has been with the Sheriff's Office since 2001 and worked in a variety of roles, including patrol and court services, in addition to his role with the human-smuggling unit.

Rosters for the unit indicate that Navarrette was a member from the earliest days of the sheriff's controversial "crime-suppression operations," when deputies and posse members flood a region of the Valley looking for minor traffic violations and potential immigration offenses.

Arpaio said he believed Navarrette used information from those operations and his position in law enforcement to help coordinate the movement of contraband through the Valley.

"He repeatedly supplied details about the illegal-immigration crime-suppression operation to leaders of the drug-trafficking organization," Arpaio said. "This action placed numerous deputies, reserves and posse volunteers in harm's way while they were volunteering and conducting operations."

Arpaio could not say when Navarrette last worked on a crime-suppression operation with the human-smuggling unit.

Probe continues

The investigation went public when search warrants were served and a series of arrests were made Tuesday. But officials say the probe could last for months and target other suspects.

A few additional sheriff's employees were being interviewed Tuesday night, Arpaio said, to determine what they may know of the suspects' activities in the Sheriff's Office. "Doesn't mean they're guilty of anything," Arpaio added.

Investigators are also trying to determine the extent of the ties between the suspects and members of multinational drug-trafficking organizations operating in Arizona.

Navarrette was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on suspicion of 19 violations including conspiracy, money laundering and human smuggling. He was being held on a $1 million cash bond.

Hernandez, booked on suspicion of committing 11 violations, including conspiracy, drug crimes and money laundering, was placed under a $2 million cash bond at a Tuesday court appearance. The reasoning for the $1 million bond disparity was laid out in court documents for Hernandez, who just returned from a trip to San Luis, Mexico, with Arce-Torres, suspected of being the ringleader.

"Hernandez has said that she, Torres and co-conspirator Navarrette have talked about leaving the U.S. and living on one of Torres' ranches in Mexico," the documents state.

Najera was in custody Tuesday and faced money-laundering and other charges.


Monday, May 23, 2011

One year later: Tempe police officer's certification revoked

A state board has revoked the certification of former Tempe Officer David French, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who had served five combat tours and was said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

French, 41, fled from Surprise police after a chase last July and was subsequently charged in absentia with Unlawful Flight from a Law Enforcement Vehicle, a felony. French, a 20-year Marine veteran who was in the midst of a divorce, led a squad in a deadly battle of Fallujah, Iraq, according to reports.

He is believed to have left Arizona.

By revoking French's certification, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board last week banned him from ever serving as a police officer in Arizona again.

French's wife recently told police her husband had been drinking heavily, was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and was armed with two guns.

On April 24 2010, French resigned from the Tempe Police Department in lieu of termination after he reported to duty after drinking.

The report says that French had a heavy smell of alcohol on his breath on April 22, 2010. A civilian employee reported it, and Sgt. Mike Carleton also smelled the alcohol.

French told Carleton he had been "drinking heavily" after his previous shift ended. A breath test administered to French registered at .038. Any alcohol in an on-duty officer's system is prohibited.

He had also failed to report to work one day in January 2010 without contacting the department, AZPOST report says. French later told authorities he was "engrossed in resolving marital difficulties" that day.

On July 1, French fled from Surprise police after they tried to pull him over for erratic driving, the report says. French sped up and cut off cars and drove into traffic, the report says.

A Surprise officer estimated French was traveling 60 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood.

Attempts to find French have not been successful.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tempe police detective accused of stealing evidence

Tempe police arrested one of their own Tuesday, an 11-year veteran accused of stealing lucrative items from the evidence locker, taking money to remodel a woman's kitchen and abandoning the job and driving with a suspended license.

Police Detective Elliot Campbell resigned his position Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of two counts of theft of a credit card, 10 counts of tampering with evidence, one count each of forgery, burglary and theft, police said.

The alleged crimes came to light in April, when Tempe police learned that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office had charged Campbell with operating without a contractor's license in connection to a Scottsdale woman's kitchen renovation, said Tempe police Sgt. Steve Carbajal.

Campbell had begun the demolition phase of the kitchen but didn't complete it, prompting the woman to complain to the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, Carbajal said. The county attorney is also investigating whether Campbell wrote bad checks, Cabajal said.

Tempe investigators began looking into Campbell's work and found his driver's license had been suspended after failing to appear for a radar citation he received in Mesa. Campbell was placed on administrative leave on April 6, and as the investigation continued, was put on unpaid leave on April 22.

Investigators discovered that Campbell had been taking evidence items from the Tempe Police Property Facility, saying he was returning them to their owners, Carbajal said.

The items included Costco and Target gift cards, which were used near Campbell's Gilbert residence, police said.

A search of Campbell's Gilbert residence uncovered a refrigerator, a watch and tools he also checked out of the evidence room, Carbajal said.

Campbell was placed under arrest at 10:50 a.m. Tuesday and was transferred to a Maricopa County jail.

Police said Campbell, who worked alone, admitted checking the items out of the evidence facility, using the gift cards and taking the refrigerator to his house for his own use. He said he gave a washer he had taken to an acquaintance.

The criminal and parallel internal investigations are ongoing. After speaking with investigators, Campbell resigned from his position Tuesday afternoon, police said.

He has been arrested and booked, and is awaiting formal charges and his initial appearance, police said.

"This circumstance is most unfortunate for the Tempe Police Department and the law enforcement community," said Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff. "We are committed to the highest standards and will ensure that in partnership with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, that Mr. Campbell is held accountable both criminally and administratively for his violation of public trust.

"This misconduct is certainly not consistent with the professional standards and practices demonstrated by Tempe police employees on a daily basis. As law enforcement employees, trust and accountability are of paramount importance."


Maricopa County Sheriff's Office mishandled sex cases, report says

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases, including dozens in El Mirage, over a two-year period because of poor oversight and former Chief Deputy David Hendershott's desire to protect a key investigator from bad publicity, according to documents pertaining to a recent internal investigation released by the Sheriff's Office.

The errors led to interminable delays for victims of serious crimes who waited years for the attackers to be brought to justice, if they were ever caught.

More than 50 El Mirage sex-crime cases, most involving young children reportedly victimized by friends or family, went uninvestigated after police took an initial report. The lack of oversight was so widespread in El Mirage that it affected other cases: roughly 15 death investigations, some of them homicides with workable leads, were never presented to prosecutors, and dozens of robberies and auto-theft cases never led to arrests.

Concern about the handling of the cases dates back several years. However, a recently concluded investigation by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu revealed that an internal probe to get to the root of the problem was blocked by Hendershott two years ago because it would have reflected poorly on an investigator he considered crucial to a separate case.

Hendershott, according to investigators, killed the internal probe to protect Sgt. Kim Seagraves, because she was potentially needed to testify in a corruption case he was pushing.

The Pinal County investigation not only found fault in the El Mirage case, but it illustrated a larger problem with agency investigations.

"It wasn't just El Mirage PD cases," Deputy Chief Scott Freeman told Pinal County investigators. "As they started to look into that, they found that there were a lot of cases that hadn't been worked properly, hundreds of cases."

The Sheriff's Office would not comment on the mishandled investigations, which are the subject of an ongoing internal probe that began after Hendershott was placed on administrative leave last fall.

Problems with El Mirage cases emerged in late 2007 after Phoenix police veterans were hired to rebuild the El Mirage Police Department. A sheriff's official provided the new leaders with copies of criminal cases. They were shocked to find investigations, particularly those involving sex crimes, often ended after an initial report. Most had been forwarded to a "Special Victims Unit" at the Sheriff's Office, but there was no evidence of any follow-up.

Victims included a 15-year-old girl who said she was raped by two men outside an El Mirage shopping center and a 9-year-old who told a school counselor her grandmother's boyfriend often came into her bedroom at night, performing sex acts as she tried to sleep.

The 15-year-old had run into a store, where she told the shop owner closing for the night that she had been raped. Police officers stood watch over the crime scene as the teen was taken away by ambulance to be treated for injuries. Reports on the incident ended with the arrival of a Sheriff's Office detective.

"The suspects weren't taken into custody, they weren't prosecuted, so how many more victims are out there?" now-retired El Mirage Assistant Police Chief Bill Louis asked.

Police also discovered dozens of lengthy investigations, including homicides, that appeared to have suspects or leads at the time. Yet, despite extensive interviews and detective work, they were never presented to prosecutors. Arrests were never made.

El Mirage police notified the Sheriff's Office. Though an official offered to have county detectives reinvestigate the cases, El Mirage police declined. Instead, El Mirage police spent months reviewing them.

Many victims had moved away. Some parents told police reopening investigations would bring back memories the victims had struggled to suppress.

One report, on the 2005 death of Rachel Rodriguez, stood out. Arturo Hernandez Jr. emerged as a suspect in his girlfriend's murder almost immediately after her body was found. Hernandez was not arrested until long afterward, however, leaving Rodriguez's three young sons fearful.

A Phoenix detective hired by El Mirage was assigned to the case more than two years after the murder. Hernandez was finally indicted on a charge of second-degree murder last spring. He is set to go to trial in August.

"It was solvable the day that it occurred. All they needed to do was connect the dots like we did years later," said Louis.

El Mirage officials hired the Sheriff's Office to help with its police work weeks after Rodriguez's murder, hoping to address problems with patrols, handling of evidence and shoddy investigations exposed by a city audit.

Arpaio's office provided commanders and about a dozen deputies, who were initially greeted as a stop-gap measure to help the city establish a more seasoned police force. Later, El Mirage signed a $3.6 million contract for patrol, supervision and investigative services, though some El Mirage officers continued to work in the city.

The Sheriff's Office provided 15 deputies, two detectives, three sergeants and administrative staff during the first year in El Mirage; six deputies, two detectives, five sergeants, two lieutenants and two captains in the second year.

El Mirage residents soon began to question the quality of Arpaio's police force. A group of parishioners at Santa Teresita Catholic Church became frustrated with hundreds of emergency calls placed to the Sheriff's Office that went unanswered or were dropped. They took the issue to the City Council in early 2007.

Sheriff's officials at the time blamed faulty equipment and staff shortages. While fielding complaints from El Mirage, sheriff's officials were also pushing the city to make the Sheriff's Office its full-time police force, a contract that could be worth millions of dollars annually.

Faced with an all-or-nothing ultimatum, El Mirage decided to re-form its own police agency in summer 2007. Arpaio's last act was to do an immigration sweep in a city where nearly half of the residents identify themselves as Hispanic.

That event, which sent nearly 100 deputies and posse members to El Mirage in October 2007, was likely the largest police presence Arpaio ever provided the city.

The agency's goal in helping El Mirage with its police force was to secure a long-term contract to patrol the city.

"That was, I think, our hope in going over there, to have El Mirage as a contract city," said Lisa Allen, a sheriff's spokeswoman. "It never came to fruition."

After the Sheriff's Office pulled out of El Mirage, former City Manager B.J. Cornwall wrote a letter to the Sheriff's Office thanking the agency for allowing El Mirage to rebuild its police force "into a professional organization."

When Mike Frazier took over as El Mirage police chief in October 2007, he contacted the Sheriff's Office with a message on the quality of the cases its investigators had left behind.

"What I got was a bunch of crap," Deputy Chief Freeman recalled Frazier telling him at a 2007 meeting shortly after the Sheriff's Office left.

Freeman told investigators that poor supervision in the unit had allowed detectives to clear cases by exceptional means when there was still investigative work to be done. Another detective transferred out of the unit and took "50 or 60 cases home with him in a garage and they sat there for a year," Freeman said.

The sheriff's probe to determine who will be held responsible for the shoddy police work is ongoing.

The Sheriff's Office confirmed that detectives reactivated 432 sex-crimes cases from throughout the Valley after concerns were raised, making 19 arrests. Of the remainder, 115 were determined to be unfounded, 67 were classified as "cold cases" and 221 were "exceptionally" cleared without arrest.


Reports: Sheriff Joe Arpaio knew of corruption, problems

Time and again, in public statements and in interviews, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has denied knowledge of the corruption and mismanagement within his headquarters.

But information in thousands of pages of recently released public records refutes some of Arpaio's claims and, in some instances, places him in the middle of key controversial events.

Certain trusted Arpaio advisers told investigators they notified Arpaio over the past several years about financial problems, potential issues with the way the agency was running its anti-corruption investigations, and his chief deputy's regular abuse of subordinates. For example:

- One detective told investigators that Arpaio participated in drafting a search warrant for a failed corruption investigation.

- The sheriff's former chief financial officer said she warned Arpaio of overtime excesses and other financial problems, as well as former Chief Deputy David Hendershott's "demoralizing" mistreatment of subordinates.

- Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk recounted to state investigators Arpaio's response in September 2009 when she asked why the Sheriff's Office arrested Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley after she had told them the case was not ready to charge. "Arpaio blows up: I had PC (probable cause) to arrest, no one tells me who I can/cannot arrest," Polk said.

The statements by witnesses came to light during state investigations into the Sheriff's Office and during a separate administrative investigation into three of Arpaio's top commanders by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. Babeu's investigation, prompted by the so-called "Munnell memo," a letter from Deputy Chief Frank Munnell that contained many allegations, ended the careers of Hendershott and former Deputy Chief Larry Black. The report said they had abused their positions, violated county policies and were untruthful, forcing their resignations in the face of imminent termination.

Capt. Joel Fox remains on paid administrative leave as investigators re-examine allegations about his conduct.

Public records examined by The Arizona Republic are also being reviewed by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI. That information will play heavily in the federal abuse-of-power investigations of Arpaio, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas and others.

Key questions, according to legal experts, will be: What did Arpaio know about misconduct within his agency? When did he know it? And was any of his agency's conduct criminal?

"He has a First Amendment right to claim willful ignorance about what was going on - and that has served him well in the past," said Valley criminal-defense attorney Mike Black, adding that Arpaio can't claim he "didn't know what was going on, but then have evidence pointing to the fact that he did. But they (federal prosecutors) have to show that he approved these things and conspired with them (sheriff's staff)."

Arpaio acknowledged in a lengthy interview Friday that his agency has had problems. But for the most part, he maintains, he was in the dark.

"You can always look in the past and say, 'I saw warning signs,' " he said. "This is just another situation that has occurred. I'm not happy with it. I back my people up pretty good. I'm tough on criminals. Maybe I should have been tougher on my staff."

But Arpaio's own command staff have stated that Arpaio was apprised of his agency's operations.

Deputy Chief Paul Chagolla, a Hendershott adherent and former Arpaio spokesman, told Babeu's investigators he did not agree with assertions that Hendershott tried to keep Arpaio out of the loop.

"From my perspective, conversations between the sheriff and chief deputy occur, occurred on a regular basis and frequently occurred after everybody left the building," Chagolla said.

Arpaio and certain other witnesses, however, have said Hendershott hid details from the sheriff on some of the agency's failed investigations into judges and county officials.

But from its inception in early 2007, the Maricopa County Anti-Corruption Enforcement unit (MACE) that conducted those probes was lauded by Arpaio.

As the Sheriff's Office launched investigations into elected officials - including former Attorney General Terry Goddard and county Supervisor Don Stapley - Arpaio was the face of the agency, engaging in heated public debates with elected officials who accused the Sheriff's Office of conducting political witch hunts.

"I want to be clear," Arpaio stated in an October 2007 news release about his investigation into Goddard. "This Sheriff will not be intimidated by a potential suspect in this office's ongoing investigation of wrongdoing."

The investigation never led to charges.

Throughout the next three years, Arpaio would make many more statements about the propriety of his political-corruption investigations and the lack of fortitude of his targets. But Arpaio's denials about knowing the details of the cases fit neatly with the theory that Hendershott kept important pieces of information from the sheriff.

A deputy chief's statements to Pinal County investigators cast some doubt on Arpaio's claims he was ignorant of MACE case details. Arpaio was present as detectives discussed at least one search warrant served during the Stapley investigation, Deputy Chief Bill Knight told investigators.

Knight also told them he questioned Hendershott's motivation for serving the search warrant in January 2009 on Conley Wolfswinkel, a Stapley business associate. Knight said he thought the search warrant had probable cause, but he did not want to include too many details in the warrant to prevent potential suspects from learning too much about the case.

But Arpaio saw the situation differently, Knight said.

" 'No, those things need to be in there,' " Knight recalled Arpaio telling him. "I probably overstepped my bounds a little bit here, but I said, 'Are we writing a press release or are we writing a search warrant? I just need to be clear on what we're trying to produce here.' And he just looked at me and said, 'Get the information in there,' and then got up and walked out."

On Friday, Arpaio initially denied Knight's version of events and then admitted talking to Knight about the case because of Wolfswinkel's high-profile past in Valley real-estate dealings.

"I don't direct, I don't order people, especially a deputy chief, to put something in a search warrant," Arpaio said. "I didn't look at the search warrant. I may have talked about Wolfswinkel because I'm interested in him."

Knight's exchange with Arpaio is found in the first part of Babeu's 1,022-page report and more than 4,000 pages of interview transcripts where a deputy puts the sheriff in a position to have direct knowledge of and influence on the MACE operations.

However, more than 15,000 pages of interview transcripts and supporting documents have yet to be released.

Loretta Barkell worked as Arpaio's chief financial officer for about a decade, overseeing personnel and a budget of about $270 million. She retired in March.

Although Hendershott attempted over the years to control the information that Arpaio received, Barkell has stated she went around Hendershott and repeatedly informed Arpaio about budget issues, including overtime excesses, the inappropriate use of detention-fund money and costs associated with other programs.

"I would go to Arpaio if there were situations with overtime or other stuff where he needed to pay attention, and he just ignored me," Barkell told The Republic last week.

In November 2007, the Sheriff's Office was using so much overtime that the agency was on track to exceed its overtime budget by $14.5 million. Barkell told Babeu's investigators that she informed Arpaio about the problem, but the overtime excesses continued. Arpaio only acted on the problem after it was written about in the newspaper, she said.

"It's very typical of all of them in the office to be informed of the problem and not take action until it becomes a crisis," Barkell said in an interview Friday.

Barkell also said she repeatedly warned Arpaio that the agency could not use restricted jail funds to pay for other functions, such as patrol, human-smuggling enforcement and public-corruption investigations. A county investigation into the use of the jail funds found the Sheriff's Office misspent $99.5 million over eight years.

After Babeu's report was released and Hendershott was fired, an Arpaio representative said only a few staff members shared their concerns about Hendershott with Arpaio, and they came forward just before Munnell's letter became public.

But Babeu's investigators spoke with a former sheriff's deputy who wrote a memo to Arpaio in the 1990s that raised some of the same concerns about Hendershott.

Reached by phone, former sheriff's Lt. Roy Reyer recalled that Arpaio was dismissive of his concerns about Hendershott and instead questioned Reyer as to why he raised the issues with former Chief Deputy Jadel Roe.

"He looked me square in the eyes with my memo in the hand and said, 'Reyer, you're a damn liar,' and throws it on the ground," Reyer said last week. "I couldn't stay there anymore. I was a 'dime dropper' in his eyes."

Reyer retired and pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit computer tampering in 2001. Arpaio said that conviction raised questions about Reyer's credibility, and that Reyer was disgruntled with changes in the Sheriff's Office after Arpaio began his first term.

"I vaguely remember it," Arpaio said of Reyer's complaints about Hendershott. "Jadel Roe, I'm sure, took care of it."

After Roe retired and Arpaio appointed Hendershott chief deputy, Arpaio took a similar approach when employees expressed concerns about Hendershott.

"I advised him to knock it off and apologize, and he did," Arpaio said.

Other longtime employees like Barkell, however, believe Arpaio was blindly loyal to Hendershott - and, toward the end of Hendershott's time with the Sheriff's Office, even scared of him. Barkell told Babeu's investigators that she had told Arpaio of her concerns about Hendershott several times over the past 10 years.

"It would always be the same conversation," she said.

She remembered describing Hendershott to Arpaio: "He's very hostile. He's very mean. He's very nasty. He degrades people. He intimidates people. He bullies people. He can't do this, Sheriff. As your HR person, I'm telling you, he can't do this."

In the end, Arpaio's advisers may share some of the blame with Arpaio for not discerning a pattern of conduct amid the many warning signs.

"There are little things here, little things there. But people want to believe everything's OK and going well," Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan said, comparing it to the nation's crumbling housing market several years ago. The eventual economic collapse was the wake-up call.

"When the Munnell memo hits, that's our version of the economy tanking."


Friday, May 13, 2011

Surprise police fire officer on suspicion of DUI charge

Mike Phillips, a rookie police officer who dreamed of becoming a detective, was fired Monday following his April arrest on suspicion of aggravated DUI and endangerment, Surprise Police Department officials said.

Phillips, who lives in Waddell, was arrested April 12 by fellow officers after police said he bumped another vehicle at a low speed with his vehicle outside his child's school, police said. Police said the incident did not occur on school property.

Phillips did not return a request for comment.

Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesman Jerry Cobb said prosecutors haven't charged Phillips and are seeking more information.

Cobb said it could take several months for prosecutors to decide.

"There's no real yardstick because each of these things is different," he said.

Police said Phillips was impaired by a "nervous system depressant" at the time of the incident. That could be any number of things, including cold medicine, authorities said.

Police said Phillips was at Paradise Education Centers, at 15533 W. Paradise Lane, to drop off his child. He was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail and placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Sgt. Mark Ortega, a department spokesman, said Phillips' supervisors took into account the severity of the charges and the fact that he was a probationary employee before they decided to fire him.

Phillips, a 39-year-old rookie on the job less than a year, was a longtime McDonald's franchise manager. He told The Republic in August of his dreams of becoming a detective.

Lt. Penny Riherd said at the time that Phillips was hired in part because he was new to law enforcement.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputy accused of domestic violence

A Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputy and former reality TV show cast member was arrested Saturday on suspicion of domestic violence, authorities said Monday.

Deputy Deborah Moyer, who was featured last year in TLC's "Real Police Women of Maricopa County," was arrested in connection with assault and domestic violence, said Jay Davies, a spokesman for the Peoria Police Department.

Officers went to an apartment complex near 83rd Avenue and Thunderbird Road at about 6 p.m. in response to a 911 caller who reported hearing an argument from a nearby apartment, Davies said.

Officers suspect Moyer was the primary aggressor in an argument with her husband, Davies said. The name of Moyer's husband was not released. Police believe that Moyers scratched her husband on his head and upper torso, Davies said.

As Moyer was being taken into the police station, she reportedly looked pale and complained that she was having chest pains, Davies said. After Peoria Fire Department paramedics evaluated her, she was taken to a local hospital, Davies said.

Moyer faces misdemeanor charges, he added.

The four-episode reality show depicted Moyer and three other women in law enforcement as they juggled families and career.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Sergeant Sean Drenth Death Investigation: "Significant Evidence Someone Was at the Scene"

The Phoenix Police Department held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the findings of the soon-to-be-released report on the investigation into the death of Sergeant Sean Drenth, who was found shot to death near the State Capitol last October.

The report, as Phoenix police officials explain, offers a lot of questions, but few answers as to who shot Drenth -- and it's still unclear whether his death was a suicide or murder.

One thing, however, seems clear: Drenth wasn't the only person at the scene in the 29-minute window from when he got there to when his body was discovered by a State Capitol Police officer.

Detectives were able to track Drenth's movements for the two hours prior to when his body was discovered via-a GPS device in his squad car. According to Lieutenant Joe Knott, head of the P.P.D.'s homicide unit, Drenth was doing routine patrol in the areas between 7th Avenue to the I-17, and Buckeye Road and Jefferson Street during the two hours before his death.

About 10:26 p.m., Drenth's vehicle pulled into a parking lot near railroad tracks across from the state capitol. The spot is popular amongst cops who often park there to do paperwork. Drenth activated a computer device in his cruiser that indicates when he's stopped someone, which suggests he'd encountered someone near the parking lot.

About 30 minutes later, his body was discovered next to the open passenger door of his squad car with a shotgun wound under his chin and his shotgun resting on his chest as he lay on his back.

"The biggest question is the position of the shotgun," Knott says. He notes, it's very possible someone staged the crime scene and placed the shotgun on Drenth's dead body, so finding the gun on his chest isn't the smoking gun (pardon the pun) that he killed himself.

Adding to the mystery is that Drenth's service weapon was found on the other side of a fence on the west side of the parking lot where his body was found. Another of Drenth's weapons was found next to his body. One bullet had been fired in the direction of where the other gun was found.

If Drenth killed himself, it seems he made the scene as confusing as possible for investigators -- unless someone found his body in the 29 minutes between when he got to the parking lot and when his body was discovered and moved evidence around; a scenario police aren't ruling out.

"We have significant evidence to suggest someone was at the scene," Knott says. Finding out who that person was is the problem investigators continue to face.

Based on police interviews with friends and family, it doesn't seem as though Drenth was the kind of guy who wanted to kill himself.

"Absolutely nobody thinks Sean Drenth would have killed himself for any reason," Knott says of those close to the dead sergeant.

In his own opinion of whether Drenth was murdered or committed suicide, Knott doesn't know what to think.

"I started at 50/50 [in terms of whether it was murder or suicide]," he says. "Throughout the investigation, that's shifted in both directions...it's extremely frustrating."

Knott says we may never know exactly what happened to Drenth, but the case remains open and the department will continue to investigate.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Phoenix police officer investigated over shove captured on video

A 6½-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department is the subject of a criminal and internal investigation after a video surfaced on YouTube that shows him roughly shoving a girl during a police call, authorities said.

The officer, Patrick Larrison, has been put on administrative leave pending the investigations, Phoenix police officials said in a press release.

Sgt. Trent Crump, a department spokesman, said the incident occurred in January but that it did not come to police attention until Tuesday night when a department employee spotted the video on the Internet and notified a police supervisor.

The incident purportedly involved the girl in an altercation with a woman in a parking lot. The woman, apparently a parent, and the girl are seen on the ground for some time; the girl managed to get free and was walking away when an officer responding to the scene approaches her from behind and knocks her off her feet.

She's seen lying on the ground motionless for a short while; the officer then handcuffs her and walks her back toward a police vehicle.

The incident reportedly occurred near Ombudsman Charter School near 40th Street and Thomas Road.

"The video at face value is of great concern to the Department and we are taking the matter very seriously," Crump wrote in the press release.

Authorities said that in addition to the criminal and internal probes, Larrison was immediately placed on administrative leave and the juvenile division of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office was notified.