Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Karen O'Connor ruled this week that the due-process rights of four Phoenix police officers may have been violated by a biased grand-jury presentation that resulted in their indictments in a case involving off-duty work assignments.
In documents released Friday, O'Connor explained why she tossed out the case against the four officers.
The indictments obtained by the Arizona Attorney General's Office stemmed from an investigation by the Phoenix Police Department of allegations that some officers did not work off-duty hours they claimed to have worked and for which they were paid. Charges included theft and fraud.
The officers were accused of "submitting hours prior to the scheduled shift and then only working a portion of the hours," according to investigative records.
One officer left the force, but the other three were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of their case.
In tossing the case, the judge said in a court document released Friday: "The defendants are entitled to due process. Due process requires a fair and impartial grand-jury presentation. This was not done here."
The document lists several missteps the prosecution made in its presentation to the grand jury, including prosecutors' failure to reveal that there is no Police Department policy or requirement for off-duty service agreements to be in writing.
Also, the court document says, the department has no policy requiring the defendants to document their hours on the days they actually worked, and there is no policy requiring the start and stop time to begin and end on the work site.
"The judge has granted the defendants' motion to vacate all future court dates," said Phoenix attorney Craig Mehrens, who represents one officer. "There are no pending court dates. Now it remains for Arizona Attorney General's Office to return the case to the grand jury if they so desire, or drop it."
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said Friday that his staff had not yet digested O'Connor's ruling, but he expected that a decision would be made by Tuesday on whether to take the case back to the grand jury or to drop it.