Life Interrupted

Derrick Allen was ruined thanks to a shoddy investigation. It's time he be given his life back.

Rapp says he believes state prosecutors may have been told by DOC investigators that there was more evidence than there actually was. He, too, wonders if state prosecutors ever received evidence, such as Thomas' letter to fellow inmates, that would have quickly exonerated Allen.

"I think it's safe to say [attorney general prosecutors] were misled by the [DOC] investigator," Rapp says.

On April 17 of this year, Derrick Allen was hauled off shoeless to the Madison Street Jail. Allen says the DOC investigator, Smith, came along with police officers when they came to make the arrest. Allen says Smith was "laughing at me."

Corrections officer Derrick Allen
Emily Piraino
Corrections officer Derrick Allen

Allen was placed in protective custody. Alone in his cell, he dropped to his knees and prayed.

Five minutes later, he says, his warden showed up and told him he "needed to confess immediately." The warden then ordered him "to sign papers and quit right now."

After he was released on bail, Allen's life continued to fall apart. His fiancée, who also works in the prison system, initially made him sleep on the couch and "didn't want to be touched."

Friends began to abandon him.

"I got so many nasty looks," he says. "I found out I don't have too many real friends."

He applied for a security job at Sky Harbor Airport, only to be turned down because of the hovering indictments. Other potential employers ignored him.

He lost his car. Without health insurance, he had to tap what little savings he had to pay for the transfusions his sick son needs each month. He has been borrowing money from more than two dozen friends and family members to try to stay afloat and give his child the medical treatments he needs to stay alive.

Although it was Thomas' lies that sparked the investigation, Allen says most of his anger falls on investigators.

"Inmates are going to lie to try to get at officers," he says. "That's just part of the job.

"But the way the department went after me with no evidence, it makes me extremely angry. I just believe the investigator [Smith] should be sought after and punished."

That may happen. Darrell Smith is now under investigation by the Arizona Police Standards and Training Board for alleged misconduct in this case. Smith would lose his board certification if charges against him are sustained.

Smith says he is confident the Standards and Training Board investigation will find him innocent of any wrongdoing.

Beyond that, Foy and other police and corrections officers are correct in calling for an investigation of the Department of Corrections criminal investigations unit.

Most important, for Allen's sake, the attorney general needs to publicly announce the full exoneration of Derrick Allen. And if state prosecutors were indeed misinformed, they need to pursue charges against DOC officials involved in any deception.

"I just need the attorney general to swipe my record clean so I can get on with my life. I just think I deserve to have my name cleared."

Yes, he deserves to have it said again:

Derrick Allen is an innocent man.

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