Joe Arpaio's Alleged DUI-Deputies: Lieutenant Aaron Brown and Detective Stephen Palmer
MCSO Lt. Aaron Brown after his arrest by the Tempe PD in November for DUI
My general rule when it comes to drinking is that I do mine at home. Life is so much simpler that way.
It's a bit of wisdom two of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's boys in beige might profit from: MCSO Lieutenant Aaron Brown and sex crimes detective Stephen Palmer, both of whom are charged with driving while impaired in separate incidents that occurred this past fall.
Brown, 37, is accused of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or above, and Palmer, 33, is charged with extreme DUI, driving with a blood alcohol content of .20 or above.
As far as I can tell, each man is still working for the MCSO, and their cases are pending in city courts: Palmer's in Phoenix, Brown's in Tempe.
I say, "as far as I can tell," because the MCSO refuses to answer questions about either man, including whether or not they have been disciplined. I have requested each deputy's personnel file from the sheriff's office, to see if there is a record of any discipline.
Read Special Victims Unit detective Stephen Palmer's arrest report. (NB: A charge of driving with a blood alcohol content of .20 or above was added after this report was filed.)
Brown's November arrest occurred after an unusual incident at Tempe's Tailgate Sports Bar, where his fiancee was suspected of setting a garbage can on fire inside the establishment.
Tempe police officer J. Werhnyak responded to the call, spotted a white GMC truck leaving the property and followed. When Brown, who was driving, allegedly failed to halt at a stop sign, Werhnyak pulled the truck over.
According to Werhnyak's report of the incident, Brown's fiancee Joy Presley and a man named Masamichi Wakimoto were in the vehicle with him. Brown threw his keys to Presley, who then ran into Brown's house behind a locked security gate.
As the report tells it, Brown, who was armed, was none too happy with being pulled over.
"The male driver had a thousand mile stare and looked very angry," writes Werhnyak. "He advanced toward me and I ordered him to stop but he continued. After the second warning, I drew my Taser. I pointed it at his center of mass and he stopped.
"I told both males to sit down and the Asian male complied. The driver of the vehicle, later identified as Aaron Brown did not. Instead he advised he was a Lieutenant with "County," and stated he knows how these things go. I ordered him to the ground again just as Officer Couillard approached and yelled for him to sit down."
MCSO Special Victims Unit detective Stephen Palmer faces extreme DUI charges in Phoenix City Court
Brown complied and was questioned by the two officers.
"Both of us know that from here on out, I have a lot to explain, whether anything happened or not," Brown is quoted telling officers in the report. "I get to pay in my career [sic] whether anything happened or not.
"[P]ut yourself in my position. You're a Lieutenant. You're the commander of the training division. You're sitting here on the curb in front of your house talking to police officers who are talking about your fiancee possibly setting fire in some sort of establishment. You don't think that's going to affect you? Think about it."
You can't make this stuff up. It could almost be a George Jones tune.
"There's no easy way out of it. You know you're S.O.L. That's what I'm trying to explain and you know that too," he says.
Werhnyak writes, "Brown also said that he has been through a lot in his career."
About this time, Werhnyak "observed the distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from [Brown's] breath."
Another officer describes Brown's eyes as "bloodshot and watery." Brown admits to drinking five 12 ounce beers at the bar over a three and a-half hour period.
The officer administers several field sobriety tests. Let's just say Brown does not pass with flying colors.
Brown's then arrested and taken to a Tempe DUI van where he submits to the breath tests, and ultimately blows .105 and .104, according to the report.
But that's not before Brown apparently tries ye ole burping technique, wherein someone so nabbed burps before the breath test in an attempt to cause further delay and mess up the results.
Brown belches, and the testing officer asks Brown not to burp, to which he replies, "That might be hard, my life is flashing before my eyes."
The officer threatens to have his blood drawn instead.
"Aaron stated he would stop burping," reads the report. "He never burped again during the process."
Brown was charged with one count of DUI, one count of DUI with a BAC greater than .08 and failure to stop at a stop sign. The cops released him to his mother. He has a pre-trial conference scheduled for March 19.
The charges against Palmer, who is assigned to the Special Victims Unit (aka, sex crimes), are more serious. On September 9, 2012, Phoenix cops found him, according to the police report, "passed out" in the driver's seat of his truck, with the engine still running, and the front wheel up on a curve.
It took a lot for the cops to wake Palmer. Sergeant Ralph Flores, Palmer's arresting officer, shook him and barked orders at him until he was sentient.
Flores noted the strong smell of alcohol coming from inside the vehicle, and that Palmer's speech was slurred. The sergeant relates that he did not finish field sobriety tests due to Palmer "not being able to stand on his own."
When asked where he was employed, Palmer said he "worked for Joe Arpaio" as a deputy sheriff.
"I asked the subject if he had been drinking," writes Flores. "He said that was a stupid question and said yes."
Flores told Palmer he could be arrested for DUI because he was allegedly snockered and found sitting behind the wheel snoozing, "with the ignition on."
Writes Flores, "Mr. Palmer replied in a very condescending voice `do what you got to do.'"
When Flores tried to administer the breath test, "Palmer turned his head and told me to get it away...[he] was very defiant during the entire contact."
Because Palmer refused the breath test, the cops drew blood. An analysis indicated that the blood sample had an alcohol concentration of .232.
Palmer currently faces two DUI charges, two extreme DUI charges, and a citation for stopping his car on the curb. His next court date is March 7.
Several cops I've spoken to at different agencies in the Valley tell me that the discipline meted out by a department to a cop in either of these situations would be severe, and might include suspension or even firing.
Though MCSO has not replied to my requests for info on Brown and Palmer, my sources indicate that both men are still employed by MCSO and neither were suspended. If I find out differently, I'll update this post.
I have not heard of Palmer before, but Brown has already earned a reputation during his tenure with MCSO. Not only did Brown once play aide-de-camp to fired, disgraced ex-MCSO Chief Deputy David Hendershott, he also was mentioned prominently in the investigation into the Fiesta Bowl scandal.
See, the lieutenant ran Blue Steel Consulting, a security consulting company that came into existence because ex-Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker gave Brown $350K of Fiesta Bowl funds to help Blue Steel get started.
It's been reported that the Fiesta Bowl paid Brown's firm more than $500,000 in one year, and the special counsel's report on the scandal related how Junker and Brown once held a "security site planning session" at Phoenix's Bourbon Street strip club, where Junker dropped $1,241 during the course of the evening.
There's more. Brown and another deputy, Jason Lier, were involved in an incident in 2005, where Lier shot a man's eye out during their stay in post-Katrina New Orleans, ostensibly to help the residents.
With Brown driving, Lier fired at the unarmed man for no apparent reason. That episode cost the county $2 million in a settlement with the victim.
Which, just reading about, makes me long for a stiff drink. At home, mind you. At home.
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