Former homicide detective David Barnes -- a key player in our cover story last year about dysfunction in the Phoenix Police Department's homicide bureau -- has been indicted on charges of perjury and harassment.
Blogger Jeff Pataky, an associate of Barnes' and the founder of www.badphoenixcops.com, has also been indicted on counts of perjury and false swearing.
The perjury charges, which are felonies, accuse the two men of lying under oath in a custody hearing involving Pataky's two young sons. The misdemeanor harassment charges allege that Barnes harassed two of his fellow homicide detectives, Mike and Heather Polombo.
Barnes blamed Mike Polombo for his demotion from homicide to patrol in June 2008. Almost immediately after Barnes' demotion, nasty speculation about the Polombos began appearing on the Bad Phoenix Cops Web site. It's unclear from the indictment what actions, specifically, triggered the harassment charge.
The perjury indictments are more clear cut.
On November 15, 2008 -- after he'd been communicating with blogger Pataky for months -- Barnes filed a police report saying he just happened to run into Pataky at a Home Depot parking lot. "He advised me he was going to call the police and before he did, he wanted to know if I could help him," Barnes wrote.
Barnes then wrote up a police report, in which Pataky alleged that his ex-wife had violated a court order barring her from contacting him.
Both Barnes and Pataky then testified in a custody hearing about their interaction. Both men swore that they'd never met before that date, according to today's indictment. Pataky apparently also swore that he didn't operate the BadPhoenixCops Web site.
Both claims, according to the indictment, are untrue.
Indeed, as we reported in a column last year, Pataky and Barnes apparently began communicating even before Barnes' official demotion from homicide. They had exchanged dozens of emails and talked on the phone at least six times before their supposed "chance" meeting in the Home Depot parking lot.
The case was investigated by the Phoenix Police Department and prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
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Phoenix Police Sergeant Trent Crump told New Times that in his 25 years on the force, he can't remember a single time when a current police officer has been indicted.
"It's extremely unusual," Crump said. "Any time we have an employee who engages in something like this, it's a setback for us. ... It's a black eye for the department."
When a search warrant was executed on Pataky's home last March, the blogger cried foul, claiming the police were trying to shut down a (loud) critic. Crump rejected that idea tonight, noting that the charges against Pataky won't affect his Web site: "We understand he has a First Amendment right, and we respect that right."
Barnes, a 14-year department veteran, has been on leave from the Phoenix PD since March of 2009. It's unclear what impact this indictment will have on the murder cases he handled, including the Baseline Killer case. We can only imagine that defense attorneys have already begun to salivate at the possibilities.