Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Pearce is still under investigation by city prosecutors in connection with his speed-related crash that killed a man in December, New Times has learned.
The job of the City Prosecutor's Office is to prosecute people for misdemeanor crimes, meaning that Pearce, the son of disgraced GOP politician Russell Pearce, apparently still faces some criminal charges despite an announcement in June by County Attorney Bill Montgomery that Pearce was off the hook.
A random security camera caught the terrifying impact on video on December 16 as Pearce, driving an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe at speeds up to 81 mph in a 40-mph zone, plowed into a Nissan Cube driven by John Edward Harding, 63. Harding later died at a hospital. Glendale police concluded that if Pearce hadn't been speeding, the crash wouldn't have happened.
Montgomery told the public in June that various mitigating circumstances in the crash meant that no crime had occurred. For instance, the deputy had been helping to track a homicide suspect in a taxi on another street -- he was a cop doing his job, in other words. Plus, the views of each driver in the crash vehicles may have been obscured by a third vehicle making a turn.
Montgomery said he believes civil court is the best place to resolve the matter, putting him at odds, it seems, with Glendale prosecutors, whose probe was overlooked by the news media -- including New Times -- until now.
In June, Sheriff Arpaio told the Arizona Republic, reportedly, that, "Pearce is still on regular duty, but that his office is reviewing the matter to determine whether Pearce acted outside of policy or if disciplinary actions are warranted."
However, Arpaio was apparently wrong about that.
We requested a copy of the MCSO internal affairs report on June 13, and Lieutenant Brandon Jones, MCSO spokesman, finally got back to us yesterday on the request, saying no such record or report existed yet:
"Please be advised, MCSO Internal Affairs Division has not conducted an investigation at this time due to an ongoing investigation by the City of Glendale Prosecutors Office," Jones wrote." MCSO is currently awaiting the results of the Glendale City Prosecutors Office prior to moving forward on this case, therefore there is no report to provide at this time."
The Glendale City Prosecutor's Office -- through Julie Frisoni, Assistant City Manager -- confirmed the existence of the investigation but declined to comment further.
Harding's family submitted a $5 million notice of claim to the county in May but hasn't yet sued. The family's lawyer, Marc Victor, hadn't heard of the Glendale probe but hopes the city prosecutors consider criminal charges against Pearce. Victor says the family plans to launch a lawsuit by the end of this month.
"I believe the average person would have been charged here," Victor says. "It's an outrage. This should be at least negligent homicide."
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While the city can't handle a felony homicide case, prosecutors could hit Pearce with charges like criminal speeding, potentially. On the other hand, perhaps Pearce would be charged only with a civil-traffic violation and end up paying a small fine. Either way, a conviction could theoretically help influence a jury in a civil case.
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