DON'T MESS WITH THE MARSHAL
This is what Pete Span believes.
Two United States marshals went to the home of his elderly father in search of a fugitive. Without a warrant, the officers ransacked the house and roughed up the 74-year-old man.
After leaving the father's home, the marshals went to the Span family's place of business. They got into an argument with Pete's brother and sister. Convinced the Spans were hiding a fugitive, the marshals assaulted the siblings and placed them under arrest. When the 72-year-old Span mother took photographs of the marshals strangling her children in choke holds, she too was mauled and arrested. In jail, Pete's mother collapsed and had to be rushed to a hospital emergency room. More than two years after the fight, the matriarch of the family still isn't back to normal. She no longer drives, she stares off into space, she believes the marshals will come back.
In poor health to begin with, Pete's father never recovered from the rousting. Two months to the day after the visit from the marshals, the old man died.
Next week, Pete's brother and sister, Jerry and Darlene Span, will be given mandatory sentences of up to three years in prison for resisting arrest and attacking federal officers.
The fugitive being sought by the U.S. marshals was Mickey Michael, age 63. One of the Span kids is called Mickey Michael, but he is only 39. The marshals had the wrong man.
Pete Span cannot believe what has happened to his family.
The mistake by the marshals has destroyed a family that most of you have met at one time or another.
For more than three decades, the ten Span kids have walked the aisles of sporting events selling Cokes and hot dogs. They have worked the parades, the state fairs, the festivals, wherever there was a crowd in need of a drink or something to eat. During the holidays, they sold so many evergreens that their land on Buckeye Road was nicknamed Christmas Tree Corner. The family also salvaged old buildings and then sold the doors, windows and blocks to construction crews looking to save a buck. Just about as soon as a Span kid could stand up straight, the parents put the child to work. They were a God-fearing, hard-toiling, salt-of-the-earth clan born and raised in Phoenix.
A couple of the kids established reputations beyond their industrious family. One daughter, Pumpkin, is a glamorous model with an overseas reputation. Pete Span grew up to distinguish himself at Arizona State University, where he graduated with honors in business at the same time that he was the Western Athletic Conference champion in the steeplechase. Later, Pete won the first three Fiesta Bowl Marathons and placed 25th in a Boston Marathon.
Pete underlines his family's roots in Arizona as if these terrible events could not befall people who have worked so hard for so long.
It is indeed unbelievable.
But then every episode in this case is unique. For one thing, almost all of the violence was photographed. Pete, his sister Bonnie and the mother Virginia all had cameras out during the assault. Another unusual aspect, considering the marshals' allegations, was that the government was initially prepared to walk away.
Long after the ordeal of booking, after Jerry and Darlene had spent five days in jail, after the bond hearing, the government offered what observers labeled a reasonable deal.
In return for a plea of no contest, one year's probation, and five days' jail time, in addition to the five already served, the government would close out the case.
In a letter dated July 28, 1989, defense attorney Murray Miller wrote the Spans: "I would be remiss in my duty as your counsel if I did not point out to you that in my judgment I would recommend accepting the present plea bargain offer rather than run the risk of a felony conviction. When you are dealing with juries, it is difficult to predict what their verdict might be."
The Spans felt this might be a great offer if you were guilty. But they were innocent and they could prove it. What's more, Jerry and Darlene had already spent five days in jail and now the government expected five more? Not on your life. Get your witnesses, we're going to trial.
So the Spans took on the federal government, and now Jerry and Darlene are looking at three years in a federal pen.
The government's case was built around the testimony of law enforcement officers.
Marshals Garry T. Grotewold and David A. Dains swore under oath that Jerry Span, unprovoked, punched Marshal Grotewold in the chest and then reached for the officer's pistol. As Grotewold attempted to arrest Span, the marshal's partner moved to join the struggle. Both officers said Darlene Span then attacked Marshal Dains, knocking his glasses off and clawing his face and permanently damaging his knee. During the melee, said Dains, the mother, Virginia Span, clubbed him over the head with her 35mm camera.
When the marshals attempted to seize the camera as evidence, the mother resisted, going so far as to strike a Phoenix police officer who'd just arrived upon the scene. Virginia Span was led off in handcuffs.
Far from being a simple, hardworking family, Deputy U.S. Attorney Ivan Mathew pictured the Spans as a family of carnies--Marshal Dains in the witness chair referred to the Spans as "codified country backwoods fucks"--who were at war with the City of Phoenix.
Because the Span property was in the process of being seized by the city in eminent domain proceedings, Mathew explained, a frustrated Jerry Span went for the marshal's gun believing the officers were part of a condemnation proceeding to evict them.
The federal government seized upon this extraordinary theory to explain why Jerry Span would lunge for the pistol, a move that is inexplicable without some motive.
In fact there was a high level of tension between the Spans and City Hall.
At a bond hearing following the arrests, Span attorney Ken Lincoln told the magistrate that because of the relocation dispute, he'd advised his clients, just 48 hours before the marshals showed up, " . . . that they are not to talk to any agency officer of any government in the United States, city, county or federal because of the problems . . . and I literally have told them that they can call me 24 hours a day and I would physically get in the car and drive to this location where all of this happened to interface with the agency . . . "
Nonetheless, the government's contention that Jerry Span went blood simple and attempted to grab Marshal Grotewold's gun over an eminent domain fight makes little common sense. Like most folks who get in a condemnation argument with the city, the Spans felt they weren't getting enough money for their land. And they resisted with every ounce of conniving, street-smart energy they could muster. But they did it through channels, with lawyers at hearings and in court.
Jerry Span is a slight fellow, barely 130 pounds. Far from being violent, he's meek, according to neighbors. He has never been in trouble with the law. And then suddenly he goes berserk and punches a marshal who weighed more than 220 pounds and follows this incredible act of bravado by trying to grab the officer's holstered pistol?
To do what?
On the other hand, are we to believe that Marshals Grotewold and Dains simply went off like a couple of Hell's Angels bikers, assaulting innocent civilians for no reason at all?
What are we left with to judge?
We are left with eyewitnesses who in each and every important detail corroborate the Spans. The eyewitnesses claim the marshals became violent as the Spans attempted to leave the scene.
We are left with a colleague of Dains and Grotewold, another U.S. marshal, who boldly stepped forward and offered to give evidence on the two marshals' reputation for provoking violence.
After Jerry and Darlene Span were found guilty, five jurors signed statements expressing their outrage over what happened in the courtroom. The jurors thought the marshals lied and that they had indeed attacked the Spans.
So why then are Jerry and Darlene Span going to prison?
TODAY, WE ARE ALL United States marshals. Television has turned law enforcement's pursuit of fugitives into armchair recreation. Wanted posters flash across the screen accompanied by lurid tales of wrongdoing on some of the industry's highest-rated shows. At the conclusion of these programs, viewers are requested to phone in tips if they have seen the felon in the neighborhood. When the Hollywood make-believe is over, the reality is a lot grittier. Most apprehended felons are run to ground through old-fashioned police work. The responsibility for picking up federal felons falls to the marshal's office.
It is a dangerous job.
On April 7, 1988, Marshals Dains and Grotewold drove to 1235 East Fillmore Street looking for Mickey Michael.
For two months, leads from a confidential informant had been filtering into the Phoenix office. Acting on the belief that the fugitive was in the Valley, the marshals obtained a court order forcing the phone company to open their files. The records traced Mickey Michael to the Fillmore address.
The marshals' intelligence revealed that Michael skipped out of Hammond, Indiana, in 1979 to avoid a theft conviction of three years. Possessing a lengthy record and a reputation for trafficking in firearms, Michael had already pulled one stretch at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
There was one other thing about Mickey Michael. In the file that Grotewold and Dains carried with them, there was an underlined notation. According to the marshals' confidential source, Mickey Michael was armed and dangerous. The folder carried this handwritten warning: "He always carries a loaded weapon and will resist arrest."
In his courtroom testimony, Marshal Grotewold gave no indication that the pursuit of Michael might have had their adrenaline pumping. The old man who answered the door answered their questions, allowed Dains to search his home and then gave them directions to the Span business on Buckeye, where they might find Mickey Michael. After searching the residence for no more than two minutes, Grotewold testified, Dains returned to join them on the front porch; before leaving, Dains fetched the old man's mail and his newspaper for him.
Dains' testimony is less benign.
Smirking at the memory, Marshal Dains recalled how repulsed he was by the 74-year-old man who greeted them at 1235 East Fillmore. "He was extremely filthy and I just didn't want to touch him," said Dains. "His forehead was caked with something green, kind of a greenish color, tint to it. His hair was matted down and such."
Nonetheless, Dains hopped down and ran after the old man's newspaper and mail. And the marshal agreed with Grotewold that even though they had no warrant, the old man allowed them to search his home for Mickey Michael.
Dains also concurred that he was in the home for no more than two minutes.
There are a number of things about this testimony that stand out.
The arrest reports as well as the court testimony quote the marshals as saying they departed their office at 2 p.m., stopped at the Fillmore home, talked briefly to the old man, spent two minutes searching the home and then departed for the Span business on East Buckeye Road, arriving at 3 p.m.
Retracing the marshals' steps, there is no way it would have taken until 3 p.m. to arrive at the Spans' business if they had spent only a couple of minutes searching the old man's home. There is a block of time unaccounted for in the marshals' version.
Additionally there are, on the Fillmore property, enormous storage buildings as large as the home itself which the marshals claimed they never checked out. This is odd behavior if the marshals were serious about apprehending their fugitive.
Finally, the old man, Bill Span, is described by the marshals as suspicious and uncooperative. And yet this cagey fellow simply invites the lawmen to search his home even though the lawmen lack a warrant?
Last week in an interview, Alice Span said she discovered her 74-year-old father huddled on his kitchen floor sobbing and bruised shortly after the marshals' visit. The house had been torn apart.
In papers filed with the court, the Span children recounted what their father told them of the marshals' visit. When the old man insisted upon seeing a search warrant, he said the heavyset officer (Grotewold) grabbed him and pinned him roughly against the wall while Dains searched the residence.
"I warned them that my dogs bite, when he opened the door. Whitey ran out and bit the heavy man in the hand . . . The tall guy finally came out of the house and jumped over the fence. He was in the side yard for about ten minutes . . . ."
For several days after the visit, the children say, their 74-year-old father nursed a swollen eye and a knot on his head.
"I tried to get him to a doctor," said Alice Span. "He wouldn't go. He was too frightened."
Two months later, Bill Span died.
When Grotewold and Dains arrived at 1924 East Buckeye, they were met by Darlene Span.
As customers stood around waiting to purchase building supplies, the marshals showed Darlene the wanted flyer for fugitive Mickey Michael.
Like her father, Bill Span, Darlene said she knew a Mickey Michael (her brother) but unlike the man in the fugitive poster, who was elderly, the fellow she knew was in his thirties.
According to Grotewold's testimony, Darlene then took the flyer to make a photocopy of it. Telling her she could not do that, Grotewold retrieved the wanted poster from her.
"As I was giving it back to Deputy Dains, there was a man yelling at me," said Grotewold. "He told me to `get the fuck off of the property,' I didn't have any business there."
Warning Jerry Span to stay out of the discussion and identifying himself as a federal agent, Grotewold said, he was then attacked.
"As I was turning, I got a glancing blow off the chest," Grotewold testified. "I turned back around and pushed him back. Again, I was turning back my attention toward Deputy Dains and Darlene and I felt something and looked. He was trying to pull the gun out of my pants. I was shocked.
"I turned as quickly as I could with my right arm. I'm sure I struck him. I don't know exactly where."
In his arrest report Grotewold wrote: "During the time when I was first struck by Jerry Span to the time of the arrival of the first Phoenix PD officers on the scene, it is my estimate that I was struck in the chest, head, shoulders, torso and genitals by Jerry Span at least 30-40 times and that he attempted to take possession of my handgun at least 5-10 times . . . I feared for my life during this situation."
Despite his paperwork that alleges that the enormous Grotewold apparently took a severe beating at the hands of the 130-pound, 52-year-old Jerry Span, photographs taken after the incident show a remarkably unscathed marshal.
Because he was taking a photographic inventory of the family's business supplies as documentation for the city regarding the upcoming move, Pete Span was carrying a 35mm camera. When he heard the two strangers raise their voices with Darlene and Jerry, he turned his attention and his lens to the commotion.
Marshal Dains testified that the family did more than simply take pictures. As he went to the aid of his partner who was restraining Jerry Span, Dains said he was attacked from behind by Darlene, who knocked his glasses off and scratched his face. As he wrestled to control her, Dains said, Darlene fell against his knee causing a permanent injury.
Once he had her under control Dains remembered Darlene saying to someone with a camera, "Take a good picture of me while I pose with a pained expression on my face."
By now pictures of the altercation were being snapped by both Pete Span and his 72-year-old mother, Virginia.
When Phoenix police arrived, Darlene and Jerry were placed in separate cars and Dains seized Virginia's camera as evidence.
"I took the camera from Virginia Span . . . She'd been hitting me over the head with it and I was going to seize it as evidence of an assault on myself," said Dains. "She was a very elderly individual and it was fairly easy to get the camera. My intention was to preserve the hair and possibly the blood on the camera."
Virginia Span resisted giving up the camera and was handcuffed and taken to a police station. Phoenix patrolman Bill Jenkins said the old lady hit him too.
Although both Grotewold and Dains made extensive lists of their injuries, nowhere does Dains mention the lacerations or lumps upon the scalp that one would expect from repeated blows of a 35mm camera. Nor for that matter did the government even bother to test the camera for hair and blood samples.
Phoenix patrolman Kirk Irby reported that as he led Virginia Span to the squad car for the ride to the police station, she lunged for the can of mace on his belt.
This allegation conflicts with the fact that Virginia Span's hands were cuffed behind her back at the time.
In fact everything alleged by the law enforcement officers is in conflict with what the Span family members contend happened on April 7, 1988.
Darlene said that when the marshals refused to allow her to photocopy the wanted flyer, she told them there was nothing more that she and Jerry could do for them. They had customers to wait on and the marshals should leave. After they turned to depart, the two officers grabbed both of them.
Jerry Span's story is identical and begins when he first notices Darlene talking to two men.
"All three of them are standing in front of the block customer's truck and I nodded hello to them when I was walking toward the back of the truck to finish loading it," said Jerry Span. "And Darlene called me back over to see if I could help the two men. And they wanted to know if that folded-up paper that they had was a picture of my brother, Mickey, and I told them no, it's not. They acted like they didn't believe me, and Darlene read me the description on the paper of who it was and all that, the description of it, to see if I knew who it was, because I ain't able to read. I told him it's absolutely not my brother. I told them I never seen that person in my life and I don't know who it is."
The recollection is at critical odds with the government's case. Prosecutor Mathew charged that Jerry Span initiated the attack, punched the marshal and went for his gun because Jerry was deluded into thinking the officers were part of the city's conspiracy to evict them from the land.
Obviously if Jerry Span knew the marshals were looking for a fugitive, a fugitive who had the same name as his brother but who was almost thirty years older, he would not have assumed the marshals were evicting them.
"I asked him could he leave the information and if I see him around, I could, let me know who to notify and I'll notify him," said Jerry Span. "And all I know, they started yelling and screaming at Darlene to get Mickey here right now, right this minute. And points right to a spot on the ground. `You get them right here, right now!' Darlene said, `I told you, he's not here, he's at a truck sale.' And they said she was lying, they was threatening her, all kinds of threats, and they was acting just like maniacs.
"So then I asked them to leave and I told them, `We helped you all we could, we can't help you no more, I'm going to have to go back to my customers and help them.' And I turned my back and walked away.
"All of a sudden then I was bashed in the back of the neck, kicked to the back and knocked to the ground, and I had no idea what hit me and I didn't know what knocked me to the ground, but it felt like a ton of bricks. It was real painful, it was real painful. And he said, `Don't turn your back on me, you mother fucker.'"
As Grotewold wrestled Jerry Span over the hood of a car, Darlene said, she was grabbed by her hair and slammed into a fence by Dains, causing the two of them to topple to the ground.
The Span family maintains that the marshals ordered them to stop taking photos and then attempted to grab all of the film.
At first the mother, Virginia, used a Polaroid but was in such a state that she was unaware the photos were pouring out of the bottom of the camera and onto the ground. (The day before the incident she'd been rushed to St. Joseph's emergency room with dangerously high blood pressure, 230/104, where she remained for six hours. At the time of the brawl she was heavily medicated.)
Dains picked up the Polaroid snapshots while dragging Darlene along. Then, when the police arrived, Pete Span claims Marshal Dains grabbed the roll of film from his shirt pocket that had captured the initial confrontations. With the heel of his boot, Dains allegedly ground the canister into the dirt, breaking it open and ruining the negatives.
When Dains attempted to seize Pete's camera with the partially used roll of film, the former track star ran from the scene.
With both Darlene and Jerry in separate Phoenix squad cars and Pete in full retreat, Marshals Grotewold and Dain together with Officer Jenkins approached Virginia.
"The tall marshal was swinging her arm wildly to get the camera off which she had tied to her wrist," said Darlene. "She was thrown to the ground at one point and I just started screaming, `Stop! Stop! My mom just came from the hospital. You have to stop him. It will kill her. She was just in the emergency room.'"
Watching his mother from the back of the squad car, Jerry Span became enraged and kicked a dent in the screening. Later, he would be charged with destruction of police property.
All of the Spans claim the marshals made repeated efforts to seize and destroy the photos of the assault. The family took the pictures to document the outrageous behavior of the officers; ironically, the prints that survived helped convict Darlene and Jerry.
TWO UNITED STATES marshals attempted to pick up an armed and dangerous fugitive and by the end of the day Virginia, Jerry, and Darlene Span were in jail. The fugitive was still at large. Later, Span sibling Mickey Michael, accompanied by an attorney, went to the marshals and produced identification proving that he was not the escapee Dains and Grotewold sought.
The only question that lingered, a question that would take two years to make its way through the courts, was who assaulted whom?
Cynics know that blood is thicker than water, that a family like the Spans was raised to look out for its own. And it's not unheard of for partners in law enforcement to cover for each other. So whom do you believe? How do you decide?
Unlike at any other crime scene you might be aware of, the marshals and the police did not interview any of the witnesses standing nearby. During the trial, prosecutor Ivan Mathew did not put a single civilian eyewitness on the stand.
Kerrie Rodgers was standing just a couple of feet away from the marshals when they confronted Darlene and then her brother. A 38-year-old electrical contractor who doesn't know the Spans, Rodgers was a defense witness.
In a recent interview, Rodgers was adamant that the marshals attacked the Spans.
"I didn't know they were marshals," said Rodgers. "At first I thought it was just a bad business deal. Really, Darlene and her brother were just standing there. The marshals were saying, `Go get him [Mickey Michael]. We know he's in the house.'
"They said, `He's not here.'
"This paper was passed back and forth, then Darlene and Jerry turned to walk away. They had their backs turned to the marshals when the marshals blindsided them. Darlene and Jerry never knew what hit them.
"The marshals yelled, `Get back here. We're still talking to you,' type of thing."
Rodgers insisted that neither of the Spans ever hit either marshal.
"She was thrown face-first into the fence. They both fell into the fence and then down to their knees.
"The marshals kept raising their voices. She said we can't help you anymore. These people were unduly harmed. They didn't provoke nothing."
Another customer that day for building supplies was 59-year-old Helen Brock, who'd retired from Honeywell Computer Systems where she'd been a group leader in quality control and now operates a transmission shop with her son.
Reached by phone, Brock was still outraged by what she witnessed on the afternoon of April 7, 1988. Referring to her cross-examination by government prosecutor Ivan Mathew, the still- irritated Brock declares, "We're not dummies and we ain't stupid.
"These two gentlemen come up and appeared to be shoppers like the rest of us. When the incident happened, I was within three or four feet waiting to be waited upon by Darlene.
"She said to the two men, `Can I help you?'
"I thought the paper they handed her was a list of materials. I heard her say, `No, I don't know who you're looking for.'
"They insisted she did. They said it was her brother. The tall guy was the one who got irate at first. Told her she was a liar, that she had to go get him. They knew he was in the house.
"She said, `I'll tell you what; if you give me that sheet, I'll make some copies.'
"This really irritated them. Darlene had called this other man [Jerry] over. Maybe you can help. She read it to him 'cause he can't read.
"She gave the paper back and basically said there's nothing more we can do for you. They turned around, turned their backs and came towards the customers. When they turned their backs, it was like a bomb exploded.
"I was scared. I thought someone was being kidnaped or going to be killed . . . The skinny guy grabbed her by the hair, shoved her into the fence. He broke his glasses, she fell to her knees and he fell forward into the fence.
"Darlene and Jerry is little people. It was just unreal.
"All I could think of was they were going to kill them. She's screaming at the top of her lungs, `Call the police. Call the police.'
"These men shouted, `Don't you walk away' or `Don't you turn your back' or something to that effect. `Don't you leave.'
"They were offended."
"I left and called 911 from Smitty's."
By the time the police arrived, two men who owned nearby businesses had joined the crowd.
Don Malody owned a sign shop across the street. He saw Marshal Dains grab the roll of film from Pete Span's shirt pocket and crush it with his boot.
"The canister was bent and one end was popped off. It was smashed," said Malody.
Span's roll of film had captured the opening moments of the fight.
Malody was more alarmed by what happened to the mother, Virginia.
"I'd have tried to kill them if it had been my mother. All she was doing when I walked across the street was standing, watching and occasionally taking a picture."
When Dains demanded that Virginia give up her camera and film, she refused.
"He grabbed hold of her arm, on the biceps. The camera strap was wound around her wrist. She never swung at them. Her only movement was to protect the camera. It was like a tug of war. As it progressed, it got more bizarre. They were grabbing at her from both sides. The Phoenix cop also grabbed her. One time, she collapsed. She's an old woman, not in the best of health. They very definitely manhandled her, twisted her arm behind her back, grabbed her around the neck with a choke hold. It wasn't called for. There was no reason to do it. Everything was under control. They'd already subdued Jerry and Darlene. There were half a dozen people standing around them. She was under a doctor's care and very ill. They could have handled the situation and calmed things down and then got the camera."
Tom Owens' family has run a machine shop near the Span property since the late Forties. Although he isn't friends with them, he says the Spans are honest, aboveboard, never try to drive you to your knees over business.
"They're meek as lambs, really. You can't imagine Jerry jumping police officers."
Owens came on the scene after both marshals had Jerry and Darlene in choke holds.
"As Virginia would take pictures, the Polaroids would flip onto the ground. The tall one would pick them up, dragging Darlene with him. The mother was in kind of a daze."
Owens saw Marshal Dains stomp Pete's initial film canister.
"I saw the canister of film on the ground but the end was broken off."
What Owens saw next shocked him.
"The fact that these marshals could have been that brutal to such a feeble, defenseless woman. She was not being abusive. She never got close enough to touch anyone. She's elderly, in her seventies with no teeth. She kind of screeches when she talks. If you ever talked to someone with no false teeth, you'd know. She was crying, `Those are my children, don't hurt my children.' She's feeble as hell to begin with. They did not need to maul her. Instead, one marshal tried to jerk her arm out of its socket trying to get the camera. The fat one held her while Dains tried to rip the camera out of her arms."
At first Grotewold held up his hand with a puncture wound, yelling that Virginia should be arrested because she'd bitten him. Virginia pointed out that she had no teeth.
The Spans believe Grotewold's hand was bitten by their father's dog. In his arrest report, Grotewold said he was bitten by Jerry Span.
On Saturday, March 3, 1990, twelve jurors found Jerry and Darlene Span guilty of assaulting U.S. marshals and resisting arrest.
Incredibly, five jurors believed it was the marshals who attacked the Spans, but because of Judge Robert Broomfield's instructions to the jury, they felt they had no choice but to convict.
From the bench, Broomfield told the jurors: "Federal officers engaged in good faith and colorable performance of their duties may not be forcibly resisted even if the resister turns out to be correct, that the resisted action should not, in fact, have been taken. The statute requires him to submit peaceably and seek legal redress thereafter."
In other words, no matter what the marshals did, Judge Broomfield's reading of the law is that the Spans' duty was to submit like sheep.
"I was one of the jurors who believed the Spans," said Sally Osborne, 31, who works as a planner at an aviation-equipment manufacturer. "The pictures they took convicted them of resisting, but I felt it was very untrue what the marshals said. I didn't believe the marshals whatsoever. What constitutes assault included resisting, according to our instructions.
"I left the trial just sick. I could not sleep. Most of us felt it was very unfair. I do feel a major injustice was done."
Juror Robert Hapip was so upset that he took the unusual step of contacting the defense attorneys, who generated an affidavit that five of the jurors signed in an effort to overturn the conviction.
"Given the instructions, we had to find them guilty," said Hapip, a 37-year-old consultant to banks on software for financial planning. "We thought the marshals were so well-rehearsed. It was so canned, we didn't believe it. We thought they were both pretty slimy guys.
"There was nothing to support that Jerry jumped them. Jerry never came off as that kind of guy. We think they attacked the Spans, without question. We believed the witnesses.
"Dains is frightening. He has no business in the marshal's office. He sat there and grinned in court over the names he used. Most of us were upset we couldn't indict the marshals for anything."
At least one of Dains' colleagues would agree with the angry jurors. On February 23, 1990, U.S. Marshal Tomas Lopez wrote prosecutor Ivan Mathew:
" . . . I have personal knowledge of [Dains and Grotewold] and their reputation for provoking assaults. I personally have been provoked by both of them. . . . This provocation has also occurred with two other deputy marshals. . . . I am writing you this letter not to state that it happened in this specific incident [the Span case], but that they do have the reputation. If asked, I would have to testify to their prior acts."
Judge Broomfield sealed Lopez's letter during the trial, preventing the jury from learning about it.
When contacted, Lopez refused to discuss the matter: "I've been told more or less not to discuss it. I got in a lot of trouble when I wrote that letter."
Some of the jurors didn't need to see the Lopez letter to know something was wrong. Five jurors--Hapip, Osborne, Laverne Knous, Marie Stehmer, and Susan Craft--signed a statement that read, in part:
"As Darlene and Jerry walked away from the two U.S. marshals, Dains approached Darlene from behind, grabbed her from behind the head, and threw her up against the fence, and Grotewold approached Jerry from behind and knocked him down to the ground;
"These actions by Dains and Grotewold were unprovoked and were done so prior to Darlene or Jerry ever having assaulted either of the two marshals;
"Thereafter, for the next approximately ten minutes Dains attempted to keep Darlene under control and Grotewold attempted to keep Jerry under control, with both Jerry and Darlene struggling to get away, until the Phoenix police officers arrived on the scene;
"The struggling described in the paragraph above by Jerry and Darlene Span consisted of wiggling and trying to get away from the respective marshals, and did not include any excessive, unreasonable or deadly force;
" . . . the legal instructions given to the jurors by the Court were such that even if the incident occurred as we believe it did, and as it was described herein, the law would require us to find Jerry and Darlene Span guilty;
"I believe such a law is completely unfair and against everything that the United States stands for;
"I do not believe Jerry and Darlene Span should have to go to jail for what occurred on April 7, 1988, because I do not believe their actions constitute a crime . . . "
On March 9, 1990, Judge Robert Broomfield reviewed the affidavits from the five jurors as part of a defense motion for a new trial.
Last Sunday, Virginia Span's daughter, international model Pumpkin, came home for Mother's Day. It is unlikely the family will soon see another holiday together.
Frankly, Virginia Span is bewildered.
"I was a Catholic woman. I knew my catechism by heart. I never drank a drop of liquor in my life. I don't even drink soda. I don't understand . . . what has happened. What do I know about marshals? I've never done anything in my life."
Virginia Span's husband is dead and two of her children are about to be sentenced to jail. She has been moved off the family homestead and no one knows better than she that she will not live forever.
Virginia Span believes she even knows a little of what it will be like to pass on.
After she was taken to a jail cell on April 7, 1988, Virginia collapsed. She believes her soul left her body.
"I was in the jailhouse, on the floor. I heard them talk. I could hear one cop saying, `She's gone. She's gone. There is no pulse.' That's the last thing I heard. Seemed like I was way up high. I was falling down this big hole. I don't like to talk about this much 'cause I still get nightmares. I kept falling down this pit hole and I never hit the bottom."
Nor have Darlene and Jerry Span hit bottom yet, either. Marshals Grotewold and Dains have sued them civilly for $2 million each, a suit substantially enhanced by the conviction of the Spans.
When Virginia Span came to after collapsing in the jail, she was in the county hospital's emergency room, where one of her daughters found her on a gurney, semiconscious, muttering, "Mama, mama."
Another daughter, from out of state, came to care for her for five months.
After getting the opportunity to tell her side of the story, Virginia Span sent a message: "I want to thank you for the interview so I could finally tell someone out there about the horrors that had happened to me on April 7, 1988 and after, the worst days of my life in 74 years."
Family members say Virginia Span has given up. She no longer drives. She no longer reads.
"I am just sitting," she'd said during the interview, "waiting for the next day to come."
Pete underlines his family's roots in Arizona as if these terrible events could not befall people who have worked so hard for so long.
Jerry and Darlene had already spent five days in jail and now the government expected five more? Not on your life. Get your witnesses, we're going to trial.
Jurors thought the marshals lied and that they had indeed attacked the Spans.
Smirking at the memory, Marshal Dains recalled how repulsed he was by 74-year-old Bill Span.
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"She was a very elderly individual and it was fairly easy to get the camera," the marshal said.
"They said she was lying, they was threatening her, all kinds of threats, and they was acting just like maniacs."
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"They had their backs turned to the marshals when the marshals blindsided them. Darlene and Jerry never knew what hit them."
"I'd have tried to kill them if it had been my mother."
"The fat one held her while Dains tried to rip the camera out of her arms."
Judge Broomfield's reading of the law is that the Spans' duty was to submit like sheep.
"I left the trial just sick," says one juror. "I could not sleep."
GO, YOU ARE DISMISSED FOR COACH BILL WES... v5-16-90
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