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El Mirage Rape Suspect, Ignored by Sheriff Arpaio's Office in 2006, was Convicted of Different Sex Crime in 2009

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his top supervisors declared last week that agency's failure to properly investigate hundreds of sex-crime cases didn't jeopardize public safety.

The father of one teenage girl in El Mirage says that's a bunch of crap.

In 2008, the girl was just 14 when she had sex several times with, Armando De La Rosa, then 20. He was originally charged with multiple felonies for sexual conduct with a minor, but was later allowed to take a plea deal for misdemeanor attempted sexual conduct with a minor.

But the crime might never have happened at all if it wasn't for the incompetent police work conducted on the watch of Sheriff Arpaio, suggests a recent article by Ryan Gabrielson, a writer for the Center for Investigative Reporting in California.

When De La Rosa was 18, he was the prime suspect in a 2006 rape of a 17-year-old girl. Records show that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office totally dropped the ball, doing virtually no investigation despite having the suspect's name.

Gabrielson was the lead reporter for the East Valley Tribune's Pulitzer-prize-winning series in 2008 that explained how Arpaio put his effort and resources into busting illegal immigrants at the expense of less headline-grabbing law enforcement duties. He broke the story of bungled sex-crimes investigations in that series, though Arpaio's been taking heat from the scandal in the last couple of weeks due to a recent, succinct rehash of the problems by the Associated Press.

After hearing about the renewed flap last week, Gabrielson dug into his old files from the Tribune series and found the 2006 De La Rosa case. Plugging the suspect's name into the Maricopa County Superior Court's Web site, he discovered the man's conviction for the 2008 case.

The gist of Gabrielson's article (click here to read it) is that De La Rosa might have faced stiffer punishment -- might even be in prison -- had he been tried and convicted for the 2006 rape. As Gabrielson reports, De La Rosa was able to receive his plea deal "in part because he had no prior felonies on his record."

Gabrielson writes of the denials he got from the sheriff's office when he contacted them about his findings:

In a written statement, Arpaio's office said it was not aware that De La Rosa was the suspect in the El Mirage investigation or that he had been convicted in a later case. "I cannot make a connection between the cases you brought to my attention," Lt. Justin Griffin, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, wrote.

But the police case file, obtained from the El Mirage Police Department in 2008, clearly includes the suspect's full name and date of birth.

With hundreds of sex crimes apparently bungled, and with Gabrielson able to find an example so quickly of how one of the poorly investigated cases potentially led to future problems in the community, it seems likely that numerous other such examples are waiting to found.


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