An Arizona man whose 20-year prison sentence was thrown out last year wants payback from the Town of Patagonia over the allegedly dishonest actions of its fired police chief, Ed Dobbertin.
A federal complaint filed yesterday by Patagonia resident Alan Woods, 42, alleges fraud, malicious prosecution (something his Phoenix lawyer, Dennis Wilenchik, knows a thing or two about), and other abuses by the town's officials.
The saga revolves around the arrest of Woods in Patagonia on September 22, 2009 by Dale Stevenson, a former Tucson police officer, during a domestic-violence call. Stevenson's peace certification had lapsed in 2002, when he retired from Tucson, and he wasn't officially hired by Dobbertin until October 2009 -- meaning he wasn't a cop, under Arizona law, when he busted Woods.
The bust turned into a debacle: Woods was detained by Stevenson in the Patagonia police station -- a 50-foot-long trailer with no holding cell, but plenty of beer bottles sitting around. The suicidal Woods picked up a bottle from a table and broke it, then managed to cut his own throat, according to the lawsuit.
Stevenson saw the event differently. He and Dobbertin filed a criminal complaint against Woods, alleging that the suspect had attacked Stevenson and tried to escape. Woods was ultimately found guilty in the domestic assault and alleged attack on Stevenson. He was sentenced to 20 years.
Woods' mommy came to the rescue by diligently going through the paperwork in the case and discovering Stevenson's lack of peace officer certification, the Nogales International reported last year. In September, Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Ana Montoya-Paez tossed out all seven charges in Stevenson's case because of the new evidence. Dobbertin and Stevenson knew their complaint was "false," the judge said.
After spending eight months in county lockup and about four months in a Florence prison -- where he was beaten up, says the federal complaint -- Woods was set free. But neither the judge, nor just about anyone but Woods and his mother, find cause to celebrate. (Well, Wilenchik will also benefit if he extracts a decent jury award from the small town).
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The above-linked International article states:
During Woods' trial in April, his ex-girlfriend told jurors that on Sept. 22, 2009, Woods stormed into her trailer, physically and sexually assaulted her, and then dragged her against her will more than a mile through the desert to his home. Jean Wright, the woman's 78-year-old neighbor, said Woods pushed her to the ground when she tried to intervene.
Woods' defense attorney contested those details during the trial. But it's a good bet that if Woods wins money from Patagonia, he'll have to turn over a chunk of it to his alleged victims.