With his office already under fire over allegations that it improperly deleted e-mails and himself under fire for allegedly threatening his gay ex-lover with deportation, it appears that a member of Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's command staff asked that an arrest record be scrubbed from a DPS database.
The arrest record belongs to Ronald Keys, a 26-year-old former Marine who jumped on the back of a state Department of Public Safety officer, wrapped his arm around the cop's neck, and knocked him to the ground after he had arrested Keys' wife during last year's Country Thunder musical festival in Florence.
New Times obtained a copy of the e-mail Lieutenant Blake King sent at 11:20 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, 2011 to Deputy County Attorney Paul Ahler, who oversees review of most cases submitted to the Pinal County Attorney's Office to decide on appropriate criminal charges.
"Unfortunately the subject booked for Agg Assault had been finger printed before I could have a chance to get him released," King wrote, the same day of the arrest. "If you can, please attempt to have his DPS record of this cleared."
Pinal County officials say the arrest record was not deleted.
However, it's an odd request for King to make because a record of an arrest is just that -- a record. And state law prohibits tampering with public records, doing so being a felony offense.
But that's isn't all that King did to accommodate Keys that night.
Babeu's lieutenant also called in a judge -- on a Saturday night -- within hours of Keys' arrest in connection with, not only the assault of DPS Officer Hugh Grant, but for a knee injury caused to PCSO Detective Andrew Goode, who was helping Grant arrest the combative suspect.
According to internal investigative reports, King arranged for a PCSO deputy to pick up the judge to release Keys from jail. Indeed, the judge released Keys that night, without requiring him to post a bond. And King arranged for a PCSO deputy to chauffeur Keys back to Country Thunder, a four-day festival that draws thousands of country-music fans to Florence every year.
That's where the incident went down -- at one of the camps in a campground just outside of Country Thunder occupied by off-duty cops from the Tucson Police Department and dubbed "Camp Titties and Beer."
During an internal investigation by the TPD, investigators interviewed several police officers who were staying at "Camp Titties and Beer" in their RVs.
(Tucson PD launched an investigation after DPS Officer Grant filed a complaint against one of its officers for not rendering assistance to him while he was apparently under assault by Ronald Keys. Tucson police officials cleared their officers of wrongdoing.)
While police officers, both on-duty and off, gave varying accounts of what happened that chilly Saturday evening last April, it appears that Julie Keys, Ronald Keys' wife, and a couple of her friends were drunk and flashing their breasts while standing on top of a platform, according to multiple police reports and court documents,
One woman who did was rewarded with Mardi Gras-style beads.
Grant and Goode, dressed in plain clothes, were working the event undercover to bust underage drinkers. While on foot patrol, they saw the women atop of the scaffolding and heard them "soliciting" women to flash their breasts.
Reports show that they identified themselves as cops to the women and shouted at them to get down, but were ignored. Since the two officers were on the outside of the camp at the time, it appears that only the women on the platform heard the undercover officers identify themselves as cops.
Julie Keys, one of the women who was arrested, called down to the off-duty Tucson police officers and told them that the "cops" were coming.
Instead of getting down, the women told Officer Grant and Detective Goode to "come and get" them, according to some accounts.
The pair of lawmen did just that.
When Grant entered "Camp Titties and Beer" and walked toward the scaffolding, the off-duty Tucson cops asked him who he was and what he was doing. As Grant ordered the women off the eight-foot-high platform, the Tucson officers, according to what they told investigators later, asked Grant for identification and he "refused" to identify himself as a cop.
However, the same officers admit that Grant flashed a star-shaped badge from his wallet, and at least two of the off-duty Tucson cops heard him say he was with the DPS.
Ironically, the Tucson officers didn't identify themselves as cops to Grant until the situation escalated.
One woman got off the platform and ran away. One slipped, fell off the ladder to the ground, and Detective Goode ran to help her. Grant arrested the third woman, Julie Keys, when she finally descended from the platform.
As Grant was leading her out of the camp in handcuffs, the off-duty Tucson officers say, Julie Keys fell into mud. Others told investigators that Grant pushed her "face first" into the mud.
Her husbaned, Ronald Keys, jumped on Grant's back, wrapped his arm around Grant's neck, and knocked him down. Grant, on the ground, pulled out his gun and pointed it at Keys. Keys bolted, and Grant reportedly pointed the gun at one of the Tucson officers. At that point, Tucson Officer Mikeal Allen identified himself as a cop and told Grant to put away his gun.
Goode and Grant went after Keys, who wouldn't allow Grant to handcuff him until after one of the Tucson cops told him to cooperate.
During his interview with Tucson investigators, Mikeal Allen was asked whether he ever thought Grant "could've been a police officer" when he first entered the campsite with his handcuffs in his hand.
Allen said yes.
And Allen also told investigators that he didn't immediately identify himself as a Tucson cop because "I didn't want to try to influence whatever decision he had already made or what was going on, and I didn't want to interfere."
Later, he said, Grant flashed a badge but that he didn't have a chance to read what it said.
The Tucson officers explained that Ronald Keys thought he was defending his wife from a man who was hauling her out of the campground and had pushed her to the ground.
Keys told investigators that he didn't know that Grant was a police officer.
Seems strange that even if Grant and Goode didn't know they had walked into a campground rented by off-duty cops, certainly Keys knew the camp was flush with Tucson lawmen. And, still, he thought they would stand by as some random man with a pair of handcuffs escorted a woman -- his wife -- out of the camp?
What is even more troubling is a report that Lieutenant Blake King authored five months later, on September 22, describing the incident.
"It became clear to me that there was a strong possibility that the suspect in this aggravated assault case had no knowledge that DPS Ofc Grant was a sworn Officer acting in an official capacity," King wrote. "In fact, through Mikeal's statement I concluded there was sufficient evidence with multiple witnesses that DPS Officer Grant had committed aggravated assault on Mikeal by pointing his gun at him."
Without ever speaking to Grant, King concluded that Officer Grant "did not do a sufficient job of identifying himself to the suspect," and that the DPS officer is the one who should be facing assault charges.
King wrote that "after ... hearing both sides of the story, I decided to have a PCSO Detention Commander call the on-call judge to set up the IA." That is, an initial appearance for Keys' release.
DPS Officer Grant tells New Times that he never spoke with Lieutenant King about the incident last April.
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Both Grant and PCSO Detective Goode have filed lawsuits against Sheriff Paul Babeu and other county officials.
Tim Gaffney, a spokesman for the PCSO, issued a statement saying, "The assault allegations were fully investigated by our office. Once the investigation was completed, all information was turned over to the Pinal County Attorney's Office for possible charging. The decision was made at their office that the facts of the case did not support any criminal charges."
But, according to the County Attorney's Office, it turned over the case to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office.
The latter tells New Times that it has declined to prosecute the case "at this time" because there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction.