Prosecutors

Who Botched the DUI Case Against This Phoenix Cop? No One Seems to Know

Jason Halleman, an off-duty Phoenix police officer, was arrested for DUI in July 2021. Formal charges were never filed before the statute of limitations expired.
Jason Halleman, an off-duty Phoenix police officer, was arrested for DUI in July 2021. Formal charges were never filed before the statute of limitations expired. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
On a summer evening in 2021, off-duty Phoenix police officer Jason Halleman was slumped over the steering wheel of his running car. In his hand was an open bottle of alcohol.

A Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputy found Halleman in the driver's seat and roused him. The deputy was responding to a call about the car, which was stopped on a residential street. Halleman's eyes were bloodshot, and his speech was slurred, according to an investigative case file. He was arrested and booked for driving under the influence. During the booking process, Halleman fought with deputies, who forced him to the ground and handcuffed him.

Yet Halleman never faced criminal charges for his arrest on July 3, 2021. Not for the DUI, and not for fighting with sheriff's deputies. In fact, he can't be charged — the one-year statute of limitations expired for his case. Halleman remains a patrol officer with the Phoenix Police Department after serving a three-week unpaid suspension, a police spokesperson confirmed to Phoenix New Times.

Months after the Maricopa County Attorney's Office came under fire for dropping 180 misdemeanor cases in 2020, including DUIs, Halleman's 2021 arrest raises new questions about how many other cases have slipped through the cracks, how the statute of limitations was allowed to lapse, and who bears responsibility.

Halleman's case is now under investigation by the state's law enforcement watchdog, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. AZPOST, which comprises mostly law enforcement officials, oversees police officer certification. It can revoke or suspend certifications as a result of misconduct, regardless of how the misconduct was handled by an officer's employer.

At its September 21 meeting, the board voted unanimously to open an investigation into Halleman's case. When its investigators report back, the board will vote on whether to take action beyond the suspension handed down by Phoenix police.

‘Aggressive and Belligerent’

DUIs are some of the most common offenses committed by Arizona law enforcement officers that come before the AZPOST board. So far in 2022, the board has either suspended, revoked, or denied the certification for 54 officers across the state, according to regular bulletins it posts. Twelve of those cases, or around 22 percent, involved a DUI. Dishonesty and having sex on duty are some other common reasons for officers to face AZPOST probes, according to the bulletins.

But unlike the other officers under investigation by AZPOST, Halleman never faced criminal charges — for reasons that remain murky. At some point during the criminal investigation into Halleman, it seems either prosecutors or law enforcement dropped the ball, according to case notes and emails obtained by New Times. Both the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office deny responsibility for Halleman not facing formal charges.

At the September meeting, AZPOST investigator Mike Deltenre outlined Halleman's case to the board. Deputies found Halleman unresponsive in his running car, Deltenre explained. When they woke him, he exited holding an unspecified "open alcohol container."

Halleman admitted to drinking as he was detained — "a little bit," he told deputies, according to AZPOST documents obtained by New Times. He later told investigators that he consumed two Long Island iced teas at a Litchfield Park restaurant. He failed field sobriety tests, and a breathalyzer clocked his blood alcohol level at 0.162, well above Arizona's legal limit of 0.08, according to case documents.

Halleman was then taken to the MCSO District 3 Substation on West Bell Road in Surprise for processing. It was there that tensions grew between Halleman and deputies. He became "aggressive and belligerent" as deputies booked him and attempted to perform bloodwork, Deltenre said.

In a one-minute clip of body camera footage presented to the board and obtained by New Times, Halleman yelled at deputies and used profanity. He then attempted to fight them until he is tackled, handcuffed, and placed in a holding cell. "Shut your fucking mouth," he said at one point. "You want to fucking fuck me up? Fuck me up."

Halleman told internal Phoenix police investigators that he had dinner in Litchfield Park that night, though he did not remember leaving the restaurant, according to notes in the AZPOST case. "I was in a vehicle. I was obviously under the influence. And my conduct with the deputies was something that I would never in my right mind do or done," he said.

Efforts to reach Halleman for comment by email, text message, and a phone call were unsuccessful.

Ultimately, Halleman's blood alcohol level was formally tested and registered at 0.189, according to court documents. In Arizona, any blood alcohol level above 0.15 while operating a vehicle is defined as an extreme DUI and is a misdemeanor that carries a minimum penalty of 30 days in jail.

The sheriff's office did not pursue charges against Halleman for the altercation with deputies. "The actions of the individual at the time of booking did not meet the requirements as defined by statute to place any additional charge," MCSO spokesperson Calbert Gillett wrote in an email to New Times.

MCSO did, however, recommend DUI charges to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Deputies cited Halleman for DUI and for consuming liquor in a vehicle after his arrest in early July but before the formal blood test results were returned.

What happened next is less clear.
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Officials with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deny any responsibility for a botched DUI case against a Phoenix police officer.
James Deak

Who Bungled the Case?

Halleman's initial DUI citation was dismissed by prosecutors in August 2021. Emails showed that a prosecutor dismissed the initial case and planned to submit new charges once the official blood results were provided by law enforcement.

According to prosecutors, the sheriff's office never resubmitted those charges or the bloodwork, despite MCAO's requests, so charges were never filed.

"We have looked at this issue extensively," MCAO spokesperson Jennifer Liewer told New Times. "We can't move forward on a DUI case without results. And we have no record that they ever resubmitted or provided us any blood results."

But the sheriff's office said that the deputy in charge of the case did resubmit recommended charges — one for extreme DUI and another for consuming liquor inside a vehicle — and it was MCAO who failed to charge Halleman in time. Yet the sheriff's office did not provide any records to substantiate that claim.

Emails and notes from Halleman's case file at MCAO obtained by New Times provided a glimpse into the back-and-forth over the case between the sheriff's office and prosecutors. Ellen Hoskins, the prosecutor assigned to the case, wrote to Deputy Kevin Wallace in August and requested that he submit the bloodwork so she could refile the case. "I want this one," she told him.

But months later, the prosecutor still didn't have the results.

"Deputy Wallace called me. Someone told him the State threw out these charges and he wanted to know why," Hoskins wrote in Halleman's case file. "I explained that I'm still waiting on the blood results from him, and that the last communication we had was that he would get them to me so I can refile."

But in AZPOST case notes, investigators said they believed MCSO did resubmit the charges, armed with the test results that provided the basis for the extreme DUI charge. The sheriff's office also claimed that it submitted the charges in time.

"MCSO submitted DUI charges within the timelines as defined by statute. You will need to reach out to MCAO on why this case wasn’t prosecuted," Gillett wrote in an email to New Times.
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A backlog of DUI cases continues to build under County Attorney Rachel Mitchell.
Katya Schwenk

A Backlog of DUI Cases

When New Times contacted Deltenre directly to ask about why Halleman didn't face charges in the case, the investigator did not respond.

But Matt Giordano, the executive director of AZPOST, did provide a brief statement in an email. "We have no additional information other than the case was never prosecuted," he said.

Liewer called the information in the AZPOST case file "concerning." She said that as far as she could tell, prosecutors never received the information on the bloodwork, even though it was later provided to AZPOST.

This is not the first time that law enforcement and prosecutors in Maricopa County have bungled a DUI case. Under former County Attorney Allister Adel, media reports of the 180 dropped cases — which included DUIs — became a major scandal. Adel resigned in March 2022, shortly after the news made headlines.

Those 180 cases dated back to 2020 and largely were filed by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. But the issue of bungled cases goes back further. A 2018 case that involved a fatal accident by a drunk driver also was dropped by MCAO after prosecutors failed to meet the statute of limitations.

County Attorney Rachel Mitchell has promised to clean up the prosecutor's office after the scandal-ridden tenure of her predecessor, yet the statute of limitations in Halleman's passed in July 2022 — while Mitchell was at the helm. A backlog of DUI cases has continued to build under her watch.

Halleman's case was distinct from the older dropped cases, Liewer argued. "Those were on us. Those were in our case filing system waiting to be charged, and they sat in our computer system and didn't get charged," she said. That's not what happened with Halleman's case, she explained.

Yet Halleman so far has escaped with a three-week suspension.
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Katya Schwenk is a staff writer for Phoenix New Times. Originally from Burlington, Vermont, she now covers issues ranging from policing to far-right politics here in Phoenix. She has worked as a breaking news correspondent in Rabat, Morocco, for Morocco World News, a government technology reporter for Scoop News Group in Washington, D.C., and a local reporter in Vermont for VTDigger. Her freelance work has been published in Business Insider, the Intercept, and the American Prospect, among other places.
Contact: Katya Schwenk

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