An ex-Phoenix cop who was arrested earlier this year for allegedly molesting a minor is set to be banned from law enforcement in the state of Arizona.
Thirty-year-old Michael Steven Mason resigned from the Phoenix Police Department ahead of his April 3 arrest, but the impending revocation of his peace officer certification would mean that conviction or not, Mason will not again be able to work as a police officer in this state. Mason was supposed to voluntarily relinquish his peace officer certification, but the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board said his consent agreement to relinquish the certification was never returned.
On April 8, Maricopa County Deputy County Attorney Elisa Ramunno filed a direct complaint stating that Mason had been charged with one count of sexual conduct with a minor, a Class 2 felony, for allegedly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with a minor under the age of 15 sometime between November 7, 2007, and November 8, 2008. Mason would have been 17 or 18 at the time.
According to court records, police were made aware of the incident by the victim, a female relative of Mason's who was likely in kindergarten during the offense.
In 2018, the girl, who was then 17, was speaking with her mother about how another relative puts Mason "on a pedestal," the probable cause statement says. "The victim made a statement to her about Michael not being such a nice person. The victim's mother questioned the victim further, but the victim would not elaborate."
"When the victim's mom asked the victim if Michael touched her, the victim started to cry," the statement continues. "Michael is approximately 11 years older than the victim ... The victim started to attend counseling, seeing a therapist. In March of 2019, the victim disclosed to her therapist that Michael had sexual intercourse with her while he was babysitting her at Michael's mother's house."
The therapist reported the incident to the Department of Child Safety, who in turn reported it to Phoenix Police. Police interviewed the victim, who said she believed she was in kindergarten at the time. She said it was the only time it occurred. She underwent a medical exam, then worked with investigators to text Mason on March 26.
"Do you remember what happened when you babysat me at your mom's?" the text read, according to the probable cause statement. "I'm just trying to move on. I still struggle with it some days. I'm not mad I'm just trying to figure out why it happened."
Hours later, Mason responded, stating, "I don't know why, honestly. That was a one-time thing. I am so sorry."
About a week later, on April 3, the victim's mother participated in a controlled phone call with Mason, a staple of sexual assault investigations that typically involves a victim calling an accused assailant while a detective listens in and records.
"During this phone conversation," the probable cause statement says, Mason "said he had touched the victim's vagina with his penis but never penetrated her."
Mason was arrested the same day. In an interview with Phoenix police, Mason admitted he had "touched and possibly rubbed his penis on the victim's vagina" when she was in kindergarten.
Four days after his arrest, on April 12, Mason pleaded not guilty.
Mason's attorney did not immediately respond when contacted for this story.
At the time of his arrest, Mason had already been a Phoenix police officer for three years, though he had worked for the department since 2011.
Mason has since been released on a $35,000 bond. He was required to comply with electronic monitoring requirements before being released, and also must comply with a curfew set by the Pretrial Services Agency.
Mason has since also been charged with a second count, molestation of a child.
If convicted of both counts, he faces a minimum sentence of 23 years in prison.
The trial is set for January 14, 2020, and is expected to last five to seven days. The state has at least 24 witnesses. The defense has none, according to a July 12 pretrial statement report.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.