See also: Joe Arpaio Cares About "the Kids" in Ironic New Campaign Ad See also: Joe Arpaio's Replacement, Paul Penzone, Blasts Sheriff's Handling of Sex Crimes in New Ad See also: Victims Wonder Why Arpaio Let Sex-Abuse Cases Languish See also: Ex-Police Chief's Book Details Arpaio's Negligence in El Mirage Cases
According to a memo written by a Maricopa County sheriff's deputy assigned to a botched sex crime case now threatening to cost the county millions, fraud investigations took precedence over a 13 year-old girl's report of being raped by her uncle.
The March 13, memo from MCSO detective G.J. Edgar to Sergeant P. Dougherty, identified as a supervisor of the Special Victims Unit, offers insight into how such a heinous crime, now the subject of a $30 million notice of claim to the county, was ignored for several years.
This, because Edgar claims her workload and her supervisors dictated otherwise.
The case is one of hundreds of sex crimes investigations that the MCSO has mishandled over the last few years, as resources were diverted to implement Sheriff Joe Arpaio's racial-profiling sweeps and to gin up criminal cases against the sheriff's political enemies.
Indeed, Edgar's memo makes it clear that child rape investigations were low on the MCSO's list of priorities.
Edgar relates that when she was transferred to the Special Victims Unit in 2008, she was told to take with her "a mortgage fraud case that was a special assignment from Deputy Chief B. Knight."
Knight called her a few months later and asked if she had done anything with the mortgage fraud case. Edgar said no. Knight ordered her to tend to it.
"Because this project was from a deputy chief," Edgar writes, "it was made a priority."
She says she told a supervisor at the Special Victims Unit about her working the mortgage fraud investigation.
"I was told to finish the case," she explains.
Meanwhile, Edgar had been assigned an investigation involving allegations of incestuous rape made in 2007 by Mesa 13 year-old Sabrina Morrison against her uncle Patrick Jay Morrison, then 43.
A school counselor learned of Sabrina's claims and reported them to the MCSO, which did an initial investigation and took samples from Sabrina's body for testing.
Two months later, a preliminary report from the Arizona Department of Public Safety indicated the existence of semen in swabs done of Sabrina's vagina.
Problem is, no one believed Sabrina. Her father told the deputy initially looking into the case that Sabrina was "probably making up the incident," and said she had a history of lying.
Sabrina is mentally and physically handicapped, according to her notice of claim.
When the DPS report came back on May 16, 2007, it advised the MCSO that a blood sample from the suspect, Patrick Morrison, would be necessary.
And yet, in the words of the claim notice, "For the next three years and six months, the Sheriff's department did nothing."
In the interim, Morrison raped Sabrina several times, once impregnating her, according to her lawyers. (The pregnancy was aborted.) The MCSO picked the case up again in 2011, and Patrick Morrison finally was arrested earlier this year, after a DNA test linked him to the crime.
Morrison now awaits sentencing on three counts of child molestation to which he's pleaded guilty as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Edgar states in her memo that she had been informed by the previous detective on the Morrison case that the victim had "mental issues" and had "accused others of molesting her," the implication being that those accusations were false.
"I do not remember when the DPS lab results report came in regarding this case," writes Edgar. "In looking at the handwriting on the case notes, it was my notation that indicated the results had come in on 5/16/2008.
"Because of the difficulty regarding the victim and successful prosecution, I placed other cases in priority at that time and one of them was a mortgage fraud case."
(Note: The DPS report is dated May 16, 2007. Not sure what explains the discrepancy between this date and the date Edgar gives, unless it's a typo. Edgar writes that she did not physically join SVU until April 2008. Also, I hear that Edgar is no longer at SVU, but MCSO has yet to confirm this.)
Edgar states that she was asked to assist on another special assignment in 2008 regarding a credit card fraud report from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Additionally, she says the unit went from five persons to three for "a period of time," that she was often asked to assist with translation as she speaks Spanish, and that from 2008 to 2010, her average case load was 40 open cases.
"These are not excuses for the Morrison case not to have been addressed in a timely manner," she writes, "but do show how these events lead to [this] case not being a priority at the time and being buried in my case load."
If Edgar's account is correct, the blame lies further up the MCSO food chain, as Arpaio's aspiring replacement, Democratic sheriff candidate Paul Penzone indicated in statement issued by his campaign regarding the lawsuit threatened by Sabrina's counsel..
"The recent lawsuit against MCSO is one of many examples of failed leadership and is so egregious that it tarnishes what law enforcement stands for," Penzone said. "The Sheriff denied his detectives the support that they needed, ignored the pleas of the victimized community, refused to cooperate with the El Mirage P.D. to correct the errors and then insulted the victims by stating, `I apologize...if there were any victims.'"
"Now, his agency states, `We've made a lot of progress since we first detected these cases.' The unforgivable failure has been Arpaio's refusal to take responsibility. The victims have paid the ultimate price for his ineptitude. And our community will pay his debt, yet again."
So true. Because the MCSO did not allocate proper resources and prioritize investigations of sex crimes over crimes such as credit card and mortgage fraud, Sabrina's uncle was able to victimize her over and over again.
According to the notice of claim, the MCSO closed the case by charging Patrick Morrison with one count of sexual conduct with a minor.
Nevertheless, the MCSO failed to finish its work properly. Only later was Sabrina's uncle hit with additional indictments based on information obtained from Sabrina by a victims advocate after the MCSO had closed the case.
Such incompetence is staggering, and if you ask me, $30 million seems too little.
Perhaps cases like these literally should be made to bankrupt this county. If the voters are forced to dwell in dirt and eat rocks for breakfast, maybe they'll finally get the message: That Joe Arpaio is a lawless menace who must be removed from public life and barred from re-entry.
And if the voters decide this November to keep Joe around for another four years? Then here's hoping that Sabrina and her fellow victims bleed this county dry.
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.