Ex-Libertarian Activist Vann Gutier Gets Probation, Jail Time in Assault Case

Vann Milton Gutier
Vann Milton Gutier Courtesy of Gila County Sheriff's Office
Update 10:30 a.m.: After publishing this story, Phoenix New Times has learned that Vann Gutier is no longer a member of the Libertarian Party. According to Brandon Slayton, chairman of the Maricopa County Libertarian Party, Gutier is not a registered member, and in Facebook posts from 2018, Gutier proclaimed himself a Republican.

Original story below:

A Phoenix family lawyer says Vann Milton Gutier, a local activist for libertarian causes, beat, strangled, and threatened her one night in Pine last October.

The deputy sheriff who responded to the scene that night arrested Gutier and recommended multiple felony charges.

But on April 1, after Gutier took a misdemeanor plea deal, Gila County Superior Court Judge Timothy Wright sentenced Gutier to 18 months of probation and 15 days in jail, five of them already served, court documents show.

Gutier had pleaded guilty to assault, a misdemeanor that state law considers a "non-dangerous, non-repetitive" offense. He was also ordered to complete "any recommended treatment" following an abuse screening from a court-approved domestic violence offender treatment program, sentencing documents show.

The judge tacked on the additional 10 days of jail time after the victim begged tearfully during the April 1 hearing that Gutier should receive a longer sentence, the Payson Roundup reported on April 5. She is also asking for $10,000 in restitution.

The jail and probation sentence also came after the victim reported to the Phoenix Police Department that Gutier had assaulted her again in January, according to a motion made by the prosecutor's office that asked the court to review Gutier's release from jail and hold him without bond. In that motion, prosecutors noted that the woman told police that in that assault, Gutier pinned her down, put a pillow over her face, and punched her through it. She also alleged, the document shows, that Gutier said to her, "Someday I'm gonna snap and kill you."

The woman, who requested anonymity for this article, said that while she'd long been an advocate for victims of domestic violence, she was struggling to get support and action from law enforcement and prosecutors for her own case.

She said she wasn't informed of or consulted regarding the plea deal, and that after demanding to see it, much of it had been redacted.

"You think it wouldn't happen to you," she told Phoenix New Times of the abuse and violence. "It could happen to anybody ... The most egregious part is really the failure of the system here."

The sentence raised questions as to whether Vann Gutier's connections to Alberto Gutier, director of the Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety and Vann Gutier's grandfather, had any influence in the case.

Alberto Gutier could not have rejected that possibility with greater vehemence than he did when reached by phone on Monday. Nor could he have abstractly painted his grandson in a less flattering light.

"We are a very by-the-book family, but every family has to have one, doesn't it?" he said. "We hardly talk to my grandson, because the only words to describe my grandson, I don't want to say it."

Vann Gutier is a 30-year-old right-wing libertarian activist from Phoenix who, a year ago, made headlines when he tried to recall John McCain, about six months after the senator's diagnosis of brain cancer. In 2016, he took the stage at the Libertarian Party National Convention in Florida, and he also once served as tour manager for Libertarian presidential candidate Adam Kokesh.

Online records show that he has a previous criminal history of theft and a drug paraphernalia violation.

Milton Gutier, Vann's father, told New Times he's bent on protecting his son. He disparaged the victim and said he's been driving his son from his hometown of Phoenix to court appointments and meetings with his attorney in Gila County.

click to enlarge Vann Gutier at the 2016 Libertarian Party National Convention in Orlando, Florida. - BRANDON SLAYTON VIA C-SPAN
Vann Gutier at the 2016 Libertarian Party National Convention in Orlando, Florida.
In the Gila County Sheriff's Office report on the October 29 assault in Pine, Deputy Sheriff Robert Bulloch said he responded to a report of domestic assault shortly before 4 a.m.

He found the victim at a neighbor's house, and observed "multiple scratches and bruises" on the left side of her face and neck, which "appeared to be recent," Bulloch wrote.

Bulloch and a colleague went next door to find Gutier, whom he found passed out on a bed, the report said. After Bulloch arrested Gutier, the deputy returned to the neighbor's house to interview the woman.

She "appeared very distraught and worried throughout the interview, and began crying on multiple occasions," Bulloch wrote in his report. She told him that Gutier had "slam[med] her head into the floor multiple times," tried to smother her with a pillow, and raped her. When she tried to call 911, Gutier took the phone away, she told Bulloch.

The woman also showed Bulloch photos she said were from earlier in the night. "In the photo I observed what appeared to be a bruise on [the woman's] forehead. In the photo I did not observe the current injuries to [her] face," he wrote.

She told the deputy that Gutier "has hit and assaulter [sic] her on many occasions before," according to the report.

The deputy wrote that felony charges would be sent to the county attorney, including aggravated assault/domestic violence and preventing the use of a telephone in an emergency.

Gila County Attorney Bradley Beauchamp and Deputy County Attorney Jessica Richardson were not available for comment, according to the county attorney's office.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Vann Gutier claimed that he did not hit the victim, and made excuses for the woman's injuries, contradicting what he previously said in court.

The Roundup article reported that in the April 1 hearing, Gutier "didn't dispute her claim that he'd beaten her, drawing blood and leaving bruises."

A hearing regarding the victim's restitution request is scheduled for the end of the month in Payson, according to Superior Court records.
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Elizabeth Whitman was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from March 2019 to April 2020.