Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's Office Aware Ex-Deputy Richard "Hank" Mueller Had "Multiple Red Flag Issues" but Hired Him Anyway

Months after a drunken brawl outside of a Tempe bar, former Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy Richard "Hank" Mueller is expected to face a judge for a non-jury trial at 1:30 on May 6.

Mueller's attorney has delayed his clients day reckoning at Tempe Municipal Court several times with motions, but at last check, it's still on for May.

The former deputy was slapped only with a disorderly conduct charge -- and it seems like a lucky break for Mueller.

See also: Babeu's "Elite" Staff Overcomes Bad Behavior with Loyalty

According to Tempe police reports, Mueller slammed his fist into a fellow bar patron's face, and then ran from cops.

Mueller's punch was captured on a surveillance camera; he wasn't charged with assault because cops said it wasn't clear whether Mueller was acting in self defense.

And, despite demonstrating "obvious signs . . . of being intoxicated," Mueller climbed into his vehicle as he tried to evade police and security officers from the bar. The bar's security officers stood behind his SUV until police arrived.

Interesting move by Mueller since Arizona's DUI laws not only apply when an intoxicated person is driving but also when a person is "actual physical control of a vehicle."

But his biggest break was when Paul Babeu was elected sheriff of Pinal County.

New Times previously reported that Mueller, a detention officer in Chandler, repeatedly applied to become a sworn Chandler cop, but he was rejected, according to his Chandler personnel file.

Whatever gave the Chandler Police Department pause obviously did not matter to Babeu -- and less than a month after he first took office in January 2009, he hired Mueller. (Babeu also worked at Chandler PD. He was a patrolman.)

But there was something about Mueller that gave pause to a PCSO captain who conducted a review of Mueller's background.

"Multiple red-flag issues & questions of veracity. Recommend not retaining," a PCSO captain wrote February 31, 2009, on a form in Mueller's employment file.

New Times asked Tim Gaffney, a PCSO spokesman, about that statement.

"If there [are] no notes or paperwork in the file related to the his concerns, then I would have no idea what they would be," Gaffney responded in an e-mail. "It could have been after he wrote that statement his concerns were later looked into and probably cleared up. The Captain no longer works for us for me to ask either."

There were multiple pages in Mueller's application that were completely blacked out, save for a heading.

We have also asked PCSO why those pages were redacted but still are waiting for a response.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo