Psych Out

A Mesa man who spent almost two years incarcerated at the Maricopa County Jail was freed in late March, on the eve of his trial for sexual assault. Justin Gregg had been charged with raping Jennifer McAllister in June 2001, while the two were patients at the county's Desert Vista Behavioral Health Center.

A spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office says prosecutor Terry Jennings decided to dismiss the case against Gregg "because it had deteriorated to the point that it wasn't prosecutable any longer."

The spokesperson, Bill FitzGerald, declined to be more specific about why the case was considered unwinnable, and Jennings' motion to dismiss says only that "continued prosecution of [Gregg] is no longer in the interest of justice."

But Gregg's attorney, Phil Hineman Jr., said the alleged victim, McAllister, had "decompensated mentally" in recent months, and had told prosecutors she wasn't keen on testifying in an open courtroom. (McAllister wasn't available for comment.)

The matter was quirky from a legal standpoint. Maricopa County prosecutors continued to insist that Gregg was guilty until just before he was set free. But attorneys defending Maricopa County in a civil case filed by McAllister had claimed for more than a year that McAllister fabricated the rape story ("Dangerous Minds," Paul Rubin, January 30).

Those attorneys focused on the lack of physical evidence against Gregg, and that McAllister didn't report the alleged rape to authorities until the following day.

In fact, the county's lawyers in the civil case helped attorney Hineman in his defense of Justin Gregg. That raised questions about the propriety of Maricopa County's decision to prosecute Gregg around the same time it hired a private law firm to defend it (and, by proxy, the alleged rapist) in McAllister's lawsuit.

Court records also show that McAllister's civil case ended a few weeks ago as well. Terms of the out-of-court settlement have been sealed, including the dollar amount involved, says Martin Mathers, the attorney for McAllister in that case.

Long diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, the 28-year-old Gregg had been ordered to the psychiatric hospital for an evaluation as to whether he was a danger to himself and to others.

McAllister also has endured serious mental illness for years, and also had been sent to Desert Vista, a 104-bed, two-story facility in Mesa, shortly before she allegedly was raped. The facility had only been open for a few weeks when Gregg allegedly assaulted McAllister in her room.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin