Tim Abrahamson, Ex-Deputy Accused of N.D. Assault, Faces Trial; Deputy Steve Carpenter on Paid Leave Despite Role in Alleged Attack

Timothy Abrahamson, the former Maricopa County Sheriff's deputy accused of driving to North Dakota in September and assaulting his wife's ex-lover, faces a March 12 trial date in Fargo.

Abrahamson, who played a key role in some of the discredited anti-corruption investigations conducted by Sheriff Arpaio's office, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault.

Police believe that Abrahamson planned his attack carefully after learning that his wife had cheated on him the previous year with Jason Swart, an ex-boyfriend from North Dakota. He rented a car and drove 10 hours to West Fargo with another Maricopa deputy, Steve Carpenter, records show.

Carpenter was allegedly in the car and apparently watched as his buddy beat up Swart.

See also: Deputy Steven Carpenter Put Back on Street by Sheriff's Office Until Nov. 8 Despite Role in North Dakota Assault Case; Abrahamson Posts Bond

See also: Deputy Tim Abrahamson, Accused Attacker of Man Who Cuckolded Him, was Key Figure in Sheriff Arpaio's Disgraced Anti-Corruption Team

Carpenter was granted immunity by North Dakota prosecutors in exchange for tattling on Abrahamson, but details of his statements haven't been released.

Arpaio's office must think Carpenter's role was minimal, because Carpenter was put back on the street for two months after sheriff's official's knew that police in North Dakota were looking at both deputies as part of their assault investigation. For now, Carpenter's on administrative leave -- but records show he's still getting paid.

Abrahamson, on the other hand, was put on unpaid leave in September, after North Dakota police contacted the sheriff's office with the news of the alleged crime. He was arrested in Arizona on November 7.

A seven-year veteran of the force, Abrahamson resigned on November 30, personnel records show.

Swart told police that on the day of the attack, he had just arrived home from going to dinner with family members. A black sedan pulled up as Swart stepped out of the car, records show -- a detail that makes it appear as though the attacker had been waiting for him.

Two men were in the sedan. The driver got out while the passenger, apparently Carpenter, stayed inside, according to a West Fargo police write-up of the incident.

A man that Swart later identified as Abrahamson created a ruse to catch Swart off guard. Abrahamson doesn't like a fair fight, it seems. The man told Swart he'd been receiving his mail and handed him an envelope.

"Mr. Swart stated that he turned to open the envelope, and then realized he was lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood," records state.

The envelope and car were gone.

Swart's rght ear "had been partially cut off and then sewn back together. He had two large cuts to the front of his face. Swelling and bruising to his face appeared to be consistent with multiple strikes to the face," police say.

Swart told police to check out his lover's husband; he'd seen Abrahamson's picture on the deputy's Facebook page.

We're not sure what Abrahamson's not-guilty plea is all about. But at this point, he's expected to be in court in Fargo on March 12 for his trial.

A look at personnel records shows that Abrahamson began work as a deputy in August of 2005, while Carpenter began a few months earlier. Carpenter's record show he was an adequate deputy, with no black marks on his records.

Abrahamson's file, on the other hand, depicts a deputy who had everything to lose with this alleged attack. He was a rising star in the sheriff's office, having carried out difficult assignments with aplomb and known for his can-do attitude.

After leaving a court security assignment, Superior Court Judge Andrew Klein wrote a glowing letter of praise about Abrahamson that sounds ironic in retrospect:

"Tim made all of us feel safe," Klein wote. "He will be greatly missed."

Abrahamson went on to receive exemplary ratings as a deputy.

"He has a work ethic that anyone could be envious of," wrote a supervisor in a 2009 evaluation.

Not long after those accolades, Abrahamson was transferred from patrol to the Maricopa Anti-Corruption Task Force, a now-discredited effort that ostensibly went after corrupt politicians, but was itself corrupt. Abrahamson gave testimony to a grand jury in the case of former County Supervisor Don Stapley, who was later exonerated after improprieties were revealed in the investigation.

The tainted "MACE" investigations led to the disbarment of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Arpaio, a state Supreme Court Disciplinary Panel found, had joined in an "unholy alliance."

Yet Arpaio was re-elected by a solid margin in November's election.

We're still wondering why Arpaio's office didn't take Carpenter off his job until weeks after they'd learned of his possible involvement in the crime.

Cell phone records allowed West Fargo Detective Derek Cruff to figure out that Carpenter had gone on the cross-country trip with Abrahamson. Here's an excerpt from a detail-packed story by a Minnesota paper, the Park Rapids Enterprise:

The vehicle had been returned with slightly more than 5,000 miles, Cruff said.

According to court documents, Abrahamson had told the rental company he was going to South Dakota to visit a family member. He damaged the vehicle on the way back and paid cash to cover the repairs.

In Abrahamson's cell- phone records, authorities found a recurring number belonging to a Maricopa County sheriff's deputy, Steven Carpenter.

Cruff said the two men exchanged text messages the day before the West Fargo assault but then none for several days. However, the messages "go off the chart" after Cruff's initial interview with Trinity Abrahamson, he said.

Carpenter's cellphone records showed a connection to a tower in northern New Mexico six hours after his shift ended on Sept. 15 and another connection two hours after that near the New Mexico-Colorado border, leading police to believe he was on his way to West Fargo with Tim Abrahamson.

Abrahamson's no longer a deputy.

But Carpenter is.

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.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.