Goodyear Arizona officers cleared after county attorney decides not to file charges

Posted by: Phoenix Arizona Criminal Defense Lawyer and Attorney Nick Alcock

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office has decided not to file charges against a Goodyear police lieutenant and commander accused of illegally releasing court information about a former colleague.

Yavapai Deputy County Attorney Jarrod Long said the case against police Cmdr. Ralph McLaughlin and police Lt. William Newman doesn’t meet standards for criminal prosecution, according to a memo obtained by The Republic.

Long said Newman provided information about the indictment as part of his official duties and McLaughlin did not show criminal intent.

The two officers were accused of releasing indictment information to the media before the defendant, former Goodyear police Sgt. David Bryant, had been notified.

Bryant was accused of falsifying 10 months of time sheets last year, bilking the city out of more than $13,000. Bryant, who resigned Feb. 2 after he was placed on paid leave in January, is fighting the charges.

Phoenix police looked into the matter at the request of the Goodyear Police Department and found that Newman told McLaughlin that Bryant had been indicted on 17 counts of fraud, theft and forgery 30 minutes after the grand-jury hearing in February. McLaughlin illegally issued a news release about three hours later, police said.

A judge had not signed off on the indictment at the time of the release and Bryant was not served with papers until the following morning, Phoenix police found.

Releasing indictment information for reasons other than fulfilling official duties before a defendant is notified is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

McLaughlin and Newman could not be reached for comment.

Phoenix police recommended McLaughlin and Newman be charged with unlawful disclosure of an indictment and submitted the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. The office handed over the case to Yavapai County, saying there was a conflict of interest because Maricopa County issued the indictment.

In the memo, Long said Newman did not violate the law because it “allows for disclosure when it is done during the discharge of official duties.”

McLaughlin also will not be charged because there is not enough evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” that he had the “necessary criminal intent” when he released the information to the media, Long said.

The law “is to prevent a defendant from being ‘tipped off’ about a forthcoming warrant or summons and complicating arrest or service of the summons,” he wrote. “In this case, a summons was issued and served on Mr. Bryant without an unreasonable delay. There appears to have been no injury caused by Cmdr. McLaughlin’s improper disclosure.”

Long added that McLaughlin’s conduct could be addressed appropriately as a disciplinary issue within the Goodyear Police Department.

Interim Police Chief Bill Cusson did not return a call for comment at press time.

In an interview last month, Cusson said the department would decide whether to conduct an internal investigation after the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office completed its investigation.

Goodyear spokesman Nora Fascenelli said city officials were in the process of reviewing Yavapai’s decision and had not decided yet how to proceed.

McLaughlin has been on paid administrative leave since May 4, pending external investigations into the Police Department.

Goodyear launched investigations into department management, policies and standard operating procedures after a critical consultant’s report.

The independent report criticized the department’s handling of a 2008 fatal hit-and-run investigation involving a police officer. The report, which said officers protected one of their own, prompted Police Chief Mark Brown’s sudden retirement.

Fascenelli said the investigation into the grand-jury accusations was “one small element” of the city’s overall review of the Police Department.

“We’re really giving it a thorough look,” she said. “It’s not being haphazardly done.”

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