Judge Dismisses Case

Prosecutors and police violated “principles of fundamental fairness”

Judge Peter Cahill ruled that the state so badly botched the trial of Brandon Lee Lewis that giving the Gila County Attorney Bradley Beauchamp a do-over would only encourage egregious behavior by attorneys and police.

Judge Peter Cahill ruled that the state so badly botched the trial of Brandon Lee Lewis that giving the Gila County Attorney Bradley Beauchamp a do-over would only encourage egregious behavior by attorneys and police.

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A Superior Court judge issued a scathing ruling recently that dismisses all charges against a Payson man accused of assaulting three officers citing “grossly improper” actions by prosecutors and police before, during and after the trial.

Judge Peter Cahill ruled that the state so badly botched the trial of Brandon Lee Lewis that giving the Gila County Attorney Bradley Beauchamp a do-over would only encourage egregious behavior by attorneys and police.

“Defendant is entitled to something more than a bitter and expensive remedy when it was someone else responsible for the wrongdoing,” he wrote. “Double jeopardy protection is aimed at exactly the type of abuses shown to have occurred here.”

Back in October 2011, Lewis reportedly ran his truck over a low retaining wall near a West Frontier Street apartment complex. Several officers arrived to investigate. Suspecting Lewis was drunk, officer Jessie Davies started a field sobriety test while officers Justin Deaton and Lorenzo Ortiz looked on.

Deaton and Ortiz approached when Lewis “squared” off toward Davies like he would hit him, according to police reports.

The officers eventually took Lewis to the ground and Ortiz dropped his weight on Lewis, delivering several strikes to Lewis’ face. Deaton hit Lewis twice in the leg.

After he was cuffed, Lewis reportedly smashed his head into the hood of Deaton’s patrol vehicle repeatedly, leaving a large dent. Lewis claimed the officers slammed his head into the hood. The officers said he did it to himself.

The trial

In April 2013, Lewis went on trial for assaulting all three officers, resisting arrest and causing more than $1,000 worth of damage to Deaton’s vehicle. The dollar amount of the damage made it a felony. A jury found Lewis guilty on all counts except assaulting Ortiz.

Afterward, Lewis’ defense team argued that misconduct by police and prosecutors made the trial unfair and asked the judge to vacate the convictions — or set aside — the conviction. Cahill agreed and set a date for a new trial.

On the eve of the March 13 trial, however, Lewis’ lawyers asked Cahill to dismiss all charges against Lewis with prejudice, which means he couldn’t be charged again in connection with the same incident. Defense attorneys said the GCAO should “suffer some consequence for the tactics used to convict him.”

Those mistakes and omissions included withholding evidence on the cost of the repair; not telling the defense a key witness was listed on the prosecutor’s Brady List; failing to disclose certain police reports and using the plea bargaining process to influence a civil lawsuit Lewis had filed against the town.

In a response, the prosecutors acknowledged that mistakes were made unintentionally. They asked for a chance to try Lewis again.

However, Lewis’ lawyers ar­gued a new trial would violate the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions by allowing the state to take advantage of its own misconduct and try Lewis twice for the same offense.

Cahill agreed and issued a scathing, 14-page criticism of the police and prosecutors.

Retrial already determined?

Prosecutors in their filings protested that Cahill had already ruled on the issue of a new trial when he vacated the first convictions.

Cahill disagreed.

After the trial last year, Lewis’ lawyers filed a motion asking Cahill to vacate the convictions. In oral arguments they also asked Cahill to dismiss all charges with prejudice, but they did not make the motion formally. Cahill, therefore, ruled only on the filed motion.

So this year, Lewis’ lawyers filed the request for the dismissal with prejudice.

Cahill’s ruling said he had to consider whether prosecutors and police engaged in such “extreme misconduct” that a new trial should not go forward.

One of the first things he addressed was the repair estimate for the hood of the police car.

Repair estimate

The hood ended up with a salad bowl sized dent after Lewis reportedly slammed his head into Deaton’s SUV. Lawyers “hotly contested” both the damage and the cost to repair it at trial.

Payson Police Sgt. Donny Garvin testified it would cost $1,200 to fix, which would be enough to make the damage a felony. Prosecutors presented no other evidence.

A jury in turn found Lewis guilty of felony criminal damage.

Only after the trial, in preparation for sentencing, did a probation officer ask the town to back up its restitution claim.

Town staff submitted a $700 body shop repair estimate prepared 16 months before the trial — below the $1,000 threshold for a felony.

Prosecutors never disclosed the estimate, according to court records.

Later, prosecutors admitted they had the estimate in their trial notebook all along, but said new attorney Joy Riddle overlooked it.

Cahill ruled the law doesn’t make exceptions for how much paperwork the state has.

“The fact that prosecutors overlooked evidence with such compelling significance (that the offense was not a felony, but a misdemeanor) shows more than a lack of diligence,” Cahill wrote. “It shows indifference to basic rules of procedure and constitutional protections for a fair trial.”

Brady List

Also after the trial, the defense learned that Sgt. Garvin was on the GCAO’s Brady List at the time of the trial, a list of officers with credibility issues maintained by the prosecutor’s office.

This too was not disclosed during the trial.

Like the repair estimate, the GCAO said it “inadvertently failed to disclose” that Garvin was on the list, according to court records. By not telling the defense about the Brady List, prosecutors protected the credibility of a key witness, said court documents.

“Sgt. Garvin’s credibility was the determinative issue on this count,” Cahill wrote. “The disclosure violation deprived defense counsel of powerful cross-examination ammunition.”

Pre-trial disclosure problems

A week before the trial started last year, Lewis’ defense team received written statements from Ortiz and a key witness made to the PPD a year before the trial. The police department had not previously revealed the existence of those statements.

The defense asked Cahill to dismiss the case then, but Cahill denied the request, saying he was “not fully aware of all of the conduct of the state’s agents, police and prosecutors ...

“However, the court now considers everything that happened in full context.”

The Ortiz statement should have alerted prosecutors to similar “use of force” reports prepared by Deaton and Davies, as required by the department’s policy, the defense says.

But again, prosecutors did not disclose the existence of those reports to the defense.

Undisclosed police reports

Lewis’ lawyers discovered the use of force reports while preparing their civil suit against the town. They did not have these reports for the criminal trial.

Some details in the use of force reports differ from what the officers said on the stand. The defense could have used this information to discredit the officers’ testimony, Cahill wrote.

The GCAO says the attorney for the case, Marc Stanley, didn’t know the reports existed because the Payson police never provided them to prosecutors.

“(Marc Stanley) was not aware of such reports and had no reason to ask if there were any such reports,” the GCAO wrote in its response. Stanley has since left the GCAO.

Cahill says that because police withheld these statements, Lewis didn’t get a fair trial on charges he attacked Deaton and Davis.

“Blame lies where it belongs, on the agents of the state,” Cahill wrote.

“Police did not ‘accidentally’ withhold these statements from prosecutors.”

Police Chief Don Engler could not be reached for a comment.

Cahill added prosecutors should have asked Payson police about any reports, but failed to do so.

Making a deal

Another damning accusation centers on whether prosecutors used plea-bargaining powers to help shield Payson from liability.

Lewis’ defense attorneys said the GCAO withdrew a more favorable plea offer after Lewis filed a civil suit against Payson. The new deal reportedly required Lewis to plead guilty to resisting arrest.

“A plea to this offense, as he put it, ‘would have substantially hindered’ his civil claim against the town,” Cahill wrote.

The GCAO said this “accusation was baseless.”

The GCAO, however, didn’t explain the withdrawal of the first plea deal. “This leaves only one plausible explanation,” Cahill writes, “that the state’s plea strategy was ‘designed to shield the Payson Police Department from civil liability.’” Cahill therefore found that the GCAO used the criminal justice system in an attempt to influence the outcome of a civil suit.

Dismissal

Considering everything, Cahill dismissed all charges against Lewis with prejudice.

“The state’s conduct was not the result of legal error, mere negligence, mistake, or insignificant impropriety,” Cahill wrote. “In­stead, it amounts to intentional conduct which prosecutors and police knew was improper and prejudicial, a pattern of indifference to their obligation to obtain and disclose evidence.

“Due process of law is not a meaningless slogan,” Cahill wrote. “It is the indispensable foundation of individual freedom; it defines the rights of the individual and delimits the powers which the state may exercise.

Comments

Meria Heller 6 months, 2 weeks ago

wow, justice was finally served! Hiding exculpatory evidence is typical unfortunately and in some cases like this one - deliberate. Judge Cahill surely did the right thing. Damaged a vehicle with his head? Police need to follow the law just like everyone else. These types of stories are becoming too commonplace nationwide.

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Mel Mevis 6 months, 2 weeks ago

If anyone thing this judge is to lenient read "Tougher Sentence This Time" else where in this paper.

Judge Cahill thank you for your application of the law.

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Susan Imperatrice 6 months, 2 weeks ago

A Brady list created by Daisy Flores, who in my opinion is the Queen of Credibility Issues. Cahill and Duber are desperate to maintain the power needed execute their distorted interpretation of justice in our county, and they are using the well being of our community, of our officers, to try to create a reality that just isn't so. This county was long known for a place where you could kill someone and get away it. That reputation is for the most part a product of the service of Cahill and Duber. As the voters demanded, those days are over, and that's not sitting well two power hungry egomaniac judges who seem to be free to run a muck in our Superior Court. Anyone who really wants to hear the true intention of these judges, in their own testimony before the State Bar, should locate a copy of the audio of the unfounded Bar complaint hearing in which Duber, Cahill and Ortiz testify against Shawn Fuller. It embodies the intention of the judges and the climate between these two judges and the County Attorney's Office.

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Susan Imperatrice 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I am working on a long list of issues that the public should be made aware of. Where is the accountability for the judges?

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Susan Imperatrice 6 months, 2 weeks ago

And what's up with this...... why within the past few months has most of the superior court administrators been replaced. It is alleged that Mary Hawkins, court administrator resigned, then Jacque Durbin the Dep. court admin, came in in the middle of the night, cleaned out her desk (there is some question about what she should have left behind) and quit. Then the Field Trainer, Pat England who, by the way, is a sister of Mary Hawkins, used up her sick leave and did not return - there are questions about her time reports and whether Mary & Jacque allowed fraud in the preparation of the reports submitted and what work she was actually doing. Then Ellie Price, the Director of IT for superior court, was called in last week and summarily terminated - questions about use of credit cards among other times. Those people reported directly to Cahill and were his staff so what kind of job of supervision was he doing?

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Maggie Meares 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Susan has it wrong....the cops and prosecutors lied and withheld evidence....they got caught. END OF STORY! When some of the jury was interviewed after the trial in 2013 and they were asked "how they came to their verdicts" bottom line was ...they "dismissed the evidence and believed the cops"....they believed the LYING CHEATING COPS! (Clarity...I believe there are some cops that are good on our Police Department).

This was an injustice to Brandon and now they are ALL caught! The cops, the chief, the prosecutors! I believed they were hired to not only to "uphold the law and preserve the peace or protect and serve" and/or in the prosecutors case they are hired to "see that JUSTICE is served" while FOLLOWING the rule of law! AND while our officers are on the stand they are to "TELL THE TRUTH"...They did NONE of this! Jury's mostly "expect" a defendant to lie, but they don't expect the cops to lie....thus was the outcome at Brandon's trial. THEY LIED! AND... THEY WERE VERY SMUG AND ARROGANT ABOUT IT! ...I was there and I saw it first hand!

These cops are untrustworthy and they should ALL be Fired! Including their fearless leader ENGLER! The US Marshall's need to come clean house in Payson! The County Attorneys involved in this case should be brought up on complaints to the Arizona State Bar Association....Marc Stanley left the Gila County Atty.'s office ...wonder why? He admitted that he knew of evidence that was "in the file" AND was "overlooked" aka deliberately withheld.......Hummmmm!!!!

Maybe Brandon's attorneys need to seek more in damages in his civil suit against the town and perhaps even some against the Gila Cty atty's office? This was all just sooooooo wrong! 3 years of Brandon's life on hold, living in fear of retaliation/harassment by PPD and God knows what else! All because cops "CHOSE" to lie...they "CHOSE" to withhold evidence and the GCAO "CHOSE" to shield the town of Payson BY WITHHOLDING/IGNORING EVIDENCE" and even Engler tried to cover it all up for the "young gun" cops involved!

If the GCAO tries to "refile" it will show: A): that they are "Shielding" the town of Payson from civil liability AND B): that they are out for VENGENCE! ALL AT THE COST TO AN INNOCENT MAN WHO DID NOT ASK FOR, NOR DID HE DESERVE TO BE BEATEN THE WAY HE WAS!

Also....the PPD boys should be drug tested for steroids...Not only "bulks them up", but it also makes them "crazy"!...Like a pack of Rabid dog type crazy...in a frenzy beating Brandon up. HE IS NOT THE ONLY VICTIM! THERE ARE OTHERS, BUT THEY ARE AFRAID TO COME FORWARD! Thank God Brandon has stood up to this "Bullying" by the PPD young guns! This crap needs to stop and I pray that it will end! The new cops had better beware.... you are being watched by the citizens of Payson! YOU WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS!

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Kim Chittick 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Oh my Heaven's Maggie!!! An awful lot of shouting going on here!!

Bottom line, Brandon Lewis was a well know punk; who chose to get intoxicated and get behind the wheel of his vehicle. He destroyed property. He was belligerent with the police, and then cried foul. If people would just obey the requests of Officer's, and comply politely and respectfully, most of their troubles would not be happening.

As for Judges Cahill and Duber...they are two of the biggest wastes of oxygen in a courtroom. I have watched both of them in court. They are arrogant, supercilious, and uninformed. They have zero respect for the Attorney's. They have become far too comfortable in their robes of justice, sitting up on their magistrates bench, dictating from on high; and becoming disgruntled when they don't receive the respect and accolades they believe they are due.

As for the Police, with the advent of the internet and YouTube, the few bad police officers get huge publicity, while the good ones suffer. Those people put on that uniform, pin on that badge and strap on their weapon and utility belt each day, never knowing if that will be the last time they see their family and home. They answer calls and deal with situations that few of us can imagine. They make traffic stops in an effort to keep the rest of us safe; not knowing if, as they approach the open window, the driver has a weapon or a vendetta. They deal with the dirtbags, the druggies, the domestic violence situations, the dregs of society, in hopes of making the lives of good decent law abiding citizens tolerable and safe.

I wonder of those of you who are speaking up in defense of the poor misunderstood Brandon would invite him into your home, allow him to date your daughter, employ him in your business? It is very easy to castigate the Police and Attorney's from afar. Go on a ride-along some time. You'll see that it is not all always black and white.

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Maggie Meares 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I gather you were NOT in the court room Kim....You are unaware of the totality of what went on. Did you hear the audio portion of the video? I doubt it....Brandon got rail-roaded and that is the bottom line....being a stand up citizen or a "punk" as you say doesn't matter....the police lied and got caught...the prosecution lied and got caught AND they all had a duty to see that proper justice was served. Thank God for the cell phone video...the cops chased Brandon's roommate up the stairs and tried to bust down the apt. door and get that cell phone from him!

There have been cops and judges and all types of "stand up citizens" that have been caught drinking and driving....AND Brandon was NEVER charged with DUI...No excuse to drink and drive....My grandma was killed by a drunk driver in 1988 so I am in no way trying to excuse the behavior....again I will say....BRANDON WAS NEVER CHARGED WITH A DUI.

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Maggie Meares 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I will also say Brandon is not a "well known punk"....he doesn't have a "RAP SHEET"...nothing was brought up in court...no priors....never been in prison etc....So if you "have" evidence of him being a "well known punk" then I suggest you prove it.

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