Sheriff's Office investigated by State Police; raid Monday appears related to dispatch, Mayes case
CARROLL COUNTY -- The integrity of several employees of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office is at the center of an investigation that led to Monday's raid of the county dispatch center, authorities have confirmed.
Arkansas State Police seized equipment from the center, which is overseen by the sheriff, while executing a search warrant, State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said.
Sadler declined to comment further, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. Jack McQuary, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, said the investigation concerned "possible criminal acts involving the Sheriff's Office." He would not say how many people were involved or what the nature of the "acts" was.
"I don't comment on any open investigations that could interfere with the investigation process," McQuary said.
But several authorities have told Carroll County News that the investigation stems from the 2011 arrest of Jack Cody Mayes, who was charged with various drug crimes after deputies searched his vehicle during a routine traffic stop on Oct. 9, 2011.
Public Defender Robert "Beaux" Allen later asked Judge Kent Crow to suppress evidence obtained during that detainment and search, which Allen argued was illegal because it had lasted some 30 minutes.
Rule 3.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure states that an officer may detain someone "for a period of not more than 15 minutes or for such time as is reasonable under the circumstances." After that, the person must be released or arrested and charged with a crime.
During the suppression hearing last March, Deputies Joel Hand, Donald Harlan, Charles Dale, and Chris Jones were called to testify. However, neither the defense nor Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Phillips called as a witness dispatcher Ryan Hand, who was on duty the night of the arrest. Ryan Hand is the brother of deputy Joel Hand.
Furthermore, neither Phillips nor Allen introduced as evidence the actual recordings of the conversations between Hand and deputies that night. Instead, what was introduced were the notes taken by Ryan Hand, what is known as the "dispatch log."
Because of this, Crow did not immediately rule on the motion to suppress. Instead, he waited a few days, then decided to hold a second suppression hearing. This time, the judge himself called Ryan Hand to the stand and subpoenaed the actual dispatch recordings.
"I just didn't feel comfortable that I had all of the testimony and all of the evidence as to what had occurred," Crow told CCN this week when asked about the case.
He said the timeline as presented on the dispatch log did not add up. During the initial suppression hearing, the dispatch supervisor had testified that dispatchers entered events as they occurred and the computer affixed an automatic time-stamp on each entry.
But after examining the dispatch recordings, it became clear that the timeline presented on the dispatch log had not been correct, the judge said. Hand, the dispatcher, testified during the second hearing that he had taken notes by hand on the night of Mayes arrest and later entered the notes into the computer, unintentionally distorting the timeline.
Crow ultimately denied Allen's motion to suppress the evidence, ruling that the detainment had been "reasonable under the circumstances." Furthermore, the timeline revealed by the recordings, he said, confirmed the testimony of the deputies.
After Crow's ruling, Allen asked Crow to remove himself from the case and request that another judge be appointed.
Allen declined to comment this week on the reasons for his request. But Crow explained that the defense felt the judge had overstepped the bounds of judicial authority by calling his own witness. Crow, however, said he was well within his rights -- and had a responsibility -- to do so, and he denied Allen's request.
Then, mysteriously, the Prosecuting Attorney's Office decided to rest their case and not prosecute Mayes, though they reserved the right to reopen the case in the future.
When Crow asked Phillips why they declined to prosecute, the prosecutor told him he "was not at liberty to tell," the judge told CCN.
Crow said that, after the case was disposed of, sometime in early summer, a letter from the Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts "appeared in the mail out of the blue."
The letter indicated that a special prosecutor and special judge had been appointed for Carroll County. Crow said he was never given any explanation for the move and did not know who had requested the appointment, although Sheriff Bob Grudek said he suspected it had been the doing of Prosecuting Attorney Tony Rogers.
Several officials at the Prosecuting Attorney's Office declined to comment on the case or the current investigation.
"What (investigators) are alleging is something that would be almost impossible to occur," Grudek said -- though, like almost everyone, he declined to say what, exactly, was being alleged. He would only say that the allegations were "really unfair to the Sheriff's Office."
It is not clear how wide-ranging the State Police's probe is. Though it began with Mayes' case, one official has suggested it had since grown.
Grudek said he would hold a press conference in the next week to dispel the rumors and doubt that have sprouted up in the wake of Monday's raid. After the conference, he promised, all would be clear.
Watch next week's editions of Carroll County News for continued in-depth coverage of this developing story.