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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Arizona - Officials Obstructing Cop Club Case

Arizona public safety officials are stalling an investigation into an assault last December 22 by members of the Iron Brotherhood Motorcycle Club. Officials have also attempted, with less success, to stonewall press inquiries about the incident.
The Iron Brotherhood describes itself as “a no bullshit, non political Law Enforcement MC.” The Prescott Daily Courier has been doing most of the heavy lifting on behalf of the people’s right to know.

The Daily Courier
The Prescott paper reported two weeks ago: “Despite repeated public records requests by The Daily Courier to the Prescott Police Department, DPS, Yavapai County Attorney’s Office and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to obtain the initial police report, supplementary reports and surveillance video, nothing has been released regarding the incident that happened 23 days ago.
“Prescott Police interim chief Andy Reinhardt said Thursday he would not be releasing the report. ‘We don’t usually release reports when the incident is still under investigation,’ he said.
“But Dan Barr, an attorney with the First Amendment Coalition, said, ‘There’s no exception under Arizona law for preventing access to a police report for an ongoing investigation.’”
The Arizona Department of Public Safety finally released censored versions of police reports pertinent to the incident on January 18. The Prescott paper continues to seek unredacted versions of those reports as well as surveillance video of the brawl.
Multiple news outlets have reported that Chief Reinhardt is an Iron Brotherhood patch holder and that he was in the bar at the time of the assault. If the reports are true, two area police chiefs witnessed the unprovoked attack.

The Assault
On December 22, members of the Iron Brotherhood’s Prescott Whiskey Row chapter (chapter photo above) entered a bar called Moctezuma’s Bar on South Montezuma Street in downtown Prescott. Moctezuma’s has a “no colors policy,” but the men were allowed in after flashing their police badges. In the redacted reports the men are described as rowdy and drunk. One witness told investigators “he did not know what to do, because he knew the group of bikers to be police officers.”
The Associated Press reported that an intoxicated, 23-year-old man named Justin Stafford asked an Iron Brotherhood patch holder wearing a “President” tab what kind of motorcycles the bikers rode. Someone grabbed Stafford by the throat and pushed him. When he turned back he was punched in the face. Among the redactions in the released reports are the number of Stafford’s assailants and how many times he was punched. Stafford’s injuries were significant enough to require his hospitalization. Stafford did not find out his attackers were cops until last week.

The Cover Up
In one of the police reports released to the Daily Courier an IBMC patch holder – his name was also redacted – told a Prescott officer investigating the assault “We knew you guys were going to show up. They told me you were coming, so I told (name redacted) to go home.”
Bill Fessler, Chief of Police in nearby Prescott Valley, has admitted to being in the bar at the time of the assault. “One would never expect that you would be plastered on the headlines over something you didn’t do, several days later,” Fessler told the Daily Courier days after the incident. “I have been told that I have been implicated in a bar fight, had actually thrown blows, and did so for no apparent reason. The accusations, I assure you, when the truth is revealed, will be (proven false).”
Apparently, “the truth” has not yet been “revealed” because the police have not yet gotten around to inventing it. Two days ago, Bart Graves of the Arizona Department of Public Safety told the AP that the investigation into the assault was continuing and might be completed in another four to six weeks. “We’re very thorough,” Graves said. “We take our time – we’re never in a rush.”