Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Maricopa man may face criminal charges over prank

A Maricopa man may face criminal charges over a prank pulled on a co-worker who was serving on a Pinal County grand jury.

On Wednesday, October 16th, detectives from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office were called to the County Attorney’s Office regarding a threats case.

Deputies met with a Deputy County Attorney and a 41 year-old Casa Grande man who was serving as the foreman for the grand jury proceedings. The foreman reported when he was on break from the proceedings, and went out to his truck, he saw a handwritten note which read, “You better not find my dad guilty! I followed you home last Wednesday I know where you live, asshole! Early Road sound familiar.”  The grand jury proceedings were interrupted as detectives began to investigate the case.

The handwritten note was on a guest check commonly used by restaurants. PCSO detectives contacted the company who manufacturers the checks and asked if they could tell by the serial number on the check which business it was sold to but they couldn’t.

Detectives went to restaurants in Pinal County and began trying to track down where the check came from. At L & B restaurant in Florence, they spoke with a waitress. She was shown the note left for the grand jury foreman and she said she found one similar to that written on a check by the cash register when she came in to work this morning. She told detectives another waitress was on duty yesterday and the note for the foreman appeared to be written in her handwriting.

A short time later, the detectives spoke with the waitress who allegedly wrote the note. She was very cooperative and said that two men came into the restaurant the day prior and asked for something to write on. They said they were going to play a joke on a co-worker who was in town at grand jury. One of the men first wrote the note and then asked her to re-write the note so their friend didn’t recognize their handwriting. The waitress said she told the men it was a bad idea because their friend would probably call the sheriff. They convinced her by telling her they would tell their friend the following day at work. She wrote the note, the two men paid for their meal by credit card and left.

The restaurant was able to provide a credit card receipt with the name of “W Packard” as the cardholder’s name. Detectives attempted to call the jury foreman at his work but were told he was out of the office. They asked if somebody by the name of “W Packard” works there and they were told he does but he is also not in the office.

A short time later, the detectives received a call from 33 year-old Will Packard of Maricopa who said the entire thing was a “prank” he and 36 yer-old Robert Marquez of Casa Grande were playing on their co-worker. They had taken a photo of the note on his vehicle as well and were going to show him the photo when he came into work.

The foreman was contacted and informed of the “prank” his friends attempted to play on him. The foreman was upset that his friends would do something like this.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu stated:

“This case was investigated by multiple detectives who were pulled from other priority cases they were working on. Grand Jury proceedings were interrupted as well because of the prank these men tried to pull on their friend. Hopefully the men find it as funny when they are involved with the judicial process as detectives will submit the investigation to the County Attorney’s Office and ask they review the case for criminal charges including, Influencing a Juror, Disorderly Conduct and Threatening and Intimidating.”

Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles later issued the following statement:

“No thinking person would joke about having a bomb in their carryon baggage as they board a plane because they understand security officials will necessarily have to take the comment seriously to protect the public.

I guarantee public threats made against judicial authorities, particularly jurors, are treated the same way and for the same reasons. In this case, the foreman of a Pinal County Grand Jury was threatened in the performance of his sworn duty in a note left on his personal vehicle telling him he was not safe in his own home, if he didn't vote a defendant ‘not guilty.’

Just as what would happen at an airport or the entrance to the courthouse, this threat to the rule of law was met with an immediate, professional and appropriate response. The note was analyzed and the writer quickly identified through an exhaustive all out investigation in the tradition of the best law enforcement agencies in the world. The results revealed an innocent waitress was duped into writing the threat by people who viewed the hoax as ‘a joke.’

No drill or training exercise establishes more clearly the readiness of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office to defend the rule of law in Pinal County. Nevertheless, the trauma inflicted on the foreman, the risk of wrongful arrest for the innocent writer of the note, the great expense of the all-out investigation by PCSO, and most importantly, the overall potential risk of tampering with the integrity of our judicial system requires my office’s action. Any risk to our criminal justice system requires my office act immediately and decisively.”

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