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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : latest news September 26, 2016

5/16/2008 12:23:00 PM
Dibor Roberts gets six months probation
Jury returns guilty verdicts in less than an hour
Dibor Roberts
Dibor Roberts
Sgt. Jeff Newnum
Sgt. Jeff Newnum

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter

An jury of five women and three men Friday found Dibor Roberts guilty of two felonies, resisting arrest and unlawful flight. But, her sentence was light, a total of six months unsupervised probation for the two offenses.

"This is flat out the lightest sentence I have ever seen for a Class-5 felony, period." That was the reaction of Roberts' attorney, Stephen Renard.

Judge Michael Bluff reduced the charge of resisting arrest from a Class-6 felony to a Class-1 misdemeanor. She was credited for four days of jail time already served.

The sentence Friday afternoon followed a three-day trial in which Roberts challenged the testimony of Sgt. Jeff Newnum of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.

The jury deliberated for less than one hour before returning the two guilty verdicts.

The Verde Valley case of the small nationalized West African nurse's aide who ran afoul of a sheriff's officer on a rural road late one night has become a case that has been followed intently by the press and read voraciously by the public.

The officer, Sgt. Jeff Newnum, turned on his overhead lights after he reportedly clocked her car traveling 65 mph on the 50 mph Beaverhead Flat Road.

He told the court he expected the Sentra to pull over at the junction with Cornville Road, but it turned west. Newnum said he then used his siren and twice pulled to the side of the small car with his much larger Ford Explorer. When the black woman would not stop, he pulled in front of the car until it stopped in the traffic lane.

When Roberts would not open her door, Newnum smashed her rear window with a police baton cutting his hand in the process. He opened the door and removed Roberts from the car and handcuffed her. The small car ran over his foot as the woman was "flailing" inside.

Roberts told the court how she yelled at the officer that she wanted to get to a well-lighted place. A witness, who was parked along the road using his cell phone, said she repeated that mantra over and over as the officer was trying to question her.

Prosecutor Glen Hammond portrayed the 12-year officer as a cop who operates by the book and has widespread experience in emergency and violent situations.

Roberts, on the other hand, was the picture of a small woman who was frightened. She had talked with her husband about reports of police impersonators in the Phoenix area and was told to find a lighted area in the public if ever asked to pull over.

Newnum said he would even tell his wife to do the same thing, signal her intention and then move to a lighted area.

But, Newnum and Roberts did not communicate on that late July night.

That message rang loud and clear for many women who followed the trial and protested outside courtrooms, first in Prescott and then in the Verde Valley when the case was returned to Camp Verde.

Roberts told the Verde Independent after the jury decision that she was not surprised. "No, it is politics," she said in her thick African-accented English. "I am a woman, a black African. I am too small. They are too big. The people that were here, they listened, they know what was right and what is wrong."

Her husband, Merrill, a photographer who has championed her cause and fanned the flames of public support, was disappointed in the verdict. "It tells me something about our criminal justice system. I don't think it is so much about having a jury of your peers, but who is on your jury. They don't think the same thing could happen to them."

Hammond voiced a message from Sgt. Newnum at the sentencing: "All he wanted from the very beginning was an apology and left it up to the County Attorney what to do with this case. It was a misunderstanding. It has been really tough on him and his family due to a lot of press, a lot of hate mail. He has been called a racist. Nothing could be further from the truth. He just wants everyone to move forward and let the healing begin."

Sheila Polk, Yavapai County Attorney, said: "I appreciate the hard work of all the members of our law enforcement community, especially those who have to put themselves in harms' way on a regular basis. The jury's verdict reaffirms the work of one such special officer, Sgt. Jeff Newnum. Not only is Sgt. Newnum an experienced police officer with an exemplary record, he is also an outstanding member of our Yavapai County community. We are lucky to have him involved in law enforcement. I am also thankful that the jury, after hearing all the facts of the case, including the testimony of the defendant, rendered the verdict, despite some of the public attention this case has received."

Summary of proceedings
A Yavapai County Superior Court jury found Dibor Roberts guilty Friday of resisting arrest and felony flight.

Jurors deliberated for less than one hour before returning the two guilty verdicts.

Roberts is scheduled to be sentenced today at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Michael Bluff.

The case pitted the testimony of the small woman born in Senegal, and now a nationalized U.S. citizen, vs. that of the patrol officer who stopped her for speeding on Beaverhead Flat Road July 29, 2007.

Roberts testified that she was trying to find a lighted area in which to stop. The patrol officer, Sgt. Jeff Newnum, told jurors that from the very beginning "I knew I had an angry driver."

The prosecution prepared a video showing the stretch of roadway from the time Newnum turned on his lights one mile north of Cornville Road until Roberts was stopped two miles west of the intersection. They showed the road during the daytime, they showed the police car on the side of the road at night, they showed the fireworks of police lights as seen at night.

Newnum expected the small car to pull over at the wide spot on the side of the road at the Cornville Road intersection, but Roberts turned right and continued.

By then Newnum turned on his siren and believed the driver was impaired.

He pulled alongside the Sentra and told the court how impaired drivers often keep a firm grip on the wheel and don't look at an officer.

The second time he pulled to the side, she appeared to be yelling at him. He said, she was yelling at him and "I knew I had an angry driver." He radioed to dispatch that he was attempting to stop a black female who had refused to stop.

The last time he passed her, he pulled in front of the small car and coasted to a stop. She did not try to pass but stopped in the traffic lane.

This time, he emerged from his SUV with his gun drawn at a "low ready," yelling, "Let me see your hands." Newnum told the jurors, "That was my threat." She was still yelling and "I was worried about her hands."

He put the gun back in the holster, but was unable to open the locked door.

"My only concern was to gain control of the situation." He used his collapsible baton to break out the rear passenger window and opened the front door.

Roberts at that time was yelling, "No. No. No. You can't do this to me." He said he could hear the words clearly, but did not understand, he said.

By this time Newnum did "not view her attacking" him and "did not consider she would overpower me. But, I wanted to get control."

She backed into the seat and grabbed the stick and the car began to move, riding over Newnum's right foot with the left rear tire.

Within minutes four more officers were on hand and Roberts was telling how she wanted to get to a lighted place after talking with her husband about police impersonators in Phoenix.

"She took it too far when she ran over my foot," Newnum told the court.

The Rev. Oscar Tillman, president of the Maricopa County Chapter of the NAACP, has asked the U.S. Justice Department to intervene and determine if Roberts' civil rights were violated during the July 29, 2007, traffic stop on Cornville Road.

Tillman's letter to the Office of the Attorney General says, the NAACP "believes the civil rights of a black female were violated in the way she was treated during a traffic stop."

Tillman, speaking to, said "family members in the Phoenix" area brought the issue to his attention. He also said that he had a call from an unnamed reporter that "this is an issue that maybe the NAACP should look at."

The leader of the black organization said he has tried repeatedly to speak with Sheriff Steve Waugh, but that he has not accepted his call.

"I retired from 23 years in law enforcement and I know the process and how to make stops; 13 years I was over the investigative unit. I know that you do not start off making a traffic stop with the maximum amount of force."

Tillman was in the U.S Air Force military police and worked in private security before he graduated from the seminary.

"If he felt there was an issue, he (Sgt Jeff Newnum) could have followed her. You have other help available. I think this is an over-reaction. I don't know any other way to say it."

The NAACP leader says his office has intervened numerous times with the Justice Department on behalf of complaints and has been involved in cases in Yavapai County where there is no NAACP chapter.

Related Stories:
• Dibor Roberts seeks appeal of convictions
• Letter: Dibor Roberts is not a victim
• Letter: Let's create something positive from this incident
• Editorial: It's a good slogan, but is it realistic?
• Letter: Now, how do we help people feel safe driving at night?

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, December 2, 2013
Article comment by: Ditch Lincoln

What a joke,

Cops of this ilk need disciplinary action that sticks like glue, not celebratory comments that permeate this site.

He was at fault, she was in fear for her life, she did not speed and attempted to fine a safe place to stop AS WAS DICTATED BY LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS you so heartily promote. The unwarranted claims of resisting arrest, and other prosecutorial NONSENSE, are completely unfounded. This woman was in fear for her LIFE! Any of you here EVER been pulled over in the middle of the night IN A DARK STRANGE PLACE?

Think about that for second! Let it sink in before you make your feeble minds up.

Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Article comment by: Jon Martinez

Let’s get back to basics,
  1. Mrs. Roberts became a US citizen before this happened. She may not have been pulled over by police before but I’m sure she has seen others and she has seen police cars and SUVs with lights and sirens on. Also, she has an Arizona driver’s license so she was taught to stop when an officer uses his
  2. She says the police in her African country are criminals, she is now a US citizen so her past should not be a factor, and she is using it as a crutch.
  3. Sgt Newman was doing his job and contrary to the opinions above, 15 mph over the speed limit is wrong. The sign “Speed Limit” is just that. The fastest you can LEGALLY DRIVE under optimal conditions.
  4. This was not a “black woman and white cop issue” Why is that trump card always used? I’m a Hispanic. When will people of all races stand up and admit when they are in the wrong and accept it and their punishment?
  5. The women backing her cause are being used and misled.
  6. Why didn’t she call 911 on her cell phone?
  7. The jury goes by the facts of the case regardless of what race they are. Mr. Roberts insinuates that the mostly white jury didn’t do their job again using the Black vs. White trump card. Their attorney isn’t any better for allowing that. It’s a cheap shot.

She got off VERY EASY on this. Next time she will get more jail time.

Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Article comment by: seljaasfamily

Has anyone dealt with police from outside our country? I'd like to know how west african police do business. It might have been a more frightening experience for her than anyone could imagine.

I worry about police all the time. Even if they are legitimate. I would not like to get pulled over on a dark stretch of road myself. My neigbor who was a police officer growing up went to jail for molestation.

I feel officers should be careful to not act as all powerful beings. True, there is a lack of respect for police officers. Why? There could be good reason. Of the police officers I know some are incredible and I respect and am in awe of their restraint and service with the public.

I became a skeptic of officers in general when as a scared teenager a cocky acting officer flipped my chin with my liscence over a traffic violation.

My sister was also pulled over once, pushed against her car, and threatened jail time by an officer because the city recorder did not record her fix-it ticket when she took it in. therefore had a warrant out for her arrest. (A highly criminal offence?) Yes! (By the city!) My other sister was afraid for her because of how she was being treated and got out to help calm him down and the officer went to pull his gun on her.

One sister works at a police station now and the other sister is a doctor. They are model individuals who have never been in trouble.

We need to support our officers who risk their lives every day for us, but at the same time they need to be careful of abusing their power. It's a hard balance in this crazy world.

Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Article comment by: Neil

I believe the officer was completely out of line. The root cause of the stop was speeding, not: Murder, theft, armed robbery, asault, etc... Based on the root cause, the nature of the offense did not warrant what he did. The officer knew of the sherrifs recommendation of women waiting to pull over in a lighted area and yet ignored that recommendation. The patrolman himself said his wife should wait for a lighted area. Double standard. This could have been prevented. Use that force only necessary based on the circumstance. Speeding 15 over hardly warrents the actions taken.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2008
Article comment by: Prescottonian

Thankfully someone gets it. Law Enforcement Officers go through alot on a daily basis and should be thanked. The sad truth is, that people only want Law enforcement around when they need them, and not when they don't. Sgt. Newnum did his job well, and my hats off to him.

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2008
Article comment by: Villan

This would not have happened on the east coast - this is why I am getting out of here. Arizona is moving backwards, no more civil rights-for anyone.

Posted: Monday, May 19, 2008
Article comment by: J.D. Tuccille

Sheriff Waugh most recently gave his advice regarding traffic stops in isolated areas in a January press conference. The Verde Independent covered it.

"Waugh said that if someone is concerned an officer may not be legitimate, he or she should move to a well-lighted area. But, he cautioned that in some areas of the county, there are '25 to 75 miles between well-lighted areas.' Make sure to signal or acknowledge the officer and roll down the window enough to hear."

I hear a lot of talk about how Newnum's car was marked and this should have settled the matter. I doubt that Mrs. Roberts could have seen any markings on a car traveling behind her along a dark road. She also may have legitimate reason to fear the police themselves -- predators sometimes wear uniforms, which is good enough reason to head for a populated area.

I'm deeply disturbed by the mindless deference many people display toward anybody who works as a police officer. That job is important, but the people who perform it are as fallible as anybody else, and the power they wield should subject them to more scrutiny and skepticism, not less.

Posted: Monday, May 19, 2008
Article comment by: book2000

It sounds like she accidentally grabbed the stick shift while resisting? JD- would you reference the statement regarding the sherriff's warning? The officer says he started out stop with maximum force---isn't that because she resisted stopping several times?

Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2008
Article comment by: savetuba

Well said Brian!

Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2008
Article comment by: Brian Carlson

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The Dibor Roberts supporters want us to believe that women are being pulled over on dark roads by imposter cops on a regular basis. Dibor Roberts fear was related to an incident in Phoenix. None of the articles that I read mention a single incident of women being pulled over by impostor cops in Yavapai County.

Women in Yavapi County are now living in fear of a crime that is isolated and not a known local threat. Sure it could happen here. There are many crimes that could take place. A woman could be present at the local Circle K when someone decides to rob the place. That does not mean that we should all live in fear of that happening.

They are calling this a Woman’s Rights issue now. My understanding is that driving a motor vehicle is not a right, but a privilege. There are laws we have to follow to keep this privilege. Following the posted speed limit is one of the laws that we must obey.

The “A Woman’s Right to Light” Petition has many flaws. First it assumes that law enforcement knows that gender of every person that they pull over. Second it assumes that driving is a right. And last is gives special treatment to a specific group of people and not to all drivers equally.

I support the idea of driving to a safe place for all drivers. I would like to know that my wife would be allowed to drive to a safe place.

What I do not support is the exaggerated fear tactics being used by some of Dibor Roberts supporters. I do not support the slander campaign against Sgt. Newnum and the Yavapai Sheriff Department.

The Officer that pulled Mrs. Roberts over was a REAL cop.

Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2008
Article comment by: Anjana

Dibor Roberts broke the law. She was speeding and would not stop or even give some sign of her intentions to get to a lit place. If you are a citizen of the country you should know the laws. Ignorance is not an excuse.

I am appalled that her "supporters" turned this into a race issue. The deputy's vehicle is clearly marked. I doubt that some predator would spend all that money to buy a big SUV, all the graphics, lights, and uniform to impersonate an officer. I bet if we compared statistics there are by far more officers assulted/killed by persons who wouldn't pull over than women assulted/killed by officer impersonators.

I am also displeased by Jon Hutchinson's reporting. I don't give a darn that this woman was from Africa, working at nursing home, a nursing student,or a wife of a photographer. She was speeding! That has nothing to do with the fact she is a woman or black!! Deputy Newnum was doing his job.

It's sad it had to get turned into such ugliness. I hope the Dibor supporters will apologize for their harsh criticisms of law enforcement. I too am a woman with dark skin. I am offended that the race/gender card was used.

Shame on you people

Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2008
Article comment by: Brian Carlson

I think the verdict and sentence was fair. Dibor Roberts did commit the crimes she was charged with. Her defense was that she had special reasons based on race, gender, and personal fears.

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2008
Article comment by: savetuba

JD: All we have heard about is Dibor and how she is a black woman and because she is a she, Newnum was wrong in his actions.

But why haven't we heard about what kind of person officer Newnum is? Is he a kind and gentle father? Or an angry booze hound?

I'd say from the picture he seems to be a normal person you'd say hello to in Wally world and possibly a good guy.

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2008
Article comment by: Rez

JD, Roberts was not in the right as the criminal justice system has determined. She not only fled from a pursuing vehicle but assaulted a law enforcement officer in the process. Sgt. Newnum has earned respect over his career as a capable and honest officer. Time to send her to jail and send the NAACP packing on to another ridiculous case.

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2008
Article comment by: J.D. Tuccille

The problem with your argument is that police are not automatically entitled to respect -- and certainly not to deference, which is what you seem to favor. There's nothing about their government paychecks or their badges that elevates them above the rest of the civilian population.

In fact, the power they have at their disposal suggests that they should all be viewed with a skeptical eye until they prove themselves worthy of respect.

In this situation, it's clear that Newnum responded brutally and emotionally to a woman who essentially followed Sheriff Waugh's own advice to motorists suspicious of the identity of police officers to drive at the speed limit to a populated, well-lit area before pulling over.

Roberts was in the right and Newnum ... well ... Newnum should be looking for a less-responsible job.

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