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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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10/8/2013 2:48:00 PM
Iron Brotherhood saga nearly done
By Patrick Whitehurst
Contributing Reporter

PRESCOTT - The investigation into a Dec. 22, 2012 bar fight in downtown Prescott, which left 23-year-old Justin Stafford with facial injuries, is coming to a close.

Members of the Iron Brotherhood motorcycle club - composed of active and retired law enforcement and public safety employees - found themselves the targets of a Department of Public Safety investigation that ultimately recommended a number of charges.

After a lengthy review of the case, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office charged Phoenix police officer Eric Amato, who went by the club moniker of "Guido," with one count of assault in September. Charges were filed with the Yavapai County Attorney's Office, according to Maricopa County Attorney's Office Spokesman Jerry Cobb. Amato has a preliminary court date Thursday, Oct. 10, in Camp Verde.

No charges were filed against other individuals involved in the fight.

The incident began during a club Christmas party on Whiskey Row. During the evening, Stafford and members of the club had an argument that led to a physical confrontation. Stafford was later transported to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. A subsequent Prescott Police Department investigation into the fight alleged that then-Prescott Valley Police Chief Bill Fessler - "Tarzan" - and former Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking Sgt. Bill Suttle - "Mongo" - opted not to provide details to police that could have aided in their investigation.

"We've reviewed the investigation that was submitted to us on the Iron Brotherhood and filed one misdemeanor count against a Phoenix police officer who was involved. This was the only charge that was filed following a review of the case," Cobb said.

He did not say other charges couldn't be filed in the future, if additional evidence appears.

Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training (AZPOST), the licensing body for peace officers in the state, is currently reviewing the various internal investigations pertaining to the Iron Brotherhood incident, and will be following the upcoming Amato court case. AZPOST certifies police officers, deputies, highway patrol and other forms of law enforcement, according to Executive Director Lyle Mann.

"We're reviewing the investigations to see if there's been violations of our rules," Mann said. "Some might apply and some might not apply."

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) released its report on the incident in April. Those findings were subsequently handed to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which completed its review earlier this month.

The original DPS report recommended charges of felony obstruction of criminal investigations and misdemeanor charges of false reporting to law enforcement be filed against Fessler and Suttle. Other charges included possible misdemeanor and disorderly conduct charges against Amato, and Ajo Ambulance paramedic Gregory Kaufmann, - "Top Gun." Ajo Ambulance did not respond to inquiries about Kaufmann's current employment status.

Amato and Kaufmann, according to the DPS report, threw punches during the incident. Charges of disorderly conduct also were originally recommended against Stafford.

The bar fight wasn't the first incident involving Stafford and authorities. In 2009, he was cited for underage drinking after an incident with another man, Andrew Goodall, who was arrested for carrying an IED (improvised explosive device) in the trunk of his vehicle.

A number of law enforcement and emergency response personnel faced internal investigations, or resigned, with their various employers following the incident:

• Cpl. Tyran Payne resigned from the Prescott Valley Police Department in August.

• Prescott Valley Police Department Cpl. Jason Kaufman received a week off without pay, six months of disciplinary probation, and a written reprimand.

• Fessler announced his retirement as Prescott Valley Police Chief in March, citing controversy related to the incident. Fessler was president of the Whiskey Row Iron Brotherhood chapter before stepping down from the organization in late December.

• Suttle was placed on administrative leave and subsequently resigned his position.

• Capt. Marc Schmidt, an executive YCSO staff member, also resigned.

• YCSO deputy Mark Boan, fired last May in connection with his conduct during the DPS investigation, appealed his firing in July. The appeal board ultimately upheld his termination.

• DPS Spokesman Bart Graves said DPS Officer Bryce Bigelow has been terminated.

While many have resigned from the Iron Brotherhood Whiskey Row chapter, there are no indications the organization has officially dissolved. Inquiries to the National Iron Brotherhood were not returned as of press time, but the club's website shows no chapters in Arizona.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014
Article comment by: anony mom

When the SHTF in this country, people are going to remember the actions of these cowards. They have crossed the line and now stand on the wrong side of history. That they are now retired will not make one bit of difference

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013
Article comment by: David Williams

I am a police officer. Those who may recognize my name or know me personally will know the agency for which I work. I have never had an affiliation with the Iron Brotherhood or any other so-called motorcycle club. I have had a long and unblemished career and intend to keep that record intact forever. I wanted to write a letter to your paper, to let the good folks who live in all communities in Yavapai County know that I personally abhor the conduct demonstrated by the members of the Iron Brotherhood motorcycle gang in regard to their involvement in this particular case, as well as their failure to abide by the oaths to the citizens they were sworn to protect and the policies to which adherence was required.

I do not know of any officers from any agency who condone the actions demonstrated by these officers, many of whom were once well-respected. I/We despise the black mark they have cast on our proud profession and want people to know those of us who still staunchly uphold our oath would die to protect them and will never compromise our integrity and duty to our communities.

I cannot speak to the issue of why charges and/or retirement sanctions were or were not pursued against those found to have been involved in the Prescott matter, those decisions are made far above my pay grade. However, I can assure the good people of Yavapai County that those of us who still honorably and respectfully serve want justice done as much as they do.

Are there bad officers in this world? Yes, of course there are. Law enforcement, despite stringent hiring criteria, sometimes has bad apples slip into the barrel. Sometimes those apples don't spoil right away, but when they do, we do our best to identify and either discipline, if appropriate to the situation, or eliminate them from our ranks. In my agency, I can say with all certainty we do that without reservation.

I most assuredly cannot speak for all agencies or all officers, but I can speak for myself and tell folks the most treasured thing I have is my integrity. I am quite certain most, if not all other officers out there would agree with me on that one. Once an officer's integrity is lost or even called into serious question by alleged and/or confirmed wrongdoing, he is done. We pride ourselves on ridding our ranks of those who would destroy that which is most cherished.

Some people use a term crooked cop. That is incorrect. You are either a crook or a cop. That choice is left to the individual, up to the point where the two worlds collide and the ledger has to be audited and balanced.

Please don't judge all of us based on the actions of a very few who could not decide in which world they wanted to live. Thanks so much for your time.

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013
Article comment by: citizen joe /

Where did all the responses that were in favor go? The paper seems to put what they want online and sway public perception against the police. Stupid tricks by the media to slant a story.

Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013
Article comment by: Renet Tyree

It doesn't leave a very level playing field for your average honest tax paying citizen when "law enforcement officers" are above the law and, on a regular basis, lie in police reports and on the stand to hurt the very people they are supposed to be protecting and serving. I have been a victim of such lies and deceit and have spoken to hundreds of others who have been victims of this as well. Yavapai County Sherriff's dept. is the extremely corrupt and everyone knows it but feel like there is nothing they can do. If everyone who has been wronged by YC would make a complaint maybe we could drive the corruption out of this county.
What's worse is that the judges automatically take the word of the lying cop over an honest citizen EVERY day. Remember that! Get a dash cam because the only criminals in this county are the cops themselves. Protect yourselves.

Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Article comment by: I agree, why are they not being charged?

Probably because they might lose some of their pension. If you are on Social Security, your S.S. Payments for that time while being in jail/prison or out on bail are not paid to you. Wonder if that clause is in their employment contract, too.

Time to call for a Grand Jury investigation as to why there are no charges filed against these criminals who hid behind the badge. Maybe then it will send a message to the public that something is being done to these rouge officers.

I too, wonder about the integrity of these officers when on the witness stand in court. Some of of their court cases/convictions need to be checked to see if any wrong doings were done to obtain a conviction.

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Article comment by: citizen not subject

"Allowed to resign" is just another way of saying went to a different LEA to work without any record of the incident.
If you want to be a biker type gang and act like the outlaw gangs do. Get out of LE and join the gang. Do not use the law enforcement community as your cover for bad actions.
Grow a pair boys!\
Put on your big boy pants!

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Article comment by: Want AmericaBack

What a joke! One is charged with assualt and the rest retire with their pensions after beating a kid. Must be nice to work for law enforcement. Where is Gang Task Force? Go GIITEM. Because they can right?

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Article comment by: Richard Butler

Why are we not surprised that Sgt. Bill Suttles isn't being charged for felony obstruction of justice. There goes that "blue line" again. Couldn't agree with "can't decide" more. What are the "investigators" thinking? How many innocent people were harassed by this Suttles character that walked around like a bantum rooster with a badge? How many are in prison because of his lies? Letting him off the hook for "felony assault" and "obstruction of justice" is setting a bad example. This guy is bad news, and should have never been hired in the first place.

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Article comment by: cant decide

Can't decide who's the bigger joke, the Aluminum Sister Hood or our elected officials. They are still investigating to see if any of their rules were broken. I guess this would be difficult considering they (LEO) don't have any rules.
What is really sad is those honest, loyal, hard working LEO that studied hard, spent money to go to school achieving their life long goal and to have it all basically ruined by a handful of wanna be weekend outlaws. To add insult to injury those LEO that should have been charged with felony charges are allowed to retire quietly and leave the good LEO to deal with all the negative aspects since the fight back in December. I can only conclude that quality people once interested in LE will probably look else where for employment..d
What a drag having jelly fish as your boss!

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