This week, Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos went into full spin mode after it was revealed that he had interfered with the investigation of “mansion” parties causing key evidence to be lost. Nanos had interfered with the investigation after it was discovered that a family member of Chief Deputy Chris Radtke had been served with a search warrant in connection with the break-ins and parties at expensive homes.
In a story filed by Lupita Murrillo with KVOA News 4, Nanos claimed that despite his interference, arrests had been made and detectives are examining in the information obtained from the few cellphones they were able to collect.
Nanos admitted that he “did interfere with keeping investigators from going into nine different schools to seize cell phones that belonged to students,” according to Murrillo’s report, but he did so because “redirected the detectives to go to the homes of the students.”
He asked Murrillo, “Shouldn’t you be better off by talking to the parents?”
However according to sources, Sheriff’s personnel were sent out at the same time last week to the various schools of students involved in the criminal activity, to collect evidence and to talk to the students. In some cases there might have been probable cause to arrest them, which would have been done in low key manner with a parent referral. A parent referral is a ticket of sorts and the juvenile in receipt and their guardian would be contacted at a later date by personnel from juvenile court.
The main goal for the coordinated operation, however, was primarily to collect the evidence on the phones.
The evidence collection operation had to be coordinated so that the students would not have time to warn each other about the existence of a search warrant and destroy evidence. In other words, because the evidence was perishable, a coordinated operation was essential for evidence preservation, according to sources.
It is unknown how much evidence was destroyed due to Nanos’ interference. In the case of Radtke’s nephew, Sheriff’s personnel went to his parents’ home two days later by prior arrangement with the mother. The mother scowled at officers while her son refused to speak other than to say his cellphone has been stolen that morning.
Later one source said, “The cellphones must have ended up in the same mysterious place socks sometimes go once you toss them in the dryer.”
Others in the department say that if Nanos hadn’t stopped the approved operation in an effort to protect family members, then he must not trust his own staff. After all, the operation had been approved up the chain of command. The coordination of 80 plus personnel required considerable involvement of leadership. Sources say that stopping the operation in midstream could only be part of a cover-up.
Information provided to officers suggested that at least one parent knew and transported their child to the events. In light of this information, relying on parents would be reckless.
One source stated that Nanos’ claim that he stopped the operation in order to have “parents take their role in this,” is “a cover-up statement because in hindsight he realizes that he messed up by putting a stop to a preplanned operation.”
“He’s pushing the blame off on the parents, we have never done that before in the past nor do I think we would ever do that going into the future, “ said the source, who like others in the Sheriff’s Department, asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
Only a Superior Court Judge can stop the service of a valid warrant, so according to experts, Nanos’ decision amounted to:
– Hindering Prosecution (Felony in this case)
– Facilitation to destruction of evidence. (Felony)
– Interfering with a governmental Investigation (Misdemeanor)
– Failure to obey a court order (Misdemeanor)
There was one part of the KVOA story that was accurate: “Detectives are going through the information that’s been downloaded.” Unfortunately for the homeowner victims, there is less evidence and getting the evidence that might still exist could be painstaking due to the students’ efforts to destroy it.