Bryan Neal Stough told police last September he went to the Bays Law Firm in Sierra Vista to look at a child custody document prepared by his ex-girlfriend’s attorney. It was never his intention, he said, to get into an altercation with the attorney, who was running for superior court judge at the time.
The Sept. 18, 2018 incident ended with Stough in handcuffs after the attorney, Paul Randall “Randy” Bays, suffered facial injuries from being slammed into a vehicle and punched. The incident also raised questions about why the custody document was shredded inside Bays’ office after a police officer ordered that the paper not be touched.
Earlier this month Stough rejected a second plea deal offered by the Cochise County Attorney’s Office, choosing instead to stand trial for felony aggravated assault. He remains out of custody on bail awaiting a trial date to be announced.
Public records show Stough arrived at Bays’ office for a scheduled meeting to sign papers related to custody of his child. He told officers that he ran out of the building moments later with a document Stough wanted reviewed to ensure nothing improper was in the works involving the child.
Bays, 60, followed Stough into the parking lot and demanded the paper be returned. The two men scuffled before Stough, 28, was physically detained by one of Bays’ clients until police arrived.
Officer Alan Foote noted in his report that he took a “wadded up paper” from Stough’s hand and placed it on the ground in the parking lot. He then told those in the area “to leave the paper” where it was.
Stough is heard on bodycam footage appealing to officers to retrieve the paper. But when Foote went looking for it, the paper is gone.
“I went back to the location where I placed the paper on the ground that (Stough) had in his hand,” Foote wrote. “The paper was not there.”
The officer’s bodycam later records Bays standing inside the law office as Foote is told the paper has already been shredded.
“I told (Bays) that the paper should not have been taken,” Foote wrote. “He acknowledged that I told everyone to leave the paper but said somehow the paper got shredded.”
Foote is handed another document which was purportedly identical to the shredded one. However, the officer noted he never had a chance to read the original.
The shredding is a focal point of Stough’s defense, as he contends Bays initiated physical contact to ensure no one learned of the paper’s content. At the time, Bays was campaigning for a seat on the Cochise County Superior Court.
The official incident report makes no mention of officers inquiring as to who removed the paper from the parking lot or who shredded it. A SVPD spokesman said investigators didn’t pursue the matter because the document “was the property of the law firm.”
Bays himself is awaiting trial on felony charges stemming from an arrest in March after his ex-wife was injured outside her home. It is unclear what information, if any, the jurors in Stough’s case will hear about Bays’ arrest, or of a prior allegation by his then-wife of physical assault.
Elections records show Bays failed in his bid for a seat on the court last November. He was also passed over by Governor Doug Ducey when another seat became vacant earlier this year.