PHOENIX - The ABC15 Investigators have learned the Pima County Attorney has declined to press charges against an employee of the Pinal County Sheriff Office under investigation for deleting emails from his county computer.
In a letter obtained by the ABC15 Investigators dated July 10, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall says her office thoroughly investigated whether there is evidence that the employee may have committed a crime by tampering with or attempting to tamper with public records.
LaWall’s letter says that although the employee did remove thousands of emails from his personal computer archive on his county computer, there is conflicting evidence about whether or not the Pinal County Sheriff’s employee was aware that a duplicate backup copy of the emails existed when he attempted to delete them.
LaWall wrote in her letter, “Insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that the employee possessed the intent to defraud or deceive—an element necessary to prove somebody tampered with public records.
LaWall’s letter states, “Because our charging standard has not been met, the Pima County Attorney’s Office declines to prosecute.”
The investigation into deleted emails began after a public records request resulted in a computer search and a determination was made that thousands of emails were deleted after the request came in.
The Pima County Attorney was asked to conduct the investigation by the Pinal County Attorney in order to avoid a conflict of interest because the Pinal County Attorney represents the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and the Pinal County Manager.
Pinal County Manager Fritz A. Behring said in a written statement, “Pinal County had a formal request from the Attorney General’s Office to preserve electronic communication. When confronted with the possibility that relevant public records may have been deleted, Pinal County acted appropriately in calling for a third-party legal review of the matter”.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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