FLAGSTAFF, AZ - A Phoenix police officer has been charged with assault for his role in a Prescott bar fight that left a man bloodied and bruised.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced the misdemeanor charge Friday against Eric Amato, who remains a Phoenix Police Department employee but has an assignment that doesn't include making arrests. He is scheduled to appear in Yavapai County Superior Court on Oct. 10 for a preliminary hearing.
Amato and other members of the law enforcement motorcycle club, the Iron Brotherhood, were holding their Christmas party on Prescott's Whiskey Row in December before a fight broke out at one of the bars. Justin Stafford was taken to the hospital after being punched in the nose and another man left had minor facial injuries.
A state Department of Public Safety investigation identified Amato and an ambulance supervisor as the bikers physically involved in the fight. A report alleged that a former Prescott Valley police chief and former Yavapai County sheriff's sergeant tried to cover up the bikers' involvement.
Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesman Jerry Cobb said the office was charging only Amato but declined to comment on its decision not to charge others.
Court documents had no attorney listed for Amato, and he didn't respond to a message Friday sent to his police department email. Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson said Amato is under investigation by the department and declined to comment on the court case.
Amato told authorities that he believed Stafford had made an aggressive move and was going to hit him, so he reacted. Stafford said he likely was pulling up his sleeve, as it was too long and that he was "keen" on personal space.
The fallout from the brawl led to resignation and retirements in the Prescott Valley Police Department and the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office. The motorcycle club had many of the same rituals and garb as "outlaw" gangs, according to interviews and police reports. They used nicknames only, wore biker club patches and rewarded at least one member who got in a previous fight with a special patch.
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