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A crime or retaliation? ABC15 investigates prison whistleblower facing charges

Former corrections Lt. Mark Hasz argues he is target of retaliation
ADC: Three officers injured in Lewis prison assault
Posted at 4:06 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-13 18:42:14-04

PHOENIX — For nearly two years, former corrections Lt. Mark Hasz has faced an aggravated assault charge.

As he approaches trial later this year, his defense team is laying the groundwork to argue that the alleged assault was a justified use-of-force, and that Hasz is the target of retaliation for blowing the whistle against the state’s prison director months before his arrest.

“They went after him to destroy him,” said Shaun Holland, a fellow whistleblower, and former assistant deputy warden.

Holland, who was present during Hasz’s alleged assault on July 21, 2020, wasn’t charged himself but was fired.

“Absolute retaliation,” Holland said. “They needed a reason to fire us. They found something. And they retaliated against us.”

ABC15 has reached out to ADCRR for a statement and we have not yet received a response.

In a statement, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office also stood behind the aggravated assault charge.

“Prosecutors reviewed the facts and evidence and made the decision that a crime had been committed and charged the case appropriately,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Hasz’s attorneys have obtained hundreds of use-of-force videos from inside the state prison system and plan to show examples of cases that were never disciplined or charged, court records show.

ABC15 has also separately obtained leaked videos of violent incidents that raise questions about the cases ADCRR has chosen to refer for prosecution or keep to themselves.

A breakdown of those incidents is below.

JULY 21, 2020 INCIDENT 

Mark Hasz was charged with one count of aggravated assault (class 6 felony) because of his use-of-force on a high-risk inmate inside the state’s Lewis prison in July 2020.

Hasz Video

Hasz and Holland went to speak to the inmate because he had confronted a nurse hours earlier. The pair alleged the inmate was resisting and they had to bring him down to the floor to gain control, court records show.

Prosecutors dispute their claim.

“The video shows (the inmate) was not resisting when he was against the wall and right before Defendant threw him on the ground.”

The inmate, Martin Peralta, is currently serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery.

He has been convicted and imprisoned three separate times since 2006. Internal prison records show he’s had more than 30 disciplinary violations, including fighting, assault with a weapon, and obstructing staff.

Holland said Hasz’s takedown was justified and has happened thousands of times before.

“This is a regular occurrence,” he said.

In a press release announcing the charges against Hasz, ADCRR officials wrote that they do not tolerate inappropriate conduct by their staff and supported prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

MAY 2018 INCIDENT 

In May 2018, officers responded to an inmate fight inside Lewis prison.

Kick Video

The prisoners broke up the fight themselves, and multiple officers began separating witnesses to discuss what happened.

On the top level of the prison unit, an officer was walking a handcuffed inmate, who was not involved in the fight, over to his cell.

The inmate, who begins to resist, was body-slammed by the officer. A second officer who arrived later kicked the inmate in the head as he was lying on the ground.

Multiple sources, including Holland, said the officer who kicked the inmate in the head was a sergeant, and he was not fired or prosecuted.

NOVEMBER 2020 INCIDENT 

On November 3, 2020, a handful of inmates take turns assaulting a single corrections officer in the Cimarron unit of the Tucson prison complex.

The attack lasts roughly two minutes.

Tucson Assault 11-3-20

ABC15 previously reported on the attack last year and uncovered that ADCRR did not submit charges for the brutal attack.

The timing and lack of criminal referral from ADCRR of this assault is noteworthy because it happened six days after Hasz was officially charged with aggravated assault.

ALLEGATIONS OF RETALIATION

Hasz and Holland are currently suing the state for whistleblower retaliation.

See Hasz and Holland's lawsuit below:

During an interview with ABC15, Holland says he believes the decision to use the alleged assault to fire them and charge Hasz was made at a high level: ADCRR Director David Shinn and possibly Governor Doug Ducey’s Office.

“Well, Shinn reports to the governor,” he said. “So, it’s possible someone in his office knew.”

Peralta, the inmate Hasz is accused of assaulting, filed a lawsuit without an attorney following the incident. In an unusual move, the state settled the case before discovery and without filing any motions to dismiss.

“They even rushed to pay this inmate $25,000,” Holland said. “They were trying to create a victim. Slam dunk this case. Show that we are these evil, evil people that the department was thankful to get rid of.”

In a statement, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office disputed any allegation of retaliation from its office.

“It is not, and never would be, the practice of this office to charge someone with a crime in retaliation for acts taken by any individual. In this matter, a case was submitted to this office by a law enforcement agency. Prosecutors reviewed the facts and evidence and made the decision that a crime had been committed and charged the case appropriately. We do not have knowledge, nor can we assess the legitimacy of incidents, not submitted to our office. If there is evidence of a crime that a law enforcement agency has not submitted to our office, our prosecution integrity unit can be contacted, and if appropriate, will refer the matter to another investigative agency.”

Contact ABC15 Chief Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.