Documents detail alleged wrongdoing by Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics detective | TheUnion.com

Documents detail alleged wrongdoing by Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics detective

Editor's note: This is part one of a look into documents released regarding Nevada County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Mackey; part two will appear in Wednesday's edition of The Union.

Narcotics detective Jason Mackey has been under fire for more than a year, as rumors swirled and battles erupted in court over allegations that he might have credibility issues serious enough to impact the outcome of felony drug cases currently being prosecuted.

But what has been missing — largely due to the strong protections afforded to law enforcement personnel records — is any sense of what kind of wrongdoing Mackey is being accused.

Assistant District Attorney Joe Alexander has acknowledged that his predecessor began an investigation into Mackey that was then turned over to the Sheriff's Office, and earlier this month released the documents compiled by his office to two defense attorneys, Heather Burke and Stephen Munkelt.

“I can’t see where he admits to that unless I’m missing it somewhere. Did he admit to making BHO? He talks about butane and sparks a lot but that’s it ... If you wrote he admitted to making BHO, u better have a text that says ‘I’m making BHO.’”Deputy Mark Hollitz

The documents released by Alexander includes an investigative memorandum by Randall Billingsley, the chief investigator for the District Attorney's Office, as well as his notes from the interviews he conducted. The packet also includes a request for transfer due to Mackey's "dishonesty, incompetence and lack of integrity" by a member of the Narcotics Task Force, as well as documents provided by that deputy to bolster his complaints.

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In June 2015, Billingsley penned a memorandum that appears to be a rewrite of notes from unrecorded interviews, with no conclusion or summation.

Allegations of falsification

The bulk of the information gathered by Billingsley centers around three specific incidents brought forward by Deputy Mark Hollitz, a former member of the narcotics task force.

In November 2014, Hollitz told Billingsley, Mackey asked him to proofread a search warrant affidavit for a property being rented by a man named Matthew Wilkes. In the affidavit, Mackey had written that Wilkes made a statement that "he rented the house recently and was using it solely for the purpose of processing marijuana." Hollitz provided Billingsley with a photograph of the affidavit.

Hollitz told Billingsley he was with Mackey and Wilkes during the entire interview and he never heard Wilkes make this statement. Hollitz said that he questioned Mackey, whose response was he "thought somebody told me that."

According to Hollitz, Mackey subsequently removed that statement from the warrant affidavit.

Contacted by phone, Wilkes said he could corroborate Hollitz's recollection "100 percent."

"I didn't say anything to any cops," Wilkes said. "I told them to talk to my lawyer."

The second instance detailed by Hollitz also involved a search warrant affidavit, this time in May 2015.

According to Hollitz, he was asked to proofread a warrant written by Mackey in which he was detailing a text message that purportedly tied a suspect to a butane honey oil lab.

"(Name redacted) sends a text message to (a man named Matt) that states, 'really cause there could be a spark when it kicks on?? I do it in the garage by the open door … basically outside.' (Suspect) admits to manufacturing BHO at his residence," Mackey reportedly writes in the affidavit.

Hollitz's response was detailed in a series of texts that he provided to Billingsley.

"I can't see where he admits to that unless I'm missing it somewhere," Hollitz texted to Mackey. "Did he admit to making BHO? He talks about butane and sparks a lot but that's it … If you wrote he admitted to making BHO, u better have a text that says 'I'm making BHO.'"

Hollitz complained to Billingsley that Mackey should not have made that conclusion without stating that he "believed" the suspect was "likely" talking about the dangers of the BHO process, versus actually making a definitive statement that the two men were "absolutely" talking about manufacturing BHO.

In his interview with Billingsley, Hollitz said he was not sure if the warrant was ever changed or approved.

Reached by phone, the suspect claimed that those texts actually referred to a camp stove he had just purchased from a sporting goods store. There is no record in Nevada County Superior Court of charges being filed in 2015 against either man.

Hollitz also told Billingsley Mackey allegedly falsified the reason for a vehicle stop.

Mackey reportedly had been conducting surveillance and then had gone in pursuit of a woman who was the subject of an ongoing investigation by Hollitz, and the pursuit was terminated by a patrol sergeant shortly after it was initiated.

In texts, Mackey says that the woman was coming out of her residence when he tried to stop her, sending a photo along with the text, "Yes. See the reverse lights?"

According to Hollitz, the police report that Mackey later submitted read that he was simply in the area and identified the suspect as she drove by him, then tried to stop the vehicle because it had tinted windows.

Hollitz told Billingsley the texts from Mackey clearly indicated he watched the woman back out of her driveway and that he fabricated a reason for the vehicle stop, possibly in an attempt to protect an informant.

The incident was reported to Sgt. Justin Martin, who now heads the Narcotics Task Force, and the report was later changed to reflect a more accurate account, Hollitz said.

Hollitz requested a transfer in April 2015, and provided that letter to Billingsley.

In the letter, Hollitz states that he has had concerns about Mackey for approximately six months. Hollitz added those concerns included Mackey being dishonest verbally and on search warrant affidavits, as well as not collecting evidence, Miranda issues and sharing confidential information with civilians. He requested a transfer into the Major Crimes Unit, but was transferred back to patrol.

Others interviewed

Billingsley also interviewed Sgt. Guy Selleck and Grass Valley Police Officer Evan Butler, a member of the task force.

Selleck told the investigator that he was aware of the allegations and that he did not trust Mackey because of the information he received. The only other incident that he was aware of concerning integrity issues came from a case having been dismissed because of inaccuracies in the affidavit.

Selleck said that he had recommended against Mackey being selected for the Narcotics Task Force because he believed Mackey didn't have the requisite skills, and that he was not "carrying his own weight" in the unit. Selleck's concerns appeared to primarily center around Mackey's control of his informants.

Butler told Billingsley he did not want to make waves, and that he did not have any independent observations of inaccuracies or misstatements by Mackey. Butler did say that he was present in the task force office on one occasion when Hollitz challenged the veracity of an affidavit written by Mackey.

According to Butler, he had been warned by now-retired GVPD Capt. Dave Remillard to "watch himself around Mackey and money." Remillard told Billingsley he had concerns about Mackey's integrity as it related to finances, citing two instances in which Mackey owed someone money or was asking for donations, while at the same time purchasing an expensive "toy hauler" trailer.

Sheriff's Office: barred from responding

Mackey's boss, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal, has insisted for months that he stands behind his officer, who reportedly was cleared on any intentional misconduct after a lengthy internal affairs investigation.

Royal had said he is prohibited by law from discussing any specific allegations that might have been made against Mackey.

After the documents containing those specifics were released, Undersheriff Joe Salivar said that the Sheriff's Office was not going to comment because of ongoing and open prosecutions related to the disclosure.

Salivar did state, however, that "at some point in time, information came to the attention of the Sheriff's Office that there was an accusation of dishonesty from one employee against another, which also appeared to involve personality conflicts."

According to Salivar, those accusations were being informally investigated when the DA's Office contacted his office regarding a similar accusation, which then led to the formal IA investigation.

Salivar said that his office is barred from releasing "highly confidential peace officer personnel records" without following the legal process through the courts, but added, "We are as anxious as everyone concerned about this case to get it out in the open and move the issue forward."

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

Prior coverage

Dec. 9, 2016: Legal battle continues: Felony case heard Friday involves narcotics detective Jason Mackey

Dec. 7, 2016: Documents disclosed in case involving Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics detective

Dec. 6, 2016: Probe shut down: Former ADA allegedly forced to resign after investigation into narcotics detective

Dec. 5, 2016: Defense attorneys continue to question credibility of Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics detective

May 2, 2016: DA memo released in cases involving Nevada County narcotics officer

April 29, 2016: Sheriff: Narcotics officer cleared of misconduct after months-long investigation

April 25, 2016: Legal battle brewing over narcotics cases filed by Nevada County Sheriff’s Office

(To view previous coverage, see this story at TheUnion.com)